Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Democrats Facing an Ever More Bleak Political Forecast

Hyperbole is all too common in political commentary, but it’s increasingly difficult to overstate just how the political landscape has shifted under the feet of the Democratic Party. Last year they had reclaimed the White House, added to their majority in the House and were well on their way to attaining a 60 vote super-majority in the Senate. More important, the American public was on their side. In an Ipsos-McClatchy poll taken last November the Democrats enjoyed almost unimaginable levels of public support. On issue after issue the public preferred Democrats over Republicans. Handling the economy? A 58% to 37% advantage for Democrats. Taxes? 52% to 35%. Dealing with the deficit? 56% to 26%. Reforming the health care system? 62% to 23%. Jump ahead one year and the most recent Ipsos poll shows those Democratic advantages are gone. The Economy? A 40% to 39% tie. Taxes? Democrats now trail the GOP by 2 points. Dealing with the deficit? Now a 41% to 34% advantage for the GOP. Reforming health care? The Democrats 39 point advantage has dwindled to 4 points. And on the all important question of which party would be better for economic growth the Democrats have gone from a 30 point lead to a 3 point deficit. The poll also finds President Obama falling to a new approval rating low of 49%. Among the all important Independents fully 55% disapprove of the job he is doing.

As negotiations on health reform continue a new Quinnipiac poll shows the public opposes reform by a 52% to 38% margin. The polls also found a nearly equal level of disapproval of Obama's handling of health reform and the 20 point advantage that he enjoyed over Republicans on the issue back in July has now shrunk to 7 points. As for the 2010 midterms - the list of Democratic incumbents who plan to retire has now grown to 3 and Charlie Cook counts 39 potentially vulnerable Democratic House seats and only 11 Republican seats (and the number of vulnerable Democrats grows each week). In the ever important swing state of Ohio (crucial to any Republican White House quest) the Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland now trails challenger John Kasich by 9 points. It's hard to find any cause for optimism among Democrats other than the news that the national unemployment rate dropped from 10.2% to 10% last month. So far the political trajectory of 2009 is looking a lot like 1993 - Democrats desperately need a course correction to keep 2010 from ending up like 1994.