In an e-mail update, the Cook Political Report describes the latest Democratic retirement: “Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon’s decision to retire from a district that is 13 points more Republican than the national average presents House Democrats with their most problematic open seat yet. It is the fourth troublesome retirement for Democrats in as many weeks, bringing the total number of open seats in marginal or GOP-leaning districts to seven.” It’s officially a trend. As Chris Cillizza observes: “Democratic strategists have insisted that the series of retirements are isolated cases not indicative of a broader fear among Members of Congress that the political environment is shaping up badly for their party in 2010. It may be more difficult to make that argument now.”
Or even impossible. It’s pretty hard to make the case that things are going well for the Democrats. Obama has hit a new low in Rasmussen, at 44 percent, creating tweezer-like graphs. And the congressional generic polling looks very red. Things can change, of course. But the danger for the Democrats in the meantime is that the retirements pile up, better GOP candidates enter the race, donors on the Democratic side get depressed, and the polling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit explains the concern:
“Republicans are more and more in position to pick up a lot of Congressional seats next year,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “The tide continues to turn against the Democrats and that’s putting some districts that haven’t been close in quite a while into the competitive category.”
Congress could stop annoying the voters, of course: end the frenzied search for a magic formula to take over health care, work on some common-sense job-creation ideas, dial back on the spending binge, and find popular, bipartisan measures to champion (on education, for example). But it seems that’s not yet the game plan. Maybe some more retirements will do the trick.
Public Policy Polling has some interesting findings:
Overall 49% of voters express approval of Obama’s work with 46% disapproving. He has the support of 83% of Democrats, 47% of independents, and 10% of Republicans. There’s been little change in his base of support over the last year with liberals, moderates, blacks, Hispanics, and young voters all giving him positive reviews and conservatives, whites, and older voters expressing displeasure with his work.
Hurting Obama’s overall reviews is that for the first time in our polling we find a majority of Americans opposed to his health care plan. 40% say they support it with 52% opposed, including 58% of independents. “This is the first time President Obama’s approval rating has dropped below 50% in our polling,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “It does seem that the health care issue is hurting him some with independents who voted for him last year.”
Meanwhile, over at Gallup, Obama’s disapproval rating ticks up to 44 percent, while at Rasmussen (which tracks likely voters) we find:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. … Overall, 46% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. Fifty-three percent (53%) now disapprove.
Perhaps it’s health care, Obama’s signature initiative, that’s driving his polling lower. Maybe it’s the bow or the dithering over Afghanistan. Or maybe Americans really don’t like the idea of trying KSM in a civilian courtroom. But what is clear is that they are souring on the president, and if he wants to preserve some political capital, and prevent his party from being dragged under as well, he would do well to stop pretending that he doesn’t hear the American people. In this politically obsessed White House, I think it’s fair to conclude he is kept up to date on the polling; he’s just decided to go right on doing what he wants to do anyway. That’s the sort of thing voters tend to notice.