Republicans hit lowest approval since Gallup started compiling the numbers.

Year-end advice for Democrats and progressives revolves around a 2014 economic message that will beat the GOP negative drum beat against Obamacare.

Only deregulation can unleash competition. And only disruptive competition, where new businesses drive out old ones, will bring efficiency, lower costs and innovation. [Wall Street Journal]

CITING THE polls and the bad news is a needed wake-up call as Democrats look to the 2014 midterms, but just as important is resisting the urge to get depressed and think it’s over. “Disruptive competition” as a Republican economic message on Obamacare can easily get beaten by an economic message that focuses on the middle class, who’d get further damaged by such voodoo Reaganomics, which didn’t work the first time.

Latest polling from CNN reveals icy waters right now, but it means nothing this early.

Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But the Democratic lead evaporated, and a CNN poll a month ago indicated the GOP holding a 49%-47% lead. The new survey, conducted in mid-December, indicates Republicans with a 49%-44% edge over the Democrats.

When you think about what Republicans face, the right-wing Tea Party crank caucus and the damage they could inflict on the GOP brand in 2014, Democratic politicians and progressive activists should take heart.

Democrats still have big challenges, the biggest and most obvious is Obamacare, the messaging around, as well as getting positive news in the press, nationally, locally and on television.

It still leaves Republicans with the record of not doing much on anything, except saying no, no, a thousand times, no.

If there’s one moment in time for Democrats and progressives to hold close and remember as winter deepens in 2014, it is when Virginia went blue for the first time in decades. An extremist Republican message began their problems, which still exist, but once the GOP shut down the government it was all over for them. The other message is that a Democratic candidate ran on a liberal social message, while keeping business close and the economic message in the forefront.

In 21st century politics, the majority of people don’t vote on partisan lines, as the number of independents overtake partisans, even if people still lean either left or right, depending on the issue. Non-partisans vote on what’s happening in their own world and who is getting in their way.

Americans love the underdog and right now the working and middle classes represent the largest number of underdogs.

What Democrats have to figure out is how to harness the economic message that will overtake the zeal with which Republicans will tout issues in the 2014 midterm season. More people are impacted by the economy than by Obamacare, and Democrats cannot make the mistake they made in 2010 by not finding an economic message that resonates and challenges what the GOP wants to do.

It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

It’s also why former President Bill Clinton could be one of the big Democratic go to guys of 2014, with Hillary Clinton emerging as the exclamation point on what Democrats have going for them as we all look to the future.