A look at the Democrat decline

Karl Rove:

Democrats are acknowledging they'll lose ground in the midterms. The only question is how much. Today, the evidence points to quite a lot.

The most important indicator is the president's job approval. In the Real Clear Politics average of the last two weeks' polls, President Obama has a 48% approval and 47% disapproval rating. This points to deep Democratic losses. The president's approval rating last November was 54% when his party was trounced in New Jersey and Virginia.

On the economy, a mid-June AP poll reported that Mr. Obama has 45% approval, 50% disapproval. That's a dangerous place for any president when jobs are issue No. 1.

The problem is worse in swing areas. Last week's National Public Radio (NPR) poll of the 60 Democratic House seats most at risk this year showed just 37% of voters in these districts agreed Mr. Obama's "economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis and are laying a foundation for our eventual economic recovery"; 57% believed they "have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses."

Mr. Obama also suffers because his handling of the catastrophic Gulf oil leak has undermined perceptions of his competence. Both national and Louisiana polls rate Mr. Obama's handling worse than the Bush administration's Katrina response, widely viewed as a tipping point in that presidency.

Mr. Obama's failures mean he can't lift his party by campaigning. A Public Policy Poll earlier this month reported that 48% said an Obama endorsement would make them less likely to vote for the candidate receiving it, while only one-third said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by the president.

Republicans jumped into the lead last November in Gallup's party generic ballot match-ups among all voters, and since March the GOP has led or been tied every single week except one. In the Rasmussen Poll's tracking among likely voters, Republicans have been ahead by an average of seven points, 44% to 37%, since March. This reflects a significant political development—independents breaking for the GOP.

Then there is the intensity gap, which is particularly important in midterms. In Gallup, 45% of Republicans are "very enthusiastic" about voting this fall versus 24% of Democrats. This staggering 22-point gap is the largest so far this election year. And in the NPR survey of 60 swing Democratic districts, 62% of Republicans rated their likelihood of voting as 10, the highest. Only 37% of Democrats were similarly excited.


One of the main issues that has been pushing the GOP resurgence has been the voter's antipathy toward the Democrats health care law. Just as the anger over that may be peaking, the Democrat response to the Arizona immigration law puts them on the wrong side of voters on that hot button issue. The immigration issue has always been a grass roots response to the failure of the government to enforce immigration laws.

Obama has blundered into a fight over that which will remind voters of the Democrats being on the wrong side. The administration is also on the wrong side of voters on the closing of Gitmo and jury trials for the terrorist. This is just another decision like the budget the Democrats are trying to put off until after the election, but all of these will be issues in the election.


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