A new CNN poll has some good news — and a bit of a warning — for Republicans.
The good news: the Republican Party has a 10 point generic lead heading into the 2010 mid-term elections — bigger than the lead it had in 1994 when it took over both houses of Congress and a press narrative became whether then President Bill Clinton was “relevant.”
The warning: unlike in 1994 it’s clear that many voters don’t like the Republican party — which means the party could win because voters want a non-Democratic controlled Congress but a victory will not be a GOP ideological mandate, let alone a national Tea Party mandate. (But don’t expect Rush Limbaugh, talk show hosts, and conservative print and media pundits to frame it that way).
The bad news for the Democrats: the poll shows the party has lost a big chunk of independent voters and voters who live in the suburbs.
UPDATE: In yet another sign of how polls are all over the place, a new Washington Post/ABC poll, in contrast, finds Republicans four points ahead:
Voters across the country are deeply unhappy with the performance of the Democratic Congress and as dissatisfied with how Washington works as they were in1994, when Republicans took control of both chambers, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The sour mood threatens the Democratic congressional majorities in Tuesday’s midterm elections as more than seven in 10 voters see the country as off course, fully half of all voters describe the nation’s economy as “poor” and many feel out of sync with President Obama when it comes to the proper size of government.
Among those most likely to cast ballots in their congressional districts, 49 percent say they side with the Republican candidate, 45 percent with the Democratic one. This four-point GOP edge puts Republicans in an even stronger position than they were heading into the final days of the 1994 election.
A narrow majority of likely voters, 52 percent, also disapproves of the way Obama is handling his job as president. That’s the same as the percentage of Election Day 1994 voters who said they disapproved of President Clinton’s performance, according to that year’s exit polling.
One big but quickly dwindling opportunity for Democrats is that Obama and his party have significantly better ratings among all registered voters than they do among those now considered most likely to participate. Among all voters, Democrats hold a narrow five-point lead on the congressional vote question: 49 to 44 percent.
Among voters who are inclined to skip Tuesday’s vote, Obama boasts a heartier 58 percent approval rating.
Among all registered voters, Democrats have a five-point advantage as the party more trusted to deal with the country’s main problems, and they have a similar edge when it comes to handling Topic A, the economy. Democrats have even bigger, double-digit leads when it comes to empathy and better grasping the economic problems people in the country face.
But each of these Democratic advantages disappears when narrowing the focus to the most likely voters, as determined by their vote histories and how certain they say they are to vote on Tuesday
Details of the CNN poll (link is higher up):
Two days before the midterm elections, a new national poll indicates that Republicans have a 10-point lead over the Democrats in a crucial indicator in the battle for control of Congress.
The GOP’s 10 point advantage in the “generic ballot” question in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Sunday is slightly larger than the seven point advantage Republican candidates had on the eve of the 1994 midterms, when the party last took control of Congress from the Democrats.
“But unlike 1994, when polls indicated the public had a positive view of the Republican party, a majority of Americans now do not have a favorable view of the GOP,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
According to the poll, 52 percent of likely voters say they will vote for the generic Republican in their congressional district, with 42 percent saying they will vote for the generic Democrat, four percent saying neither and two percent undecided. The GOP’s 10-point lead is up from a seven-point advantage in a CNN poll conducted in early October.
The overwhelming majority of Democrats questioned in the survey say they’ll vote for the Democrat in their district, with the overwhelming majority of Republicans saying they’ll cast a ballot for the GOP candidate. Fifty-five percent of independents say they’ll vote for the Republican candidate, with 32 percent saying they’ll cast a ballot for the Democrat. The support of independent voters was a crucial factor in the strong showing by Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
“Six in ten suburban voters say they plan to vote for the Republican candidate for the U.S. House on Tuesday,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “That’s not good news for the Democrats since most of the seats in play are in suburban districts.”
In short: it appears the Democrats will be booted out for a variety of reasons including the still-in-crisis economy, joblessness and what increasingly seems to be Barack Obama and his White House advisors’s political miscalculation on the need to expend his and his party’s political capital doing health care reform while employment figures were lousy and the political sausage making hurt the party’s image. Not to mention the administration’s surprising inability to sell policies it backed and enacted.
If these numbers hold, most likely the long term analysis of this race from non-ideological, talk show analysts would be that the Democrats were battered by the historical trend of a party losing during its President’s first mid-terms, the economy, the success of the talk-show-originated “No” strategy, and poor political judgments by Obama and his team.
And if the numbers hold, the GOP will now be more in charge, giving it a chance to either pass voter “probation or be tossed out in 2012 — or at the least ensure Obama’s re-election if it appears too extreme and obstructionist at a time when many Americans don’t like it even if they vote for it.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.