A new poll shows the GOP on top of the Democrats heading into the midterm elections next year and while it’s far too soon to be definitive, the numbers should alarm the president and his party.
First, the ground is moving very quickly. According to a CNN/ORC International poll, Republicans beat Democrats 49-44 percent in a generic matchup (that’s where voters in a district are asked to choose by party, not candidate). A month ago that lead was only two points, and two months ago the Democrats were winning by eight points. The oldest of the three polls was conducted after Republicans shut down the government and pundits and senators alike declared the party doomed. Now, only two short months later, the nation appears to have moved on—and away from the Democrats.
Second, turnout will probably be low, and that’s good for Republicans. According to the same CNN poll, only 3 in 10 voters are excited about the election. Democrats, CNN reports, are especially unenthusiastic. Republican leaders can motivate their base with a chance to take back the Senate. Democratic leaders can make the same pitch about the House. But it wasn’t so long ago that the Dems controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress and the main achievement of that period was the Affordable Care Act, which is not so popular these days, and economic policy that appears to have primarily benefited the wealthy. Congress’ approval rating, by average, is currently 13.9 percent. Americans don’t really like Congress. Getting them to vote the bums out will depend largely on the bums who want in—the rival candidates.
Third, for that reason, the Democrats have a built in disadvantage. There are 35 seats up for grabs in the Senate, 21 of them belonging to the Democrats. Simply put, the Democrats have more to lose.
Fourth, the president is unpopular, and that hurts his party. Here’s a quote from CNN: “55% of registered voters say that they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes the President than one who supports him and four in 10 say they are likely to vote for a candidate who supports Obama.” That’s not good news. An unpopular president is worse at fundraising and campaigning for his candidates, and the public historically blames the party of the president for his job performance. President Obama has been exploring new depths in his job approval rating, as of late.
It is far too soon to call an election. As the aforementioned polls show, people can change their minds very quickly. A lot can happen in a year. But right now, if they want to keep the Senate, the Democrats better get their act together.
—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer