May 14th, 2013
01:35 PM ET
5 years ago

Will scandals 2013 impact elections 2014?

Washington (CNN) - Even though he's done running for office, President Barack Obama has a lot at stake in next year's midterm elections. And a trio of scandals that have ignited over the past week that have forced the White House to play defense have the strong possibility of hurting the president and his party at the polls in November 2014.

"Even though I've run my last race, I'm going to be working as hard as I can to make sure that their vision is one that is dominant on Capitol Hill," said the president, speaking about Democratic congressional leaders, Monday night at a party fundraiser in New York City.

At stake in next year's midterms is the Democrats' 55-45 majority in the Senate and the Republicans' majority in the House of Representatives (the Democrats need to win back 17 seats to regain control of the chamber). While the 2014 elections are a year and a half away, the current headlines seem to be rousing the Republican Party's base.

Those three headlines are the renewed controversy over last September's attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead, and the new controversies from just the past few days over the Internal Revenue Service targeting of some tea party organizations and other groups focused on curbing federal government's spending, and the Justice Department's secret collection of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press.

"There's no question that the recent news will embolden conservatives and Republicans ahead of the midterm elections. These news stories fall right in line with the skepticism and criticism that many Republicans have had of the Obama Administration for years," says Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.

And it may not just be turnout that's impacted. Candidate recruitment may be as well.

"I think the recent news has to give potential Democratic candidates pause, particularly if they are thinking about running in Republican-leaning districts," adds Gonzales.

Mainstream and grassroots Republicans say the controversies are providing an injection.

The IRS scandal is breathing new life into the tea party movement, says Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization which has been a key player in the rise of the movement.

"You've seen a lot more energy and judging from the activity on the social networks, people are pissed off about this," Kibbe told CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Republican strategist Brian Walsh agrees.

"There is no question that the growing scandals surrounding the Obama White House are lighting a fire under the Republican base which in turn helps both recruitment and fundraising," says Walsh, former communications director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Whether it's IRS thuggery, spying on news outlets or putting government bureaucrats in charge of health care decisions, more and more Americans are rightfully concerned with the big hand of government in their lives and that's a real problem for Democrats heading into 2014."

The National Republican Congressional Committee is fundraising off the Benghazi controversy.

"We're going after Obama on Benghazi. Help us fight him now," says an NRCC email to supporters, which asks for contributions. The group also sent out an accompanying petition on Friday, which the NRCC says was a record breaking day for traffic on their website.

The president Monday argued that GOP outrage over a changed set of talking points related to September's attack in Benghazi is a political "side show," asserting the tragedy was being used for political gain by his rivals.

On the IRS controversy, Obama vowed to hold the agency accountable if the reports of political targeting are proved true.

"If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous. And there's no place for it," Obama told reporters. "And they have to be held fully accountable."

Democratic strategist Ben LaBolt, who was national press secretary for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, says Republicans may be overplaying their hand on Benghazi.

"Republicans are getting dangerously close to overreach – at times last week's hearings looked like a transparent political exercise to see how many times they could jam Secretary Clinton's name into a sentence."

And LaBolt says that the current controversies will be superseded in the minds of most voters by what he calls obstruction by the GOP.

"It'll be a tall order for this Republican Congress which has done nothing but obstruct the agenda the American people voted for in November to make the case that they'd do a better job governing."

Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, agreed.

"The rabid group driving the Republican Party today is prone to overreach, just as the comparatively tamer crowd did back in 1998. The result was a failure for the party in the 1998 midterms. Frankly, they're already doing it. When Bill Kristol has to wipe the foam from Karl Rove’s mouth, you know the party is going too far," Canter said.

President George W. Bush faced setbacks in the first two years of his second term, from the federal government's lethargic response to Hurricane Katrina, the defeat of his push for Social Security reform, and worsening situation in the war in Iraq.

As for actual scandals, the Valerie Plame/CIA leak controversy unfolded throughout 2005, culminating with Scooter Libby's indictment in October of that year, and the 2004 Bush reauthorization of the warrantless wiretapping program dominated headlines at the end of 2005 and early 2006 when it became public.

The setbacks and scandals of the first two years of Bush's second term definitely had an impact in the 2006 midterms, when the Democrats won back control of the House and Senate. The big question now is whether the current second term president will suffer a similar fate.

- CNN's Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this story.

Filed under: 2014 • IRS • Justice Department • Libya
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. ST

    Some people can think IRS and Benghazi issues to be the aspects for them to vote in 2014. BUT majority are not thinking that way. They are thinking about where do they stand on Immigration issue, who will help them in this huge problem they are stuck in. Some are thinking about gun issues. The more they will vote in those they think will amend things, the more they will benefit from it.

    May 14, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. Safejourney

    Nope, not at all

    May 14, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Ryche

    Not a lot of libs on these boards today.. hmmm wonder why... maybe they cant bare to read what a scmbag Obama is... lies, cover ups, half truths, denials... how anyone can still support this OBVIOUS amateur is beyond comprehension..

    May 14, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Borderless

    It definitely should.

    May 14, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Stand with Rand

    This is typical democrats bury yourself in your own lies

    May 14, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    Republicans and Tea Partiers would not be blustering and posturing so much if these incidens did not have some impact on the 2014 and 2016 elections.

    May 14, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. much thunder..little rain

    of course not...the most important thing is skin color and what can you give me

    May 14, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    The scandals are only going to widen. You can't control the media to the extent the WH has been, forever. The truth eventually comes out. Even here, on the propaganda machine of the Democratic Party.

    May 14, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Bill

    In a word, no.

    May 14, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  10. q

    What scandals?

    May 14, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  11. DENNA

    The Republicans are scratching around like dogs filled with fleas trying to manufacture anything that they think will turn into a mess for the Democrats. If I remember correctly, you people tried that crap during the general election in an effort to unseat President Obama. How did that work out for you? The problem for the GOP isn't that America has gone liberal, the problem is that America has moved forward, leaving the GOP and their enablers in the dust. Heck, the GOP contributors even threw millions upon millions at the election and President Obama STILL won.

    May 14, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  12. Data Driven

    Quite simply, the Republicans are going to have to PRODUCE something legitimate. Benghazi is now officially a bust-out, now that the mischaracterization of the Rhodes email has been confirmed. The AP thing? Uncool, but within current law, thanks to the Bush Administration. As for the IRS story, Republicans will have to demonstrate proof that Obama Administration officials approved or ordered the intrusive investigations into "tea party" groups.

    So far? 0 for 2. We'll see about # 3.

    May 14, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. NameFrank Deery

    Obama is a Disaster! We All can see that, And with crime rates soaring across the US, from feeble,liberal-controlled Oakland to Cleveland, Aurora, Boston, and Benghazi, while he preens at liberal fund-raisers-endlessly(all he can do well. Budgets? Syria?
    North Korea? Nope!), the disasters mount.

    Vote Republican in 2014! Only real solution!

    May 14, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  14. Oakspar77777

    La Bolt "It'll be a tall order for this Republican Congress which has done nothing but obstruct the agenda the American people voted for in November to make the case that they'd do a better job governing."

    The Republican Congress was also voted in by the American people, so the people voted as much to obstruct the President's agenda as they ever did to support it. In fact, 2010 was a firm obstruction to that agenda by the American people which the people descided to maintain in 2012.

    May 14, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  15. Guest

    Democrats dont care about integrity so it probably wont. This is hands down the most corrupt admin in American political history.

    May 14, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. RomneyWho

    How about stacking up lies from both sides of the isle and see which political side (Republican and Democrats) come out with the biggest coverup and lies to date . . . Let's see, for the democrats, it's Benghazi, with the lost of 4 people (?) The gun thing debacle down in Mexico, with the lost of one life. And now for the republicans, 9/11 with the lost of over 3,000 lives (on Bush's watch) and over, 4,486 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2012 over the infamous WMD lie (Still waiting for the republican's to yell . . . IMPEACH HIM!!! Don't forget America, while the democrats have their issues, the republican leadership is far worst and is bad for this country right now. Stay the course and vote the bums out in 2014 . . . Post this CNN and keep it real! 😦

    May 14, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. sonny chapman

    So much for Immigration, Taming the Deficit, Common Sense Gun Control. The Repubs. are gonna kill Run Out the Clock on Obama. HOWEVER, Hillary will grab the baton & finish the job of trying to make America work for Everybody,not just for the few.

    May 14, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. Chad Broussard

    lol I think that all of the conservatives and independents have already got their knifes out and are sharpening them to slice up the people in 2014 that voted against their gun rights and carried water for this POS administration.....should be as fun to watch as the DEMs faicing recalls in Colorado for trying to push new gun laws.

    May 14, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  19. ST

    @ Ryche
    Not a lot of libs on these boards today.
    You are quite right Ryche. Myself, today might be the last time am commenting on CNN website. They seem to change what they have been doing. They pretend to be fair and balance network. If am not comfortable of what they are writing, like as you mentioned other people are, we have to abandon this network. It is not worthy to come here instead of going to other website like Fox News etc.etc. as there is no difference at all between the two.

    May 14, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Attorney General Eric Holder says he's ordering a probe into IRS political targeting of some conservative groups.
    Holder trying to deflect this administrations scandals. It won't help them now.

    May 14, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Was "Fast and Furious" an issue outside of the far right wing in 2012?

    May 14, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  22. rs

    Rick McDaniel

    The scandals are only going to widen. You can't control the media to the extent the WH has been, forever. The truth eventually comes out. Even here, on the propaganda machine of the Democratic Party.
    Sorry Rick-
    News today that the GOP "mischaracterized" WH e-mails in their leaks- ooops. That scandal dies.
    The IRS thing- well, the TEA Parties got their tax exempt status (a bigger crime in my mind- they are political afterall). Having to answer 10 more questions- WOW-such abuse.
    The last thing with the AP- well, I turn your attention to Bush and Ashcroft and a little thing called the USA PATRIOT Act. You'll find those taps were PERFECTLY legal under that law.

    May 14, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  23. RomneyWho

    @ Oakspar77777
    Most of the American people in the election 2010 stayed home, only 2 % of the voting population thought it necessary to turn out and most of them was tea party mad hatters at best and with the help of gerrymandering the republicans got in with the help of the shoe horn. This time, however, will be different! Crossing fingers, 😦

    May 14, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain

    The GOP sure hopes it does – anything to distract the voters from the FACT that all of the GOP's economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES.

    May 14, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    sonny chapman

    So much for Immigration, Taming the Deficit, Common Sense Gun Control. The Repubs. are gonna kill Run Out the Clock on Obama. HOWEVER, Hillary will grab the baton & finish the job of trying to make America work for Everybody,not just for the few.
    Hillary-Gate? Yeah that should be a lot of fun.

    May 14, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
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