The month of August was a grueling one for the Democratic Party. Gallup, Rasmussen, and The Washington Post released polls asking whether respondents preferred the Democratic or Republican candidate in any race. Results showed the GOP with a double digit lead in the generic ballot. Why have Democrats been polling so badly for the last month?
“It’s the economy,” explains Dr. John Roos, professor in the Political Science department. “When you get unemployment hanging up around 9.5-10% in America, folks are really unhappy. If the unemployment rate was around 7.5%, then the generic ballot would be different.”
Dr. David Campbell, associate professor of political science, agreed that the Democrats are polling badly because of the poor economy. “Any incumbent party, whether it’s Republican or Democratic, is going to suffer when the economy is in tough shape, and it is now.”
Dr. Campbell also pointed out another important factor for Democratic poll numbers. “There is good reason to think that the American voter likes the idea of a divided government. It’s not inconceivable to think that there are many voters who would like to see a Republican check on a Democratic White House. I wouldn’t say that’s the primary reason why the Republicans have seen an uptick in the polls, but I am inclined to think that there are at least some voters out there who do like the idea of balancing the various branches against each other.”
Despite its large leads in the polls, the last month has not been completely smooth sailing for the GOP. In the Delaware Senate Primary, newcomer Christine O’Donnell, an affiliate of the polarizing Tea Party movement, upset Representative Mike Castle, the GOP favored candidate.
Many political insiders saw this upset as turning a probable GOP win into a likely Democratic pickup. The situation hit fever pitch when the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRCS) announced that it would not fund O’Donnell’s campaign the night she won the primary. But in an about-face move the next day, Sen. John Cornyn released a statement that included the following: “Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee—and I personally as the committee’s chairman—strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.”
Although O’Donnell now has the financial support of the NRSC, there are still numerous issues that are plaguing her campaign, including several alleged personal and campaign-related financial discrepancies, in addition to her primary strategy of baselessly accusing her primary opponent of a homosexual affair and calling him “unmanly.”
Even with the setback in Delaware, the GOP stands to make huge gains in November in key battleground states such as Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. For example, Rasmussen Report’s latest poll in the Florida Senate race shows Marco Rubio (R) leading Charlie Crist (I) and Kendrick Meek (D) by a margin of 41%-30%-23%. Many experts expected Crist’s Independent run to split the conservative vote, strengthening Meek’s chances of winning.
Ohio’s Senate and Gubernatorial races are also sparking national interest. Polls released last week by Quinnipiac University show incumbent Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland trailing his Republican opponent John Kasich by 17 points, and Lt. Gov. Lee Fischer trailing Republican Rob Portman by 20 points in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat.
Indiana’s U.S. Senate race looks similarly one-sided, with Republican Dan Coats leading Democrat Brad Ellsworth by a 50%-34% margin, according to a Rasmussen poll released September 15th. Also, the race for Representative in Indiana’s second district, which includes South Bend, is beginning to look more competitive.
Joe Donnelly, the incumbent Democrat, is running as a centrist and independent thinker. A large part of his campaign strategy has been to distance himself from President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, evidenced by his own TV ad where he says (over images of them) that he does not work for the “Washington crowd.”
Republican challenger Jackie Walorski trailed Donnelly by two points in an American Action Forum (R) poll released August 19th. The poll is likely to lean Republican because of its source, but it still seems that recently, Donnelly’s edge has been eroding.
Pete Freddoso is learning Greek. Contact the CEC’s cutie pi at email@example.com.