Today's New York Times tells us that some Republicans are worried that 2014 will be another 1998 if the GOP runs on an Obama-is-evil message:
Not everyone in the party, however, is so sure that they can expand their ranks in Congress or improve their standing among voters by personally attacking the president....No, the Republicans did not "lose big" in 1998 -- Democrats gained a mere five seats in the House and none in the Senate. Yes, that was a shock because the party of a president in his sixth year hadn't made gains for 176 years, and the scandal-plagued Clinton didn't seemed the least likely guy to break the streak -- but Republicans held the House and the Senate. It was a wrist-slap to the GOP (and to Gingrich personally), but it wasn't a thumpin'.
"I don't think I'd personalize it," said John Linder, the former congressman from Georgia who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee during the late 1990s while Newt Gingrich and House Republicans were preparing an impeachment case against President Bill Clinton. Mr. Linder said he fought and lost a battle with Mr. Gingrich over their strategy in the 1998 midterm elections, which Mr. Gingrich thought should be focused on assailing Mr. Clinton's character....
In the fall of 1998, Republicans poured tens of millions of dollars into a television ad campaign with slogans like "Honesty does matter," a thinly veiled reference to Mr. Clinton’s duplicity about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
They lost big that year, and it marked the first time since 1822 that the party that held the White House gained seats in the House of Representatives during a second term.
And anyone who thinks we may see a repeat of 1998 because the GOP is railing about scandals while the economy is improving -- see "Rising Economy Shifts 2014 Election Landscape" by Politico's Ben White -- needs to be reminded that the unemployment rate in November 1998 was an astonishingly good 4.4 percent, and had been 4.7 perent or lower for he previous twelve months. (It's now 7.5 percent.)
So, yeah, Republicans are attacking Obama because there's not much risk to it, and the potential for a serious electoral reward.