DNC Chair Tim Kaine insisted this week that Democrats will run on their record of accomplishment in this year’s midterm elections. According to Pew, that strategy borders on political suicide. In a cycle where the economy will be by far the most important issue, the only people who think the American economy is looking rosy are Democrats:
Though many experts say the nation’s troubled economy is showing signs of recovery, much of the public does not see it. Close to nine-in-ten rate economic conditions today as either poor (49%) or only fair (39%), numbers that have changed little since last June. A majority does not expect an imminent turnaround: more than a third (36%) say they think economic conditions will be about the same a year from now, while 19% say they expect conditions to worsen.
Public perceptions of two of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts to right the economy could be contributing to the pessimism. More than six-in-ten (62%) say the economic stimulus package enacted by Congress last year has not helped the job situation, while about half (49%) say the government’s loans to banks and other financial institutions did not help prevent a more severe economic crisis. Meanwhile, the public sees little government progress toward fixing the causes of the financial crisis. About four-in-ten (42%) say they see just a little progress; 25% say they see no progress at all.
Democrats rammed through a Porkulus bill that costs over $830 billion as part of that record that Kaine proudly promotes. The White House says that Porkulus rescued the economy. Hardly anyone’s buying that spin. Even among Democrats, only a thin majority of 51% believe that their stimulus bill helped the job situation in the US. Support for Democrats among the income demographics on this point doesn’t rise above 35%, and and 39% among the education demographics.
Optimism is almost completely confined to Democrats, too. Sixty-one percent of Democrats believe that economic conditions will improve over the next year, but Republicans (27%) and independents (36%) mainly disagree. Pluralities of both believe the economic problems will continue as they are (42% and 40%, respectively) or get worse (26% and 22%, respectively.
Will more class warfare rhetoric convince independents to stick with Democrats in the midterms? Barack Obama used that kind of populist attack to build the first majority for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter, but he may be a victim of his own success. When asked if the country is divided into Two Americas — haves and have-nots — almost every demographic strongly disagreed. Democrats, black voters, and the lowest-income level earners had majorities in agreement, but independents reject the notion 43/53, as did those making between $30K-$75K, 40/55, and surprisingly, college graduates, 35/62.
Democrats can’t win running on this record. Expect them to try running on George Bush’s record instead.