Oh, by the way: The GOP suddenly has a lead on the generic ballot -- and it's growing

I read Noah’s post earlier about Republicans lagging in key gubernatorial races and Jim Geraghty’s post about Republicans lagging in key Senate races and found them tough to take even for a tried-and-true eeyore like me. And if I’m having trouble stomaching them, you guys must be dry-heaving in despair.

So here’s the big A to brighten your weekend with a (rare, admittedly) note of hope. Hmmmmmm.


Don’t just look at that graph. Click the last link and scroll down to see how solid the Republican lead has become just in the past two weeks. From February through the end of July, Democrats led in almost every generic ballot poll. Then, early last month, Rasmussen detected a Republican lead of four points. Then Marist measured a GOP lead of five points. The next few national polls showed Democrats back in the lead, although Rasmussen picked up a slim Republican advantage in two more polls. Then, two weeks ago, came a drumbeat of GOP leads: Four points in GWU; three points in ABC/WaPo; four points in CNN; seven(!) points in Fox News; and, just today, three points in Pew. Toss in another recent one from Rasmussen and that’s six polls in a row where the GOP has led.

What’s going on? It could be that the summer’s foreign policy clusterfark and O’s seeming disengagement from it finally turned the tide, although I’m skeptical. International affairs typically don’t swing elections except in extreme cases (e.g., 9/11). More likely, I think, is that undecided voters are simply waking up to the fact that there’s an election in two months and starting to tilt against the guy whose job approval is parked in the low 40s. If his base is this disappointed in him, imagine how alienated undecideds must be:

Women surveyed said they disapprove of Obama by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin — nearing an all-time low in the poll. It’s almost the reverse of the 55 percent to 44 percent breakdown for Obama among female voters in 2012, according to exit polls…

Among younger voting-age Americans, Obama’s approval rating stood at 43 percent. That marked an 11-point drop since June among those 18 to 29 years old. Voters younger than 30 supported Obama by 60 percent to 37 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, support for Obama among Hispanics stood at 57 percent, which is down markedly from the first half of 2013, when approval among Latinos soared to about 75 percent.

If he stays underwater with women voters, those lagging Republicans I mentioned up top won’t be lagging for much longer. Guy Benson asked Sean Trende, RCP’s elections analyst, what to make of all the generic ballot movement lately. Here’s what he said:

“This could be shaping up as a perfect Republican storm,” Trende says of the emerging national numbers. “If you look at the 2010 generic ballot, up until July [of that year], things were knotted up between Democrats and Republicans. Then Republicans took off, and Democrats stayed at around 43 percent. That was a high interest election, so we shouldn’t be surprised that people ‘broke’ earlier than usual. This year doesn’t have the same overall intensity, so I think it’s following the more traditional pattern of people engaging after Labor Day,” he says. In late September of 2010, Republicans held a three-point lead on the generic ballot in RCP’s poll aggregator. By election day, that gap had widened to nine-plus points. The GOP ended up winning the election by about seven points. “These [2014] Senate races are just now really beginning to engage, and undecided voters are starting to get a look at the Republican candidates,” Trende explains. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to like what they see in every case, but the fact that you still have about 15 percent of the electorate undecided in a place like Iowa suggests that we will eventually see a clear break for one candidate or the other. It’s possible that [undecided voters] will break evenly, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that.” For an explicit data point on how undecideds might ‘break,’ Trende mentions a recent Arkansas survey conducted by Democratic pollster PPP: “They polled undecided voters and found that Obama’s job approval rating among that group, in that state, is 13 percent. So we’d expect those people to break disproportionately toward [Republican challenger Tom] Cotton.”

I’ve seen a few people on Twitter note today about the new Pew poll that the GOP’s generic ballot lead in 2010, the year of the big red wave, was seven points at this stage compared to just three now. True enough. Republicans have seven more weeks to build on their solid but modest lead through a magical mix of effective campaigning and patented Obama bumblefarkery. Even I’m confident that they’re going to retake the Senate. The question is the margin, not who’ll control the chamber.