- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2014

Ebola isn’t driving polls ahead of next week’s elections, but Republicans feel the Obama administration’s shaky response may help them at the ballot box.

John McLaughlin, a GOP strategist, said the fact that some Democrats have distanced themselves from President Obama’s handling of the U.S. outbreak shows the political danger to White House allies and hints at a Republican enthusiasm advantage about voting this year.

“It is definitely having an impact,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “It has heightened the idea that the president isn’t doing a good job, and certainly some of the Republican candidates saw their numbers improve in the polls because there was great anxiety that the president wasn’t doing enough.”

Several polls this month have shown Republicans are much more concerned than Democrats about getting exposed to the deadly virus. They also showed that Republican voters are far less confident in the government’s ability to prevent an outbreak than their Democratic counterparts.

“Politics has intruded into these perceptions of Ebola,” Frank Newport, of Gallup, said in his most recent poll analysis. He said Republicans’ confidence in government, already low, has been hurt even more by Ebola, with GOP voters blaming the man in the White House for the fact that things aren’t going well.

“How accurate all of this is isn’t the point,” Mr. Newport said. “We are in an election season, and politicians, as we well know, will seize on any issue to use in their campaigns for office.”

Indeed, John Diez, a Louisiana-based Republican Party strategist, said the Ebola outbreak has provided more ammunition for candidates to use against the federal government.

“It is a resume builder for someone who wants to convince the public that government can’t get it right,” Mr. Diez said.

A Gallup survey found that less than four in 10 Republicans, compared with 71 percent of Democrats, are confident in the federal government’s ability to handle an Ebola outbreak.

A Pew poll released last week painted a similar picture, with nearly half of Republicans surveyed saying they were worried about exposure to the virus and a similar sized pool of GOP voters saying they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the government to prevent an outbreak.

Ebola has infected more than 10,000 people worldwide — almost all of them in West Africa. But when a Liberian man carried the disease to the U.S., it became a hot political topic, with Republicans and some Democrats calling for visa restrictions, travel bans and stricter quarantines or monitoring of those returning from the affected areas.

Mr. Obama has attempted to quell concerns by canceling campaign stops and tapping Ronald Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joseph Biden, as Ebola czar.

Fears were inflamed again last week with an Ebola diagnosis in New York City, where Dr. Craig Spencer returned after treating patients in West Africa.

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