May 14th, 2013
01:35 PM ET
10 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.

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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. rs

    Hillary-Gate? Yeah that should be a lot of fun.
    Yeah, that one will stick about as well as Whitewater, Vince Foster or any of the other made-up conspiracies the GOP threw at the Clintons. Hey have you guys tried one with Jeep and the Chinese yet?

    May 14, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. Gil Crawford

    The all out assault on our 2nd Amendment started the 2014 fire. This is just fuel. To all the Libs and Obama-nation (read as obamination) supporters. Sorry for your loss. But hey life is hard when your stupid.

    May 14, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. Milhouse





    May 14, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. ExDemBecauseOfObama

    The believe the elections will be decided based greatly on the *Immigration Bill and Gun Laws* with things like *Fast and Furious, Bengazi, IRS and Wire Taps* running a close second. I'm glad more people are finally starting to see what the Democratic party has become. Obama ane his puppets have never been a friend to the vast majority of REAL Ameicans.

    May 14, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    @NameFrank Deery: You are a liar. Crimes rates in the U.S. have been dropping since 2009.

    Some highlights from the Bureau of Justice Statistics "Firearm Violence, 1993-2011" report:

    1. Firearm-related homicides declined 39%, from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011.
    2. Nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%, from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 victimizations in 2011.
    3. Firearm violence accounted for about 70% of all homicides and less than 10% of all nonfatal violent crime from 1993 to 2011.

    May 14, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  6. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    The gop has 0% chance of keeping contol of the house and senate in the 2014 mid terms, Americans have had enough of their imaginary hearings and wastfulness of taxpayers money to push their own agenda to take the whitehouse ,another failure for the gop and they will lose the house in the mid terms, get ready to vote them out intellegent voters dems and Ind,and normal gops and move our country forward ,sick of gop. Bs and propaganda and the ful pravda channel.

    May 14, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. Gary

    This would effect the elections if anybody believed republicans. The illegal crap they did during the Bush years, and now their " Cry Wolf " mentality. Pure political nonscense. All of these accusations are SOP for Republicans. How many more witch hunts for Issa? How many more Sunday talk shows for the butt buddy twins, John and Lindsay.
    Rant Paul." The nut doesn't fall far from the tree " and Marco will be deported befor the next election. Neither will ever be president of this country.
    Come back in 2024

    May 14, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Captain Awesome

    What is going on with this administration?! Fast and Furious/ Benghazi/ IRS/AP – Gate will hopefully open the eyes of the American people and have them realize that president obama is arrogant and drunk with power. Also, Eric Holder needs to be fired once and for all.

    Obama lied, an ambassador died...

    May 14, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. us_1776

    Will all these FAKE scandals impact 2014?


    The GOP Suicide continues....


    May 14, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    It doesn't really matter what the gop base thinks or says ,their still going to lose the elections in2014 , do the math gop morons.

    May 14, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |

    Obama is a criminal and the GOP are being proven RIGHT.

    May 14, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. Name willard

    White house lied on benghazi
    Obama blame limibugh for gridlock so white house can't wins

    May 14, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. sonny chapman

    Lot of Fun ? Doesn't the fact that the little people suffer needlessly for your "fun" bother you at all ?

    May 14, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  14. IvotedforObama

    More proof the American people are ignorant. Sure vote the GOP back in office. Sure elect them in 2016. When the economy gets worse, healthcare gets worse and your sons and daughters are dying in decade long wars you will only have yourself to thank.

    May 14, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  15. gopfails

    Nearly a year and half is an eternity in politics. It all going to come down the economy as usual not scandals.

    May 14, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. PaulCat

    Maybe after the 2014 elections we would have voted all republicans out of office. Maybe then we can get some work done. Like the jobs they campaign on in 2010.
    ..........HILLARY 2016..........

    May 14, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
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