Fifty-Six Days Out, A Tidal Wave Approaches

As the mid-term elections enter their final eight weeks, there's more bad news for Democrats.

Three new polls out this morning seem to confirm the perception that’s developed over the past few weeks that Democrats are headed for a pretty bad night when November 2nd rolls around.

First, from ABC News and The Washington Post:

Republicans are heading into the final weeks of the midterm campaign with the political climate highly in their favor, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Americans are increasingly frustrated by a lack of economic progress, deeply dissatisfied with the federal government and critical of President Obama’s leadership.

For the first time in more than four years, Republicans run about evenly with Democrats on the basic question of which party they trust to handle the nation’s biggest problems. Among registered voters, 40 percent say they have more confidence in Democrats and 38 percent say they have more trust in Republicans. Three months ago, Democrats had a 12-point advantage.

On the economy, 43 percent of voters side with Republicans when it comes to dealing with financial problems, while 39 percent favor Democrats. (Fifteen percent say they trust neither party more.) Although not a significant lead for Republicans, this marks the first time they have had any numerical edge on the economy dating to 2002. In recent years, Democrats have typically held double-digit advantages on the issue.

The principal obstacles to GOP electoral hopes continue to be doubts that Republicans have a clear plan for the country should they win control of the House or Senate in November. But overall, the poll shows that the party has made big gains in the public’s estimation since earlier this year.

Among all voters, 47 percent say they would back the Republican in their congressional district if the election were held now, while 45 percent would vote for the Democrat. Any GOP advantage on this question has been rare in past years – and among those most likely to vote this fall, the Republican advantage swells to 53 percent to the Democrats’ 40 percent.

The results are largely the same in a new MSNBC/Washington Post Wall Street Journal poll:

A combination of sky-high GOP enthusiasm, a deep sense of pessimism about the country’s direction and dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama’s stewardship of the economy has given Republicans a clear advantage heading into the November midterm elections, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

With the Labor Day holiday marking the traditional starting point of the campaign season, Republicans have a nine-point edge among those considered likely voters, plus a near 20-point lead among those expressing the highest amount of interest in the midterms.

In addition, six in 10 believe the country is on the wrong track; nearly two-thirds think the nation is in a state of decline; and a similar number aren’t confident that their children’s generation will enjoy a better life.

Perhaps more ominous for Democrats, the number of Americans who approve of Obama’s handling of the economy — the top issue in the country — has declined below 40 percent for the first time.

“We all know that there is a hurricane coming for the Democrats,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “We just don’t know if it will be a Category 4 or a Category 5.”

The survey shows that among likely voters — based on their interest and past voting history — 49 percent prefer a Republican-controlled Congress while 40 percent want one run by Democrats. Among those expressing a high interest in voting, that GOP lead increases 18 points, 53 percent to 35 percent.

And the news isn’t much better in this morning’s CNN/Opinion Research poll which shows Republicans leading in the Generic Ballot 52% to 45% among registered voters.

Strangely, the Obama Administration seems to be responding to all of this by rolling out a wave of minor economic proposals that are unlikely to get passed before Election Day, and none of which will have any appreciable economic impact for months if they did become law, and by lashing out at their critics:

Obama offered an aside that spoke to his diminished state and captured the mood of a president and party under assault.

“They talk about me like a dog,” Obama said with a chuckle of his political opponents. “That’s not in my prepared remarks but it’s true.”

Lashing out like this is somewhat understandable, of course.  There isn’t really any good way to spin this story if you’re a Democrat, or a member of the Obama Administration. Much as they were in 2008, the public is incredibly pessimistic about the state of the country and they’re holding the party in power responsible for it. Also as was the case in 2008, there is a class of voters who are discouraged and disinterested and unlikely to show up at the polls; unfortunately for Democrats, those are exactly the voters that they need if they’re going to hold off what looks more and more like a Republican tidal wave.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tano says:

    Yeah, it is pretty clear to me what is going on.
    Support for the two parties is split pretty evenly. And the GOP achieves even that parity only because the economic mess whose origins they presided over is not yet played out, and so there is some lashing out at the party in power  (i.e. GOP support has nothing much to do with actual GOP positions). But there is that “enthusiasm gap” which means that a likely voter screen yields double digit leads for Republicans.
    The answer for Dems is simple. Fire up the base. Put this governance thing on hold for a couple of months and do what the Republicans have been doing non-stop for 2 years – i.e. campaign.
    Obama made a good start yesterday with his speeches. 60 more days of that, of an active campaign led by a president who is still respected and supported more than any spokesman for the other side, and you may find that the proportion of Dems who turn out is higher than the enthusiasm level today, and that will make the election results a lot closer.

  2. The answer for Dems is simple. Fire up the base.

    Easier said than done, especially in this economic climate.

    Turnout for mid-term elections nationwide has average around 37% going back to 1974. I doubt it will be that much higher this year.

  3. Michael says:

    There’s a lot of campaigning and debating left to be done in the next 2 months, plenty of time for a candidate on either side to shot themselves in the foot, and every election will hang on the individual candidates in it.  Should be interesting.

  4. Michael says:

    Tano is a dreamer…the apocalypse comes on Nov. 2nd and nothing Obam can do will minimize that…in fact he will just hurt the Dems more.

  5. ponce says:

    Time for this election’s Mark Foley/Larry Craig to step into the spotlight…

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Disillusioned Democrats, turned off Independents, and a fired up Republican base are the reality.  Leftist Dem policies have created two thirds of the problem with the other third coming from liberals who are mad Obama hasn’t brought the troops home, prosecuted Dick Cheney, and given amnesty to all the illegals aliens.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    “Leftist Dem policies have created two thirds of the problem with the other third coming from liberals who are mad Obama hasn’t brought the troops home, prosecuted Dick Cheney, and given amnesty to all the illegals aliens.”
    Actually, judging from responses like this, collective amnesia is the problem, as our economic woes certainly did not start on January 20, 2009…but I’m sure it’s much easier to act like they did…

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Tano, I don’t think Obama can help at all this election.  Even in Illinois, Obama’s campaign support is seen as a net negative according to polls.  I think the incumbents are doing to have to go local all the way, even running against Obama in left-leaning districts.

  9. grampagravy says:

    Perhaps this “hurricane” will be as devastating as the great “Anti-Incumbent Wave” we witnessed in the primaries.

  10. john personna says:

    When you have bad harvests you throw the chief in a volcano.  We can dress it up, but it’s as old as that.
    I don’t particularly feel like defending the Democrats, but neither do I feel particular hope about the Republicans.  Their plan, apparently, is to be there and hope for better harvests.  If they are going to get thrown int he volcano, that’s years away and there is a lot of fun to be had before then.

  11. Tom Mathers says:

    If you think more speeches like yesterday’s provide the key to closing the gap, I think you are going to be very, very disappointed in November.  He came off as he often does, as a whiny, egotistical, academic who is in way over his head, though I wouldn’t mind less “governing” out of him, if only to stem the tide of horrendous legislation.

  12. john personna says:

    Just curious Tom, what was your opinion before you saw the speech? 😉

  13. This Guy says:

    The results are largely the same in a new MSNBC/Washington Post poll:
    DOUG! You did not cite this correctly. This is a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

  14. This Guy,

    Yea, that’s what I get for blogging before the caffeine kicks in I suppose.


  15. This Guy says:

    The results are largely the same in a new MSNBC/Washington Post Wall Street Journal poll:
    Well, you got it half right now….try reading the article, its called the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll….its only been around for 20 Years or so…

  16. sam says:

    Daniel Larison thinks it’s really bad news for Republicans. I’ll repeat here what I put in another thread, for those who’ve not seen it. Larison writes:

    As I have said before, I don’t think the GOP will win the House, but if that did happen it would primarily be bad news for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. If that seems a little too counterintuitive for you, let me explain. Should the GOP somehow win the House, they will not have earned it and they will not deserve it, and they will proceed to destroy themselves in very short order. Arguably, there was nothing worse for the American right than to be given the free gift of winning the 2002 midterms, because this win encouraged them to pursue the policies that proved to be their undoing, and a similar win in 2010 would have the same effect of enabling Republicans’ most destructively self-indulgent impulses… 

    After all, even if the Republicans won the House there would not be much that they could do once in office, except waste their time as they did in the ’90s hauling executive branch officials before committees to testify on this or that outrage of the week. They would likely be stymied by the Democratic majority in the Senate on any major legislation, and Obama would veto just about anything they passed if it somehow got to his desk. At the same time, Obama would make them into a much more effective foil for his arguments once they had some hold on power, and out of frustration they would become increasingly obsessed with “getting” Obama and become even less interested in representing the interests of their constituents. (

    Anybody want to give the odds that, if the Repubs do win the House, Larison will be spot on?



  17. Tom Mathers says:

    0:) back at you.  A huge part of me is glad that his speeches are increasingly petty, whiny and “un-presidential”.  His campaign was an absolute masterpiece, and I read with great concern (and nausea) after november 2008 that his election heralded the end of conservatism, a permanent Democratic majority, and rainbows and skittles for all.   That we are even talking about a “GOP tidal wave” is a huge win in my book (though I don’t discount for one second the ability or propensity of the GOP to screw this up).

  18. john personna says:

    0:) back at you.

    Didn’t watch it, didn’t care.  Your post just had the sound of someone wound up and ready.  Did you talk back to your TV?  (That is of course every citizen’s right!)

  19. Tano says:

    If you think more speeches like yesterday’s provide the key to closing the gap, I think you are going to be very, very disappointed in November

    I think the point that you are missing is that speeches like yesterdays are not directed at people like you. That you have nothing but negatives to hurl at his speech is hardly surprising – I am sure you could have written your critique of the speech before he even gave it.
    As I said, the key for the Dems is to fire up the base. Obama needs to speak to his base. Not to you. Not to Republicans, or conservatives or libertarians, or independents, or even conservative-leaning Democrats. It is a good sign that you didn’t like his speech. That doesn’t guarantee that the base liked it (although I think they did) but its probably a necessary precondition.

  20. john personna says:

    Here is a question, rather than an opinion:
    Would you agree that Obama has been pretty much doing what the polls say since the health care thing?  Is there anyplace where he’s taken a chance, or gone out of line with public opinion?
    It seems an obvious defensive move, given the economy and given Republican prospects in the upcoming elections.  Just the same, doing what the people want is kind of democracy in action.  And from a political perspective it forces Republicans to campaign against general feel rather than (recent) concrete actions.

  21. Tom Mathers says:

    @ Tano,
    That’s a legit critique of my (critique).  But do you think what remains of Obama’s base is somehow not already fired up to keep us away from the failed policies of Bush, etc.?   Are  the unions not fired up?  What subsection of voters did he fire up yesterday?
    In answering, let’s assume one is not predisposed to “hurl negatives” when BO speaks, as  I am, of course.

  22. Dave Schuler says:

    I continue to think that we’re all going to be amazed at how little actually happened come the first Wednesday in November.  Republicans will gain seats in both the House and Senate.  Will they have a net gain of 39 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate?  The district boundaries are really working against them in the House and 10 seats in the Senate has always been outside.

    The Iowa Electronic Markets

    are giving the Republicans just the slightest edge in taking both houses over the Democrats retaining both houses.

  23. Tano says:

    Is there anyplace where he’s taken a chance, or gone out of line with public opinion?

    Community center with mosquey-thing in it in the general vicinity of the WTC??
    More stimulus money for infrastructure (he is getting lots of pushback, I am not sure what the polling on it is).
    Starting the Israeli-Palestinian direct talks? (once again, incurring a lot of mocking critiques – not sure where the public stands)…

  24. Tano says:

    But do you think what remains of Obama’s base is somehow not already fired up to keep us away from the failed policies of Bush, etc.?

    No. They are not actually fired up. But you are right (if I catch your drift) in that they harbor potentially strong feelings on the subject. Feelings which can be “fired up” relatively easily. Thats why I think the Dems have a fair chance to limit the damage.

    Are  the unions not fired up?  What subsection of voters did he fire up yesterday?

    Unions are a good example of folks who are basically with Obama, but are a bit down, and not sure of whether things are going in the right direction, and thus not fired up. A little dose of enthusiastic vision from their political leadership – especially the president – will do wonders, especially in light of the horrific alternatives. I think he spoke to just such people yesterday, and it sounded pretty good.

  25. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Sam, let us compare the U.S. economy prior to the Democrats taking control of Congress shall we.  What was the unemployment rate in 2006?  What was the rate of economic growth in 2006?  Now you can blame Bush all you wish, but Congress writes the checks.  Congress passes the laws.  It is Congress which spends the money, not the President.  This Congress has given Obama most of what he has asked for.  They share responsibility for failed policies.  Republicans will have earned the seats they win in November.  Some genius here tried to correct me when I stated the election is being held November 2nd.  Bozo!  The GOP will have earn those seats by opposing policy which, it turns out, the public is opposed to.   The author you quote is full of it up to his eye balls.  The economy sucks because the people running it do not understand government has no business in business.  That the public sector costs the private sector and when the public sector grows and the private sector shrinks there is hell to pay.  The first payment will be due in November.  I would not be surprised if the GOP wins both houses of congress they will find a way to impeach Obama for illegal acts while he has held this office.  After all, the Sestak deal was a bribe and illegal.

  26. sam says:


    Sam, let us compare the U.S. economy prior to the Democrats taking control of Congress shall we. What was the unemployment rate in 2006? What was the rate of economic growth in 2006? Now you can blame Bush all you wish, but Congress writes the checks.

    Who you talking to, dimwit? I never mentioned Bush at all. How’s the job search going?

  27. john personna says:

    Tano, I kind of wonder it the $50B proposed stimulus isn’t an approximation of public sentiment.  They wan’t something for “jobs” but not much “debt.”

  28. Steve Plunk says:

    What has Obama and the Democratic congress done since health care?  The public can only see vacations and golf since then.  Fair or not it is what they perceive.
    What I see as a businessman is failed economic policies that have benefited the public sector at the expense of the private sector.  The steps that could have calmed markets and inspired business were not taken basically because they are not in the Democrat repertoire.  Without the private sector to provide the funds how on earth can the public survive?  The continued borrowing only undermines what confidence might be left.
    The latest attempt to look like they’re doing something is wasteful as well.  Roads and railroads?  More public sector gravy while we all search for scraps.

  29. john personna says:

    Any reasonable politician would face a conundrum.  The American public wants the president to fix things, but the same public doesn’t want any big changes.  I think the zeitgeist is that stimulus was tried, and we have enough debt.  That’s a formula for just riding things out.
    I mean, I know Steve that you can come up with a list of far right changes for stimulus.  I don’t think they are the sure things you think they are, but we can skip that argument.  Instead, tell me which of your positions have political power.  Tell me what polls.
    (I hope it isn’t another cycle of “tax cuts now, unspecified budget cuts later.”)

  30. ponce says:

    The generic Gallup poll that gave the Republicans +10 last week is back to even today 46-46.

    I’m sure all the blogs that made a fuss over last week’s outlier result will run another post today with the new numbers.

  31. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    You know, Sam you calling me names is hot.  I think names indicating a lack of knowledge or intelligence coupled with wisdom is not anything you would be familiar with.  That is just judging by you comments here.  Actually I would say not bad for a college freshman. 

    Sam wants to think (as if he were capable) I was referring to him when I stated above about blaming Bush.  Sam is not capable of following even the simplest

  32. anjin-san says:

    I am not sure why Democrats are surprised. Reid and Pelosi are raging mediocracies. Howard Dean, the man who engineered the Democratic hat trick of “08, has been sidelined and ignored.
    The only good news is that the last time we had a Democrat in the White House and the GOP running things on the hill we had the best governance of my lifetime.  I am working on staying optimistic.

  33. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, Clinton was a much smarter politician than Obama.  He also had a good deal of executive experience as a Governor.  You will get a Republican congress but Obama has an agenda and a mindset which will not let him veer from the path he has plotted.   The only faults I had with the Clinton years was his ineffectual dealing with Saddam and his failure to kill bin Ladin.  Bill could work with the GOP.  Obama seems unwilling.  It should be interesting.  No?