Saturday, October 23, 2010

So just how bad will it be for Democrats on November 2?

It won't be good, that's for sure. The economy isn't doing well, there's a good deal of anti-incumbent sentiment out there, conservatives are fired up, fueled by Tea Party rage, and, well, the party that holds the White House tends not to do well in the president's first midterms.

In other words, as Steve Benen puts it: "The question isn't whether Democrats are in for a beating in the midterm elections; the question is how severe it will be."

There's no denying the so-called "enthusiasm gap," with Republicans more likely to vote than Democrats, but, personally, I think the Republicans may have peaked. They'll win the House but not the Senate, and do well across the country at the state level, but the damage won't be as "severe" as fears and forecasts might suggest. And it could very well be that Democrats are tightening the race, in overall terms, as we count down the days to November 2.

Consider the results of a new Newsweek poll:

Despite doom-saying about Democrats' chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK Poll (full results) shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared with 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK Poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). President Obama’s approval ratings have jumped substantially, crossing the magic halfway threshold to 54 percent, up from 48 percent in late September, while the portion of respondents who disapprove of the president dropped to 40 percent, the lowest disapproval rating in a NEWSWEEK Poll since February 2010...

While two thirds (69 percent) of self-identified Republican voters say they've given a lot or some thought to the election, 62 percent of Democrats say they have. This result indicates that the difference in enthusiasm between Democratic and Republican voters may be less stark than some other polls have suggested.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not delusional. Republicans will still win, and probably win big. (While there's "considerable uncertainty," Nate Silver's forecast model gives Republicans an 80 percent chance of winning the House with a 51-seat gain.)

But, again, I suspect that their support, and everything working in their favour, may have maxed out, such as Obama's low popularity rating, which appears to be rising, and Democratic voters' lack of enthusiasm, which appears to be turning around as the election draws near. Furthermore, while there is indeed a great deal of anti-incumbent sentiment out there, a great deal of anger directed at those in power (whether they deserve it or not), it's not like voters like what Republicans have to offer or think that Republicans are a much more preferable alternative. And with Obama and Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, doing what they do so well, there is every indication that Democratic enthusiasm will continue to rise in the days to come.

In other words, it may just turn out to be a lot closer than you think.

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