Everything’s Always a “Game-Changer”

So Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg gets himself very excited today and opines:

Forget background checks and gun control, divisions within the GOP on immigration, and Republican intransigence on negotiating a budget deal with the president. The current triple play of Benghazi, the IRS and now the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records has the potential to be a political game changer for 2014.

It’s hard to overstate the potential significance of the past week. What we are witnessing is nothing less than a dramatic reversal of the nation’s political narrative — from how bad the Republican brand is and how President Barack Obama is going to mobilize public opinion against the GOP in the midterm elections to whether the Obama administration has become so arrogant that it believes it can stonewall Congress and the public.

The series of revelations presents an unflattering picture of an administration that just 10 days ago looked poised and confident. Now it looks out of touch and unresponsive.

Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz read this hyperventilation and sent an email to several of us (Ezra Klein published it first) reminding everyone we heard this thing before over and over in 2012:

Here’s why this is very unlikely to be a “game changer.” The electorate is deeply divided along party lines. These partisan divisions are very deep because they now coincide with other divisions such as race, values and ideology. Therefore, events such as these are very unlikely to cause any large or long-term shift in evaluations of the president let alone party identification or voting intentions

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We’re still 18 months from the 2014 midterm election. My prediction is that by the time we get to November, 2014, none of these “game changers” will be of great concern to voters any more than the numerous supposed 2012 game changers were on the minds of voters in November of 2012.

This is very important to remember before we get too far down the rabbit hole of scandal politics. There are both real and bogus issues involved in the “triple play,” and Republicans will do everything imaginable to exploit both. There are perils for them in doing so, including most notably the opportunity costs associated with not doing much of anything else. But the midterms are a year-and-a-half-away, and all the hyperventilating in the world won’t blow away real-life issues or significantly change partisan affiliations. And on top of everything else, we’ve heard this before when the day’s or week’s or month’s Beltway obsession gets turned into the Eschaton.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.