Washington Tilted toward the GOP from the start of the year, the political environment has grown even more favorable for Republicans and rockier for President Barack Obama and his Democrats over the long primary season that just ended with a bang.
With November’s matchups set and the general election campaign beginning in earnest Wednesday, an Associated Press-GfK poll found that more Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction than did before the nomination contests got under way in February. Also, more now disapprove of the job Obama is doing. And more now want to see Republicans in control of Congress rather than the Democrats who now run the House and Senate.
The country’s pessimism benefits the out-of-power GOP, which clearly has enthusiasm on its side. Far more people voted this year in Republicans primaries than in Democratic contests, and the antiestablishment tea party coalition has energized the GOP even as it has sprung a series of primary surprises.
“We’re definitely in a stronger position than we’ve been in really at any point this year,” Sen. John Cornyn, who leads the effort to elect Senate Republicans, said in an interview.
Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Turnout and enthusiasm are off the charts.”
Indeed, Republicans expected turnout of 30,000 to 40,000 in Delaware on Tuesday. Some 57,582 people showed up to vote as tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell upset moderate Rep. Mike Castle for the Senate GOP nomination. By most accounts, the outcome diminished Republican chances of winning former Vice President Joe Biden’s seat. But Republicans got their preferred candidate in New Hampshire as former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte fended off tea party-supported Ovide Lamontagne by a razor-thin margin.
Fueling voter anger is an unemployment rate that’s hovered near 10 percent all year despite efforts by Obama and fellow Democrats to accelerate the economic recovery.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that they’re out of office,” said independent voter Robbin Payton of Newport News, Va., reflecting just how toxic the environment is for the party in power.
Overall, it’s an extraordinarily dreary backdrop for Obama’s beleaguered party. And with just seven weeks until Election Day, Democrats are running out of options to mitigate widespread expected losses of House, Senate and governor’s seats from coast to coast on Nov. 2.