Less than two weeks from November 4, Obama’s support is looking too weak to avoid another midterm defeat. Four years ago, Obama led Democrats to a loss of six Senate seats, 65 House seats, and loss of the House of Representatives. While November’s election has been slow to take shape, a Republican advantage is now becoming clear.
Even taken at its best, Obama’s standing in the polls hardly heartens Democrats. Obama appears to be close to where he stood four years ago. Within the numbers, things are even worse.
According to Rasmussen nationwide polling released October 20, Obama’s total disapproval was 52 percent and his total approval was 46 percent. Those totals almost exactly match his standing in a 10/20/12 Rasmussen poll — 52 percent disapproval and 47 percent approval. That such seemingly close numbers four years ago still led to a midterm thrashing is bad news for the president’s party.
The reason that seemingly close numbers still led to landslide defeat in 2010 is the strong opinions within them. Among those respondents with strong feelings, Obama’s opponents were way ahead four years ago — those strongly disapproving at 42 percent and those strongly approving at 30 percent — and that tipped the balance. Today, the gap is even greater.
Currently, 40 percent of those polled by Rasmussen strongly disapprove of Obama’s performance, while just 23 percent strongly approve of the job he is doing. Today’s “strong” rating gulf is almost two-to-one negative and it largely comes from attrition in Obama’s support.
While Obama’s strong disapproval rating is slightly down (2 percent) from 2010, his strong support rating is down far more (7 percent). Democrats’ have a dual midterm concern — lack of support and lack of enthusiasm among those who do. While Democrats are negatively viewed by the nation as a whole (46 percent-52 percent), half of Obama’s support (23 percent) is not strong support.
If you are looking for voters who will not turn out in a less publicized midterm election, voters without strong feelings are the most likely no-shows.
Of course, just because Obama is running behind his 2010 ratings among those with the strongest feelings, does not mean November 4th’s results will be worse than 2010’s for Democrats…at least not quantitatively. The simple reason is that state parties’ districting ability makes the large majority of House seats “safe” from partisan turnover — i.e., there are not 65 House seats left for Democrats to lose.
However, on the qualitative side, 2014’s results could be even worse for Democrats than 2010’s. For Senate races, there is no ability for Democrats to draw “safe” seats, nor are all of the Senate’s seats up this year. And the seats up this year, are anything but “safe” for Democrats — especially with Obama’s poll numbers.
Should Democrats lose the Senate this year, it will not mean just losing one house of Congress, as in 2010, but all of Congress. Republicans just need a net gain of six seats to win it — the same number they won in 2010’s midterm. Stopping Republicans from taking the Senate and Congress will be tough.
Democrats are defending seven more seats than Republicans (21 to 14) in November. Democrats have four open seats to defend; Republicans have just two. Seven of the seats Democrats are defending are in states won by Romney in 2012; only one of the Republicans’ seats is in a state won by Obama in 2012. Six of the Democrats’ seats are in states won by Obama with less than 54 percent of the 2012 vote; just one of the Republicans’ seats is in a state won by Romney with less than 54 percent of the vote.
So Democrats have even more at stake in 2014 than in 2010, a bigger presidential problem than in 2010, and are fighting on a tilted electoral ground. Obama’s support is weaker than it was four years ago and many of the most important Senate races are in places where it is weakest of all.
To be sure, two weeks can be a long time in politics and there are still undecided voters in these Senate races. However, the president and his administration are the dominant issues in most midterm elections, and certainly in this one. It is hard to see how in two weeks Obama can convince undecided voters to elect Democrats, if he has been unable to do so after almost six years in office.
The Democrats’ problem is twofold: too weak and two weeks. The first is Obama’s support and the second is time. The first gives Democrats too much to change, and the second gives them too little time in which to do it.