Democrats won’t be able to say they didn’t see this coming — the “this” being an electoral wipeout. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll finds:
In the survey, 45% said they wanted to see a Republican-controlled Congress after November, compared to 43% who wanted Democratic control. But even more telling is the excitement gap that continues to grow between the core voters of each party. Just 44% of Obama voters—those who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 or told pollsters they intended to—now express high interest in the midterm elections. That’s a 38-point drop from this stage in the 2008 campaign. By contrast, 71% of voters who supported Republican John McCain in 2008 expressed high interest in this year’s elections, slightly higher than their interest level at this stage in that campaign.
The overriding message of this poll, however, is more than just that “Democrats are going to get pummeled in November”; it’s also that Obama is dragging his party down, with no sign he and it have hit bottom yet. The Journal explains that “Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House.” And this is not simply an erosion of support among independent voters:
[M]ore ominous for the president, some in his base also are souring, with 17% of Democrats disapproving of Mr. Obama’s job performance, the highest level of his presidency.
Approval for Mr. Obama has dropped among Hispanics as well, along with small-town residents, white women and seniors. African-Americans remain the firmest part of Mr. Obama’s base, with 91% approving of his job performance.
Some 30% in the poll said they “do not really relate” to Mr. Obama. Only 8% said that at the beginning of his presidency. Fewer than half give him positive marks when asked if he is “honest and straightforward.” And 49% rate him positively when asked if he has “strong leadership qualities,” down from 70% when Mr. Obama took office and a drop of 8 points since January.
Just 40% rate him positively on his “ability to handle a crisis,” an 11-point drop since January.
Once the public loses confidence and ceases to trust or even “relate” to the president, it is hard for him to recapture the aura of invincibility. Frankly, voters have stopped giving Obama the benefit of the doubt. They’ve be spun enough times (e.g., on the job-creating abilities of the stimulus plan, the “savings” generated by health-care reform) that they now tune out the president’s pleas, roll their eyes at the familiar excuses (Bush did it, or Republicans are to blame, or everything gets distorted by the media), and look for alternatives. Obama is not on the ballot this year, so voters are looking for the next best thing to voting him out — candidates who will stop him from doing what they don’t like.