Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Payback is a Bitch: 'Political Climate for 2010 Not as Favorable to Democrats'

From Gallup, "Political Climate for 2010 Not as Favorable to Democrats":
The 2010 election cycle begins in a political climate that is shaping up to be not as favorable to the Democratic Party as the 2006 and 2008 elections were. Having capitalized on broad public discontent with the course of the nation in general and the Republican Party in particular to win control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the party faces the 2010 midterm elections trying to preserve its recent gains.

Gallup's generic congressional ballot provides a summary measure of current voting intentions for Congress. This currently suggests the 2010 midterm elections could be highly competitive, and possibly a strong Republican year if usual turnout patterns prevail ....

Although Democrats retain a significant advantage in party affiliation, that advantage has dwindled over the course of this year. Also, there are ominous signs for the majority party in terms of near-record-low congressional job approval and continuing low national satisfaction ratings.

Presidential Job Approval. It is well-documented that the president's party is usually vulnerable to losing congressional seats in midterm elections, though there have been exceptions such as in the 1998 and 2002 elections. Unpopular presidents tend to suffer greater losses, and popular presidents are able to minimize these or even help achieve gains. George W. Bush experienced both outcomes, with Republican gains in 2002 when he was popular and heavy Republican losses in 2006 when he was not.

The Democrats will contest the 2010 elections with their fellow partisan, Barack Obama, in the White House. Right now, Obama's approval ratings are middling, in the low 50s, suggesting he would not be able to minimize Democratic losses to a great degree if the elections were held today. Further erosion of Obama's popularity between now and next November could prove damaging to the Democratic Party ....

Satisfaction With the Way Things Are Going in the Country/Ratings of the Economy. These ratings are less overtly political than presidential job approval, but have a similar relationship to election outcomes. Lower satisfaction levels and poorer ratings of the economy are associated with poorer performances for the president's party in midterm elections. Gallup has a slightly longer history of asking about satisfaction than about the economy in election years ....

In Gallup's most recent update, 26% of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the country. And recent Gallup Daily economic tracking has found only about 11% of Americans rating the economy as either excellent or good. Both measures are down significantly from what Gallup measured just before the 2006 elections and, with Democrats now in power, neither measure appears promising for the party looking ahead to 2010 ....

Congressional Job Approval. Often in recent decades, one party has occupied the White House and the other has controlled Congress, somewhat blurring the degree to which either party can be held accountable for the state of the nation in midterm elections. Generally, it appears the president's party is more important to voters, with that party losing seats in seven of the last nine midterm elections. By contrast, the majority party in Congress has lost seats in four of the last nine midterms ....

Outlook: Americans' ratings of Congress hit new lows last year. After rebounding in the early part of 2009, they are back down to 21% -- just seven points above the all-time low, which would usually suggest higher seat turnover. With Democrats in control of both the presidency and Congress, they are clearly vulnerable in this respect. If there is added sentiment to "throw the bums out" -- which Gallup will measure next year by asking whether members of Congress deserve re-election -- that would only make the situation worse.
There's lots more at the link (via Memeorandum).

It's going to be a blowout. Last night was a huge harbinger. Recall
Charlie Cook's report from August:
Many veteran Congressional election watchers, including Democratic ones, report an eerie sense of déjà vu, with a consensus forming that the chances of Democratic losses going higher than 20 seats is just as good as the chances of Democratic losses going lower than 20 seats. A new Gallup poll that shows Congress’ job disapproval at 70 percent among independents should provide little solace to Democrats. In the same poll, Congressional approval among independents is at 22 percent, with 31 percent approving overall, and 62 percent disapproving.
Also, see George Stephanopoulos' comments on Cook's analysis, "Charlie Cook: Political Landscape Should 'Terrify' Democrats." With last night's thumping, look for heavy duty updates to the earlier projections in the days ahead, and check back here for links and analysis.