Courtesy of Democratic pollster Stanley Greenburg we now know just how precarious a position Democrats are in heading into next year’s presidential election. Greenburg unveiled a poll of 60 GOP held battleground districts (across the nation) and finds that the GOP incumbents lead generic Democratic challengers 50%-41%. At the heigth of 2010 the GOP only led in these districts 48%-42% in surveys (they won overall 55%-43% in actuality). This leads to the question whether Democrats can even have a chance of regaining the House, let alone controlling the Senate after 2012?
Other key findings from the survey show that the president’s approval in these districts is a combined 41%, surely dragging down the Democratic brand. Even worse for the president and his party only 17% say the country is on the right track and 75% say it is not. In head to head match-ups in the districts the president loses to GOP nominees Mitt Romney 49%-43% and Rick Perry 49%-45%. In 2008 52% of voters in these districts backed Obama and 47% John McCain. The only thing Democrats can feel happy about in the survey is that a 45% pluarlity support the president’s jobs plan and 41% oppose it.
The poll does have warning signs for Republicans. Only 39% approve of their GOP representative, 33% disapprove and 28% are undecided. Interestingly enough, a near majoity, 49% say they would not vote to releect the GOP incumbent because they want people to fix DC. But in the survey a solid 50% would back their GOP representative for a second term. Voter frustration remains high even if the GOP maintains its generic ballot advantage in these districts apparently.
So do Democrats realistically have a shot than of retaking the House? If this poll is any indication the odds are against. Democrats running will be dragged down by an incredibly partisan environment (great for getting out the base but who else), a stagnant economy, massive budget deficits, and a unpopular president at the top of the ticket. Moreover, voters are indicating they ideologically feel closer to the GOP (different survey) than Democrats who may more closely represent their actual idelogical views. And odds for the Democrats controlling the Senate after 2012 stink as well. The numbers of seats and types of seats they will be defending argue against it.
But this surve brings up another question. Is it possible for the GOP to gain new seats in the House of Representatives? The odds of the GOP making gains in the House are as yet unclear. Whereas for the GOP to hold seats surveys have more predictive power they have less so for gaining seats. In analzying whether the GOP can gain seats other factors such as the fact many states have yet to redistrict, with multiple states having lawsuits pending. Then of course there is 2010. In the 2010 election the GOP literally cleaned out all Democrats in the South from majority-white districts and made deep inroads in the Northeast and Midwest. So where does the GOP have to expand geographically? Nowhere to very little. In the South the few remaining Democratic districts are majority-minority districts. In CA the GOP is likely to lose seats and the NE looks like like a wash. Even so, through redistricting the GOP might gain a few House seats. The GOP will push Democrats in MI, OH, GA and NC into districts where incumbents battle each other. The GOP will also likely win new seats in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas (lawsuit pending). But in terms of growth on the exisiting map the GOP does not have any new territory to truly pursue.
For the GOP the Senate is a different story. With so many open Democratic seats in swing states available to target the GOP has a plethora of opportunities. Starting in Virginia these seats stretch from the East to the Midwest. Hard hit economic states such as Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Minnesota also have endangered incumbents up. Meanwhile, currently the most endangered GOP seats look to be in NV and Massachusetts. The vote preferences of voters at the district level likely will have an impact on Senate races. If swing voters are willing to pull the lever for their GOP Rep. than the odds are fairly even they will do the same for their GOP Senate candidate. And that spells trouble for Democrats in a number of states.
The Democratic party has never been in such disrepute since 1946. Their chances of winning back the House are almost non-existant at this point and their hold on the Senate is tenuous at best. The party has a sitting president with sub-40/low 40 approval ratings and a solid majority of voters saying the country is on the wrong track. The economy continues to get worse, the debt grows, partisan bickering continues and presidential policies continue to fail. Neither Jimmy Carter or Walter Mondale could bring the Democratic party to its knees like this. So could Obama be the Democrat to lead his party to its knees? It is looking more and more like it everyday.