Bush, Republicans Hit New Lows in AP Poll
President Bush’s job approval is down to 36 percent and the Democrats have pulled even with Republicans even on national security in the latest AP survey. These are technically “new lows,” although it is only a one point drop for Bush since the last AP poll and most of the numbers are within the margin of error. The continuity of the low ratings, not the “record,” is the news.
The steady stream of bad polling numbers has Democrats uncharacteristically bold in predicting success in the November elections and Republicans fearing the worst. Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio told AP that, “These numbers are scary. We’ve lost every advantage we’ve ever had. The good news is Democrats don’t have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one.”
That’s about right. While congressional races are local, the overwhelming nature of the numbers is startling: “By a 49-33 margin, the public favors Democrats over Republicans when asked which party should control Congress. That 16-point Democratic advantage is the largest the party has enjoyed in AP-Ipsos polling.”
As has been often noted here and elsewhere the GOP has “structural advantages,” notably “a political map that is gerrymandered to put House incumbents in relatively safe districts” and the fact that there are more open (i.e., one without an incumbent seeking re-election) Democratic than Republican seats. Picking up fifteen House seats and six Senate seats remains daunting, even in light of this public sentiment.
Still, the Democrats are giddy at their prospects.
“I think we will win the Congress,” Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said, breaking the unwritten rule against raising expectations. “Everything is moving in our direction. If it keeps moving in our direction, it’s very reasonable to say there will be a Democratic Senate and House,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Strategists in both parties say it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for Democrats to seize control of Congress. First, the elections would need to be nationalized. Democrats hope to do that with a burgeoning ethics scandal focused on relationships between GOP lobbyists and lawmakers. Secondly, the public would need to be in a throw-the-bums-out mood. It’s unclear whether that is the case, but 69 percent of Americans believes the nation is headed in the wrong direction — the largest percentage during the Bush presidency and up 13 points from a year ago. Third, staunch GOP voters would need to stay home. Nobody can predict whether that will happen, but a growing number of Republicans disagree with their leaders in Washington about immigration, federal spending and other issues.
It should be noted that AP is still polling “adults” and not screening for likely voters. While this is common in media polls this early in the cycle, this typically skews things toward the Democrats a bit, as their supporters are less likely to show up and actually vote. But that adjustment would not come close to making up a 16-point difference.
While there have not been many national media polls in recent weeks, the AP numbers track well with those by other companies and those released over recent weeks.
See RealClear Politics for expanded timelines.
The election is still nearly seven months away and most voters are barely paying attention at this point. Dramatic events in Iraq or elsewhere could quickly turn the tide. But Fabrizio is right: these numbers are indeed “scary” for those hoping the Republicans keep control of both Houses of Congress.
For a reverse chronological look at polling trends, see OTB’s Public Opinion Polling category archives.