What Could Go Right for Democrats, Republicans This Year

The Democrats


When Republicans are divided, Democrats believe they can win.

The Democratic Party's biggest task in 2014 will be to hold on to the Senate, and that task will be made easier if Republican primaries become a race to the right of the party.

Gaffe-prone candidates who were favorites of the conservative base of the Republican Party have saved Democratic seats in the past -- such as in Missouri with Todd Akin and Delaware with Christine O'Donnell.

Democrats hope 2014 will bring them more good fortune in that department.

"The biggest opportunity for Democrats in 2014 involves the ongoing battle for the soul of the Republican Party," said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "As long as the tea party continues to dominate the debate, extremists within the party will continue to drive the Republican brand into the toilet with record-low polling numbers."


And then there's Obamacare, which is perhaps the biggest risk of all.

The success or failure of the law's implementation in 2014 is largely out of the Democrats' control, at this point.

But if it goes poorly, it will certainly be used as political cudgel in the 2014 midterm elections. And it could do serious damage to the Democrats' ability to make the case that their governance philosophy is better than the alternative, Manley warned.

"The biggest pitfall for Democrats in 2014 will be the effort by Republicans to use Obamacare -- which I believe will get better -- as a stalking horse for their effort to question the proper role and size of government in our society," he said.

In Washington, President Obama and Democrats have made it clear that raising the minimum wage and finding other policy issues that address rising income inequality will be at the top of their agenda.

But that only will work if they're able to keep other distractions off the table.

Fights over any number of issues -- immigration reform, gun control, the debt limit and taxes -- could effectively bring Washington to the standstill.

If public frustration with the status quo boils over, Democrats could take some of the blame.

"The biggest pitfall for Democrats in 2014 has to be pervasive gridlock that has enveloped Capitol Hill -- which is why Republicans are doing everything they can to grind the place to a halt," Manley said. "People want change, and Republicans are betting that if they don't get it they will once again look to Republicans to lead."

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