There was a time not too long ago when it seemed possible that the midterm elections might only maim, and not destroy, the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. The public would warm to health-care reform after its most popular components started to go into effect without death squads rounding up the elderly or your doctor calling "the bureaucracy" for medical advice. Plus, the economy would continue to slowly improve, putting people back to work and creating optimism about the future.
Well, obviously the economy barely has a heartbeat, the jobs have not been coming back, and now we know that health-care reform, the Democrats' crowning achievement, hasn't gotten any more popular. According to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, support for the legislation has fallen in August back to May levels, with 43 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. It's true that many of the reforms will go into effect in late September, but attitudes on health-care reform appear to be settled.
Meanwhile, a new AP-GfK poll out this morning shows that voters with the strongest opinions on various issues disapprove of how President Obama handled them, and in Gallup's generic ballot poll, the Republican Party has taken its largest lead ever in nearly 70 years of the poll. Asked whether they would vote for a Republican or Democrat for Congress this year, 51 percent said the Republicans and 41 percent said the Democrats. Of course, this doesn't mean that the Republicans will win every race by ten points or anything like that. It's a broader snapshot of the electoral climate that nonetheless is a terrible omen for the Democrats. Even if the number is an outlier, as Nate Silver suspects, it still represents a shift in the direction of the GOP. Earlier this summer, an outlier would have shown the GOP up by 5.
The “good news” for the Democrats is that the generic ballot almost certainly isn’t the only metric you should look at when forecasting midterm elections, and the other salient statistical indicators, while poor for Democrats, are not quite this poor.
It's never a positive sign when "good news" has to be put in quotation marks.
GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot [Gallup]
The Democrats’ New Normal [FiveThirtyEight/NYT]