Race Tightening In Final Days Before Midterm Elections

For the past couple of weeks the polls have showed tightening in many races. A Newsweek poll takes this further with increases in support for Barack Obama, increases in support for Congressional Democrats, and a decrease in the enthusiasm gap.

Despite doom-saying about Democrats’ chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK Poll (full results) shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared with 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK Poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). President Obama’s approval ratings have jumped substantially, crossing the magic halfway threshold to 54 percent, up from 48 percent in late September, while the portion of respondents who disapprove of the president dropped to 40 percent, the lowest disapproval rating in a NEWSWEEK Poll since February 2010. However, his approval rating, which is notably higher than many recent polls of the president’s popularity, may be evidence of a closing “enthusiasm gap” more than a sea change in voter attitudes, and may not substantially affect Democrats’ fortunes come Election Day. In 1994, NEWSWEEK Polls showed a similar steep climb in President Clinton’s approval between late September and late October, but Democrats still suffered a rout in the midterms.

Most likely Republicans will still pick up many seats, but possibly not as many as some have been predicting. Odds still favor the Republicans to take control of the House, but this is not inevitable if Democrats turn out to vote.

A victory for Republicans does not mean support for their policies. Polls have shown that voters often have a lower opinion of Republicans than Democrats, and generally disagree with Republicans on policy matters. For example, an AP poll shows that voters are just as likely to want to expand the health care reform legislation to do more as they are to want to repeal it.

This could still be a wave election which benefits Republicans, but we very well could have yet another wave election in two more years as voters continue to reject GOP views. This was recently suggested in The National Journal:

The one sobering thought that veteran Republican consultants are already contemplating is that the larger the wave this year, the more difficult it will be to hold onto some of these seats in 2012 and 2014 in the House and 2016 in the Senate.

The bigger the wave, the weaker the class and the harder it will be to hold onto those seats. Democrats only have to look at their 2006 and 2008 classes for plenty of examples.

What this means is that we will likely have our third wave election in a row this year, and the bigger this one is, the more likely that there will be a countervailing wave in either 2012 or 2014.

Regardless of how the Republicans do, long term they cannot overcome the facts that their reactionary views are opposed by the vast majority of Americans. A party which requires supporters to believe so many things which are contrary to fact, which denies modern science, and acts contrary to human desires for individual liberty, will not thrive in the twenty-first century.