The latest polls show that the Republicans have the lead in key indictors as the midterm election comes in sight. That edge is without the public being enamored with the party or its congressional leadership.
President Obama and congressional Democrats appear to have lost the public opinion support that accompanied their majority of November 2008. At least partially it is a function of the slow American economic recovery. While voters can’t change the pace of the recovery, they can take out their frustrations on incumbent politicians, especially in Washington D.C. who are mostly Democrats.
But partially the Democratic collapse is of their own making. Liberal interest groups, House Democratic Committee Chairs, White House strategists (“let no crisis go to waste”) and media allies believed they had a much more resilient support base to push key liberal agenda items, such as the pork in the stimulus bill, the health care takeover and aggressive climate legislation.
By last July, a mere six months after the Obama inauguration, Obama’s approval ratings began to decline as the health care legislation became salient and its polarizing effect became clear.
The electoral evidence of this public opinion shift became clear as the Republicans won the November 2009 governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia – states Obama won – and in the case of Virginia, a state seen as a building block in the Democrats’ new long-term majority.
The midterm election will be the next opportunity to view the voters’ judgment on the administration and desire for change. A recent Pew (7-1-10) and Washington Post national poll (7-11-10) shows the Democrats could lose their 40-seat House majority and five or more Senate seats.
• Republicans are more enthusiastic and more likely to vote.
• Independent voters are leaning Republican.
• Confidence in President Obama’s decision-making has hit a new low and a majority disapproves of how he is handling the economy.
• President Obama’s approval rating is sinking toward the mid-40 percent range, undermining his ability to move the party base and possibly making him a negative factor with swing and independent voters.
• Congressional approval is at new lows.
• The public strongly believe the country is moving in the wrong direction.
• The shift away from Democrats is unaccompanied by increased affection for Republicans. Republicans just seem to be the beneficiaries of not being in office.