A few of us on the left have been arguing that the current scandal-mania gripping the GOP risks bringing about a rerun of 1998, when the frenzy amid the Monica Lewinsky revelations led the GOP to overreach, resulting in backlash.
Now we have a longtime respected nonpartisan observer, Charlie Cook, arguing that this possibility is very real. Cook’s piece, entitled “Republicans’ hatred of Obama blinds them to public disinterest in scandals,” notes that the scandals have not moved the needle at all on Obama’s approval rating, just as happened in 1998:
The simple fact is that although the Republican sharks are circling, at least so far, there isn’t a trace of blood in the water…Maybe that will change. Maybe these allegations will start getting traction with voters. But it might just be that Americans are more focused on an economy that is gradually coming out of the longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. [...]
One wonders how long Republicans are going to bark up this tree, perhaps the wrong tree, while they ignore their own party’s problems, which were shown to be profound in the most recent elections. Clearly none of these recent issues has had a real impact on voters yet. Republicans seem to be betting everything on them, just as they did in 1998 — about which even Newt Gingrich (who was House speaker that year) commented recently to NPR, “I think we overreached in ’98.”
Republicans and conservatives who are so consumed by these “scandals” should ask themselves why, despite wall-to-wall media attention and the constant focus inside the Beltway — some are even talking about grounds for impeachment — Obama’s job-approval needle hasn’t moved…Clearly Republicans hope the public will begin to respond. But at what point do they decide that maybe voters might be more interested in other issues or worries than about politicians on one side pointing fingers and throwing allegations at those on the other side? At what point might the GOP conclude that it is just digging the hole a little deeper?