Remember that it’s generally uncommon for Republicans to lead on the generic ballot, more uncommon for them to lead big, and really uncommon for them to lead big far in advance of the next election. In red-wave cycles, generic ballot polling is typically competitive until the final months before the election, when Republicans begin to break away. That’s what happened in 2014. The GOP did lead big a year before the 2010 midterms, but (a) that was at a moment when the backlash to ObamaCare was in full swing and (b) they went on to win 63 seats in the House the following year.
That’s the closest analogue to what Democrats are staring at right now. A total wipeout next fall.
Republicans now sport a historic 10-point advantage when Americans are asked which party they prefer to control Congress, holding a 44%-34% margin over Democrats. That’s up from a 2-point Republican advantage in the October survey.
In the past 20 years, CNBC and NBC surveys have never registered a double-digit Republican advantage on congressional preference, with the largest lead ever being 4 pints for the GOP.
“If the election were tomorrow, it would be an absolute unmitigated disaster for the Democrats,″ said Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research Associates and the Democratic pollster for the survey.
During the 2010 midterm cycle, it wasn’t until March of that same year that the GOP saw its first poll showing a double-digit lead on the generic ballot — and that was from Republican-friendly Rasmussen. It took until July 2010, four months before the election, for Republicans to hit double digits in a non-Rasmussen poll.
Today’s new CNBC survey is the third poll in just the past month to have the GOP up 10 points or more. And only one of those three is typically favorable to Republicans. (Rasmussen again.)
The only solace for Dems here is that, due to redistricting and the GOP’s strong House showing last fall, there probably aren’t enough competitive seats left to produce a 60-seat massacre a la 2010. Although that logic only goes so far: The worse things look with COVID and the economy, the more the electorate tilts Republicans, the more “safe” seats come into play. “I think the basics here are incredibly straightforward,” lefty Chris Hayes tweeted about this new poll. “[T]he big thrust of the Biden campaign was ‘back to normal’ and things … aren’t back to normal!” That’s right — and they’re probably not getting back to normal anytime soon. The new COVID variant is so freakishly infectious, including among vaccinated people, that we’re destined for another huge wave of cases and hospitalizations even if relatively few people die. And the more disruptive Omicron becomes, the more the disrupted the economy will remain. The “malaise” could linger for many months.
Not coincidentally, CNBC’s poll finds that inflation has supplanted COVID as Americans’ top concern, with Biden’s job approval on the economy shrinking to 37 percent. But even on handling the pandemic, he’s slipped into net-disapproval territory at 46/48. No one blames him for the emergence of Omicron or the waning immunity from the vaccines that fueled the Delta wave of the past four months but he’s the guy who promised as a candidate to “shut down the virus” and who declared independence from it on July 4. You can’t show that kind of hubris and not expect a backlash when your pledge is broken.
CNBC has him at 41/50 on overall job approval, the second poll this week to place him at that number or lower. (Monmouth put him at 40/50 a few days ago.) Biden actually recovered some ground in the RCP average between mid-November and early December but he appears to have stalled out lately:
Maybe the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill helped him claw back a few voters who had wandered away. If so, he’s sputtering again with Omicron looming and data like this circulating:
Inflation in November hit 6.8%. Here are the biggest annual increases:
Rental car 37%
Used car 31%
New cars 11%
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) December 10, 2021
How bad is it for him? He even trails Trump by four points head-to-head in another independent poll, topping out at — hoo boy — 38 percent. Relatedly, CNBC found that the share of Biden 2020 voters who approve of his job performance has dropped from 80 percent in April to 69 percent now. A lot of Biden voters are suddenly in play. The question is whether the GOP can muster candidates who are acceptable to them — mindful that, the worse COVID and inflation get, the more willing those voters will be to relax their standards.