As the November midterms approach, look for Republicans this week to ramp up their case against President Barack Obama and the Democrats' competence in running the federal government, citing recent failures at the Secret Service, weak intelligence on ISIS and the entry of the deadly Ebola virus into the United States.
The renewed effort to paint the White House as bumbling on issues that worry many Americans began last week as Republicans including Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, questioned why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not moved faster to increase testing of airline passengers coming from Ebola-stricken countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Many Republicans—and conservative media outlets—are also now hitting the president for thus far refusing to block flights to the U.S. from those nations, something some European countries have done.
There are good arguments for why the U.S. will not ban such flights, including that most passengers arriving in the U.S. from West Africa do so via European capitals. The Dallas Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, arrived via Brussels. There are also concerns about blocking the flow of aid workers to and from the hard hit African nations.
But those arguments are nuanced and hard to make against the real fear among Americans about the possible spread of a disease that has no cure and a 50 percent kill rate.
And Republicans are not making the case on Ebola alone but looking to package the issue along with the recent revelations of massive Secret Service failures, including the deep penetration of the White House by a knife-wielding maniac. They argue that the administration—and by extension the Democratic Party—cannot manage the government.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus attempted to make this case Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," laying out a litany of what he called Obama administration foul-ups: "From the real unemployment rate, for the how many people are out of work, the labor participation rate is at record lows. People today don't feel better off than they were five years ago," he said. "And obviously, whether it's the GSA, the IRS, Syria, Ebola, the Secret Service, I mean, what's going well in regard to this administration and those Senators that have followed this president lockstep?"
Some of the criticism over Ebola is clearly unfair. There remains very little chance of any significant spread of the disease in the United States, which is vastly better prepared to handle it than under-resourced African nations.
But the president is vulnerable, in part, because he said before the Dallas patient arrived that there was little chance of the disease coming to U.S. shores.
"We've been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn't get on a plane for the United States," the president said on Sept. 16 at the CDC in Atlanta.
Well, someone with Ebola did get on a plane to the U.S. shortly thereafter, making questions about the U.S. response to the disease legitimate political fodder.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer pushed back against the criticism on "Meet the Press," saying each individual issue was being addressed.
"Look, I do understand that people have had a growing skepticism of institutions for a long time, including government," he said. "But people should know that everyone in the situations you mentioned, where a problem arises, we deal with it. We deal with it quickly, we deal with it forcefully to make sure it doesn't happen."
But Pfeiffer's comments in part play directly into Republican claims that this White House is a reactive one, attempting to put out fires after they occur rather than seeing around corners and stopping them in the first place.
How could Secret Service incompetence grow so out of control that a gunman could fire at will into the first family's residence in 2011 and then an armed man could burst through the White House front door and run around the building in 2014?
And how could the administration so vastly underestimate the potential threat posed by ISIS in the Middle East?
On ISIS, the president admitted that that the U.S. "underestimated what had been taking place in Syria" and overestimated how much Iraqis and Syrians could beat back the Islamic extremist group.
The 2014 midterm races are very much localized affairs that will turn on individual candidates' strengths and weaknesses in battleground states and districts. But polls show an American public deeply disenchanted with national leadership and on edge about the direction of the country.
And Republicans now see an opportunity to nationalize the race late in the game and make the argument that they should be given full control of Capitol Hill as a way to provide a greater counterbalance to the Obama administration's authority.