The above chart, a composite of polls on President Obama’s job approval, paints a picture of nation equally divided in its response to the president’s performance. But of course, Obama won’t be listed on the 2010 ballot; members of Congress will.
And as a new Washington Post poll reports, Democrats have cause to be worried:
Members of Congress face the most anti-incumbent electorate since 1994, with less than a third of all voters saying they are inclined to support their representatives in November, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Dissatisfaction is widespread, crossing party lines, ideologies and virtually all groups of voters. Less than a quarter of independents and just three in 10 Republicans say they’re leaning toward backing an incumbent this fall. Even among Democrats, who control the House, the Senate and the White House, opinion is evenly divided on the question.
The Post/ABC poll puts Obama’s job approval/disapproval rating at 54/44, about where they’ve had it since last fall. Surprisingly, given high unemployment, the public appears to be divided right down the middle on Obama’s economic policies, with 49 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. The percentage of Americans worried about the economy has dropped since the fall, from 88 percent in October to 73 percent today. That’s still a high number, but the direction is important.
In addition, just 22 percent blame Obama for the deficit, while 60 percent blame President Bush. Bush also gets more blame for the current state of the economy (59 percent) than Obama (25 percent.)
And interestingly, when asked which party they trust most to handle the major problems ahead, 46 percent still chose the Democrats while only 32 percent chose the Republicans. In other words, Congress as a brand has a poor reputation, but within that disreputable institution, the Democrats still hold an advantage.
Nonetheless, GOP strategist Patrick Ruffini predicts very big things for his party come November:
I might be setting myself for a healthy serving of crow on November 3rd, but I get a distinct feeling that the GOP may be headed toward to a seat gain in the House of epic proportions — somewhere over 50 seats and well above the historical high point for recent wave elections (the 50-55 seats we experienced in elections like 1946 and 1994).
All in all, I don’t think a 70-seat gain is out of the question.
Why the optimism? Ruffini’s entire post is worth reading, but the short explanation is enthusiasm. In an off-year election, enthusiasm can matter a lot, and the GOP undoubtedly has that advantage. Like the Post, Ruffini also cites the strong anti-incumbent fervor out there (only 32 percent told the Post they would re-elect their congressman, about the same re-elect number the Post poll found in ‘94.)
Personally, I’m sticking with the prediction I made back in January: “Democratic losses of 25-30 House seats and four or five Senate seats.”