Last week could not have been much worse for Democrats. On top of the party’s surprise loss in FL-13 on Tuesday came a survey from NBC/WSJ polling. The poll proves just how precarious the Democratic position is heading into the 2014 midterms.
The poll finds the President sitting at 41% approval with 54% disapproving. Unlike previous surveys which have shown the President is personally popular, the WSJ/NBC survey finds a mere 41% have a favorable view of the President while 44% do not. On specific issues, such as the economy his approval spread was 41/56 and on foreign policy a 41/53 spread. Asked whether respondents would support a backer of the President 42% said it would make them less likely to do so compared to 22% who said more so. Also, a full 57% of voters said that the country was in a recession and a mere 26% said the economy would improve in the next 12 months. Combined with FL-13 it is possible the Obama coalition is fraying. There is more data from the survey that supports this hypothesis.
When respondents were asked which party they preferred to control Congress, Republicans led by a point. One might be tempted to note a point is not a significant lead (within the poll’s margin of error) and one not necessarily be wrong. But keep in mind that this survey has traditionally overestimated the Democrat’s advantage to the tune of three to four points. Also, for reference, before the 2010 GOP landslide the last NBC/WSJ survey showed Republicans winning the generic ballot by two percent (they won the House vote by almost 8). Lastly, the survey finds that Obamacare could have a significant impact on 2014. A mere 35% of respondents said the law was a good idea and a solid 49% said it was a bad idea.
There is a plethora of other survey data suggesting Democrats are swimming against the current this cycle. Take polling results from Hickman Analytics (a Democratic pollster that seems more trustworthy than PPP). Hickman surveyed four key Senate races with Democrats running for reelection; Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. The results in each race show that despite significant name ID advantages, Democratic incumbents are stuck in tough races and well below 50% support.
More specifically, in Arkansas, Mark Pryor leads Republican Congressman Tom Cotton 40%-37% among Likely voters. But when the Definite Voter screen is utilized, Cotton jumps out to a 41%-39% lead. This despite Pryor having an 18 point name ID advantage. Obama is likely dragging down Pryor as the Commander-in-Chief has a morbid 32/65 favorable spread in the state. In Colorado, Senator Mark Udall led (Buck dropped out to make way for Congressman Cory Gardner) Ken Buck 46%-42% among LVs and 46%-43% among DVs. Obama has a 44/52 favorable rating. In Louisiana, despite coming from a political dynasty, Senator Mary Landrieu trails her likely GOP opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy, 46%-42% among LVs and 49%-40% among DVs. This despite enjoying a 53 point advantage in name ID. Obama has a 41/56 favorable spread. Lastly, in North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan is in a dogfight with likely challenger Thom Tillis, leading among LVs 45%-41% and DVs 47%-42%. Obama was at 46/50 in the state. Hagan’s name ID stood at 85% compared to Tillis’s at 34%.
Other survey data has suggested close races. The most recent survey out of Colorado from Rasmussen Reports found Udall up a mere point, 42%-41%, against Gardner. In Michigan, older surveys from PPP and EPIC-MIRA have found former Secretary of State Terri Lynne leading Congressman Gary Peters. Even if the GOP does not win these races they at least force the Democrats to spend money and play defense in usually safe places.
None of this points to the GOP winning a landslide this November. But short of disaster the GOP is likely to pick up at least two Democratic House seats (red district retirements) and three open Democratic Senate seats (MT, ND and WV) while Democrats are playing to win, at best, only two GOP Senate seats (GA and KY). This is to say nothing more about the above races the GOP has excellent shots at winning.
FL-13 should be a vivid reminder to Democrats that turnout matters as does intensity. Republicans tend to show up more in midterms regardless but a drop-off in Democratic turnout, perhaps seen in FL-13, could be disastrous for the party holding its Senate majority. Minority turnout dropping in North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana would be particularly devastating for the party. A drop-off in turnout could also significantly impact the partisan composition of many state legislatures and statewide executive races on the ballot this November.
Democrats insist they are ready for 2014 and they may very well be. But current polling shows and FL-13 showed that you can only do so much to mitigate the impact of a toxic national political environment and a dissatisfied voting public. If nothing else, this should have Democrats in tough races running scared and looking to distance themselves from the President and his policies. If they still can.