The encouraging thing about this election cycle is not just where we are, it's about the direction that opinion is moving, and the energy with which it's moving. The trends are strongly against the Democrats. Consider the economy.
In the new (Heartland Monitor) poll, 48% of adults said that the president's economic policies had "run up a record deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses"; just 39% said that he had helped "avoid an even worse economic crisis" and is "laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery." In April, poll respondents had tilted toward that negative assessment by a narrower ratio, 46% to 42%; last September, they split evenly, with positive and negative views both at 43%.
With trend changing good economic news considered unlikely before election day, nearly half of Americans now blame the continued tough times on the president's management. What will that 48% number be up to after 7 more weeks of malaise building - with cold weather and the holidays closing in?
In the most recent survey, just 32% of adults said that Obama's actions will increase opportunity for people like them to get ahead, while 38% said it would reduce their opportunities.
Larry Kudlow does some analysis of this week's Washington Post/ABC News poll, and points out that the president's defense - arguing that going back to Republican management would make things worse - is weak.
Voters were asked, if Republicans win control of Congress, will they return to the economic policies of George W. Bush, or will they have different ideas to deal with the economy? The response: 58 percent said different ideas, and 35 percent said the policies of George W. Bush. Voters were then asked if Democrats maintain control of Congress, will they continue with the economic policies of Barack Obama, or will they have different ideas on the economy? The response: 62 percent said the policies of Obama, and 32 percent said different ideas.
In other words, Obama is fishing in a polluted river, as voters are more trusting of Republicans than Democrats on the economy. The only reason the president would fall back on an argument with little chance of success is because it's the best argument he has. That doesn't bode well for Democrats.
The poll also found that 56 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, while 39 percent approve; that 71 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing; and that 62 percent think it better that different parties control Congress and the White House. Overall, on the generic congressional vote, likely voters favor Republicans over Democrats 49 percent to 40 percent.
Kudlow also points out that trying to sell a new villain to voters, who generally have no idea regarding what John Boehner is all about, isn't going to work any better than demonizing Nancy Pelosi did four years ago. Political oddsmaker Charlie Cook, meanwhile, is one of many who this week decided that the GOP is likely to take over the house.
For a long time it was primarily the "macro-political," national polling data that was pointing to increasing signs of major Democratic midterm losses, while Democratic fortunes in individual races looked fine. But there began a gradual erosion in strength on a district-by-district basis, with incumbent Democrats in swing or Republican-leaning districts looking increasingly endangered while their colleagues in some more reliably Democratic seats began to look softer in their support and more vulnerable to a significant challenge.
Guys like Cook try to run behind the trend - they're instinctively conservative, eager to see proof of trends rather than being swayed by the emotion of the moment. But now, the evidence is supporting the emotion.
In recent weeks, though, the district-by-district deterioration has reached the tipping point. It can now be said that Republicans will likely take back the House. An individual race analysis points to GOP gains of over 40 seats in the House, but the national polling suggests gains substantially higher than that.
Higher? How much higher. Here's what the New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight says after its own race-by-race breakdown.
...most of the districts that Cook regards as “tossups,” the FiveThirtyEight model in fact regards as leaning toward the Republicans.
They predict the GOP ending up with a 15 vote majority in the house, the Democrats with a 5 seat advantage in the senate, and 30 governor's seats belonging to Republicans.