The national media is missing the story on the Senate elections. Sean Trende writes for RealClearPolitics:
This is how most journalists seem to see the races right now: A few contests that are largely unwinnable by Democrats, some where they are in trouble but can win, and a bunch of others where Republicans might be able to win under the correct circumstances. This is the conventional wisdom that solidified in the spring of last year. It was the correct analysis at the time, when the [president’s approval rating] was at 50 percent.
But over the course of the summer, his job approval numbers slid into the mid-40s. The conventional wisdom didn’t follow. Given that movement, we would expect to see races in Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia and Iowa become competitive, while Democrats in races in Michigan and Minnesota would start looking shaky. Individual polling started to suggest this, although it was largely dismissed.
The president’s approval rating is an often underestimated, but incredibly important statistic that is tied to the electoral success of a party’s political candidates.
“[I]n the 31 competitive Senate races held in 2010 and 2012, the Democratic candidate has run within five points of the president’s approval in 23 of them (75 percent), Trende writes. “Additionally, no Democratic candidate in a competitive race has run more than 10 points ahead of the president’s approval (or behind it).”
In other words, President Obama’s approval rating matters. The further it falls the harder it will be for Senate Democrats to escape its downward pull and the more they’ll have to work to outperform history. Currently, the president’s approval sits around 43 percent nationally, and much lower in many states, a fact that is bearing out in many competitive Senate races. Here’s a snapshot of some of the stories from around the nation:
In Virginia: “[Ed] Gillespie’s entrance also forces Democrats into yet another competitive race, further expanding an already dismal map, where they’re defending many vulnerable incumbents in red states to keep Senate control. Republican strategists believe if President Obama’s numbers are bad enough in Virginia on Election Day, Warner could be vulnerable.”
In Iowa: “Quinnipiac recorded Obama’s lowest approval rating in the state during a poll released Wednesday. Another 59 percent of voters in the state disapprove of his job performance. And nearly 1 in 3 voters say Obama will affect their vote in the state’s Senate race next year. Longtime Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring.”
In Michigan: “The President’s approval rating dropped from just over 45% last spring to 38.3%. That’s the lowest since Fall of 2010. When it comes to state leadership, the mood is on the upswing.”
In Arkansas: “Once again Arkansans gave low ratings to Obama. Twenty-nine percent of likely voters approve of the president, 66 percent disapprove.
Only 34 percent of likely voters approved of Mark Pryor’s performance, down from 53 percent last year. His disapproval ratings were also dramatically higher, with 44 percent of likely voters disapproving of his performance, up from 21 percent last year.”
In North Carolina: The North Carolina Democrat trailed each of the Republicans vying to challenge her in the general election by 1 or 2 points, according to a poll out Tuesday from left-leaning Public Policy Polling . . . The senator’s approval closely parallels feelings in the state about President Barack Obama’s health care law. Thirty-eight percent of North Carolina voters approve of the Affordable Care Act, compared with 48 percent who disapprove.”
In Colorado: “President Obama’s sinking approval numbers are hurting the reelection chances of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), according to a new survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. Udall leads former GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck by 46 percent to 42 percent, a closer result than in earlier polls of the race.”
In Louisiana: “We’re not going to underestimate Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who has won three tough races and who benefits from a sterling political name, but TOSS-UP is the more realistic rating here than Leans Democratic.”
That’s pretty much across the board bad news for Democrats who are desperately hoping to maintain control of the Senate. And that doesn’t even count races for seats that are currently held by Democrats, but are strongly leaning Republican, like Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Now is not the time for Republicans to get complacent. Now is the time to get fired up to re-take Congress and put a much-needed check on President Obama’s liberal ambitions.