by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, March 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Democrats are facing major challenges as they are preparing for the November midterm Congressional elections, yet they could benefit from continued economic recovery.
The challenges were not new ones. As HealthCare.gov, the online service of U.S. federal health insurance marketplace, becomes very busy since a flood of last-minute applicants rushed to sign up for the health insurance before the deadline on Monday, thousands of people found the fragile system run into problems twice.
This was just the latest of a series of challenges that Democrats are facing: Obama's popularity has slipped; midterm elections tend to see low Democratic turnout; and a number of Democratic seats in the Senate are in states that lean Republican.
Some pundits predict that the Democrats could lose its control of the Senate in the midterm elections.
Those trends sit in sharp contrast to just 16 months ago, when Obama won re-election. Republicans were urged to overhaul their party or risk becoming irrelevant, as the GOP was viewed as leaving out minorities and women in an increasingly multicultural nation.
But things changed quickly in the lead up to the midterm elections. Some experts said Democrats could still make a comeback, especially if the U.S. economy rebounds.
"The best card for Democrats is a continuing economic recovery. If unemployment is close to 6 percent by election day, that would be a plus for Democrats," Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution, told Xinhua in an interview.
Indeed, the economy tops the list of Americans' concerns, as millions remain jobless several years after the official end of the worst economic downturn in decades.
Some economic sectors have improved, and if that continues until November, it could provide a cushion for Democrats.
For now, part of Democrats' strategy has been to run political advertisements in certain states -- mainly in North Carolina, Arkansas, Montana and Louisiana -- that heavily target single women, who tend to vote Democratic but also tend to stay home during Congressional elections.
Indeed, getting out the vote will be the main hurdle for Democrats, as their constituents tend not to turn out in high numbers for midterm elections, while Republican turnout tends to be much higher, giving the GOP a natural advantage.
Many of Democrats' problems stem from the botched rollout of Obama's healthcare overhaul, or Obamacare. It spurred a backlash against the Obama administration after a few million Americans were dropped from their health insurance, because Obama had repeatedly promised that those who liked their insurance plans could keep them under the new law.
The healthcare rollout also saw myriad technical problems with the website, which allows site visitors to shop for affordable healthcare plans.
Critics said Obamacare, while it could benefit lower income people, would have to be paid for by the middle class.
Nevertheless, one possible silver lining for Democrats is that while technical problems associated with the site have been significant and widespread, the most serious errors have been resolved.
Moreover, millions of previously uninsured Americans are now getting coverage through the new healthcare law, which could offset at least some of the damage done to Democrats.