Hill Democrats’ ratings worry party
Party strategists are worried that growing disapproval of the Democratic majority in Congress will weaken its prospects in next year’s elections while boosting Republicans’ chances of winning in competitive battleground races.
The Gallup Poll reported last week that a survey conducted for USA Today showed that 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Democrats in Congress. A Pew Research Center poll released one week earlier found that just 33 percent of 1,027 Americans surveyed from July 25 to 29 said they “approve of the Democratic leaders of Congress.”
While Democratic Party advisers maintain the political base is in good shape for next year’s elections, the warning signs of voter alienation pose a danger that cannot be ignored.
“Democrats should not be for complacency in the face of lost trust in Congress and perceptions that the new Congress is not effective or honoring its pledges,” Democratic adviser James Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg said in a strategy memo sent to party officials and activists.
Democratic officials in the party’s House and Senate campaign committees think much of the dissatisfaction is fueled by the party’s failure to legislate a troop-withdrawal deadline in Iraq.
“Democrats are frustrated. They want the war to end quicker than it appears it will,” a senior party official said on the condition of anonymity.
Jennifer Crider, chief spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, acknowledged that the committee has been following the declining approval numbers very closely. “You always monitor the [polling] numbers,” she said.
The precipitous rise in the Democrats’ disapproval has buoyed the spirits at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
“Such widespread dissatisfaction is creating a palpable sense of panic among Democrats,” the NRCC wrote in a memo in response to the CarvilleGreenberg analysis.
“As the nation draws closer to the presidential primaries, Congress’ window of opportunity to shine is rapidly closing,” the memo states. “And as the old saying goes: The new majority isn’t going to get a second chance to make a first impression.”
It reported that an NRCC poll of likely voters in 50 targeted House districts “shows that voters are not only frustrated with the new majority’s inability to get things done, but that voters are not at all loyal to their currentDemocratmemberandarein a firing mood.”
The poll found that “only 35 percent of the voters say they will vote to re-elect their current Democrat congressman in these districts. Half — 50 percent — prefer someone new.”
But a Carville-Greenberg poll of 1,451 likely voters conducted July 25 to 30 found just the opposite was the case.
“In the battleground of the 70 most competitive congressional districts (35 Democratic and 35 Republicanheld), the Democratic incumbents, including the big class of freshmen, have quickly moved into dramatic leads,” they said.
However, independent election analysts say the outcome of the 2008 congressional races likely will turn on whether there is any progress in Iraq. If the United States remains mired in the war by this time next year, “it’s very difficult to see how Republicans can gain ground,” said David Wasserman, the House elections analyst at the Cook Political Report.
Not exactly Miss Popularity: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow congressional Democrats are seeing their approval ratings slide more and more with each passing week.