Could 2010 Be Worse Than 1994 For Democrats?
The signs point to 2010 being an even worse year for Democrats than 1994.
Chris Cillizza reports (“Poll numbers in 1994, a bad year for Democrats, don’t bode well for them in 2010“) that the incumbent party is resigned to a drubbing in the fall.
Some neutral observers and senior strategists within the party have begun to believe that the national political environment is not only similar to what they saw in 1994 — when Democrats lost control of the House and Senate — but could in fact be worse by Election Day.
A quick look at the broadest atmospheric indicators designed to measure which way the national winds are blowing — the generic ballot and presidential approval — affirms the sense that the political environment looks every bit as gloomy for Democrats today as it did 16 years ago.
“President Obama’s job [approval] number is likely to be as bad or worse than [Bill] Clinton’s when November rolls around, the Democratic generic-ballot advantage of plus 12 to plus 15 in 2006 and 2008 is now completely gone, and conservatives are energized like 1994,” said Stu Rothenberg, an independent political analyst and editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, a well-read campaign tip sheet.
The generic ballot — would you vote for an unnamed Democrat or an unnamed Republican? — is either similar or worse for Democrats (depending on which poll you look at) than it was in 1994.
In an August 1994 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 49 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Democrat while 42 percent said they would back the Republican. Last month, 47 percent said they would support the Republican while 46 percent chose the Democrat.
The results were strikingly similar in several other national surveys. In an August 1994 Gallup poll, 46 percent said they would vote for the Democrat and an equal 46 percent said they would support the Republican. The most recent Gallup data give Republicans an edge of 50 percent to 43 percent over Democrats. A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that in August 1994, Republicans had a generic-ballot lead of 46 percent to 44 percent, a margin similar to the numbers in CNN data, 48 percent to 45 percent, this month.
While I’ve long expected the Republicans to do well this year, I’ve been dubious that we’d see another wave election like 1994. Yes, the economy is in the toilet now in a way it wasn’t in 1994. But we’re two years removed from George W. Bush, not George H.W. Bush. And the 1994 Republicans at least had a positive agenda to offer.
Charlie Cook prophesies “a Republican net gain of between 32 and 42 seats to a gain of between 35 and 45 seats, with the odds of an outcome larger than that range greater than the odds of a lesser outcome.” And 39 seats is all that’s needed. Meanwhile, Larry Sabato sees the Republicans picking up 32 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate. Neither would be enough to retake a majority.
While those represent sizable gains, indeed, recall that the Republicans picked up 54 House and 8 Senate seats in 1994. That’s almost inconceivable this year.