Are we looking at another midterm wave election? After a diffident September, the new poll from the Associated Press certainly indicates that the electorate has started making up its mind — and that they’re leaning hard toward the GOP. Republicans lead among all respondents and registered voters on the generic Congressional ballot question, but when it comes to likely voters, that lead expands to eight points:

Two weeks before Election Day, most of the nation’s likely voters now expect the Republican Party to take control of the U.S. Senate, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. And by a growing margin, they say that’s the outcome they’d like to see. …

The economy remains the top issue for likely voters — 91 percent call it “extremely” or “very” important. And the GOP has increased its advantage as the party more trusted to handle the issue to a margin of 39 percent to 31 percent.

With control of the Senate at stake, both parties say they are relying on robust voter-turnout operations — and monster campaign spending — to lift their candidates in the final days. But the poll suggests any appeals they’ve made so far haven’t done much to boost turnout among those already registered. The share who report that they are certain to vote in this year’s contests has risen just slightly since September, and interest in news about the campaign has held steady.

Among all adults, 38 percent say they’d like the Democrats to wind up in control of Congress, to 36 percent for the Republicans. But the GOP holds a significant lead among those most likely to cast ballots: 47 percent of these voters favor a Republican controlled-Congress, 39 percent a Democratic one. That’s a shift in the GOP’s favor since an AP-GfK poll in late September, when the two parties ran about evenly among likely voters.

What happened? As Jim Geraghty pointed out at National Review, the gender gap has disappeared. It’s just one poll, but even within this series the ground has shifted significantly:

Women have moved in the GOP’s direction since September. In last month’s AP-GfK poll, 47 percent of female likely voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to capture control. In the new poll, the two parties are about even among women, 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

So much for the “war on women” demagoguery. Mark Udall got hoisted by that petard in Colorado, and now it appears that it’s dragging down the entire Democratic Party. With the economy (91%) by far and away the most important policy area to likely voters in this cycle, the insistence by Democrats to talk about contraception and, er, toys shows just how desperate Democrats are to change the subject from the stagnation of the past five years, and how irrelevant they’ve become because of it.

That’s hardly the only problem for Democrats in this cycle. Barack Obama’s approval rating is a dismal 42/58 among registered voters in this poll, but it’s 41/60 among likely voters. Forty-four percent of those strongly disapprove, six points higher than among registered voters, and three points higher than the aggregate of those who approve … including leaners. That is the first time Obama has hit 60% disapproval in the AP poll, although he came close in March — but strong disapproval then was only 36%. His personal favorables are now well under water and tracking close to his job approval at 44/54 among likely voters, with 41% finding Obama “very unfavorable” — nearly the same as his aggregate favorable rating.

On the issues, Obama doesn’t do much better among likely voters:

  • Economy: 42/58, 51% strongly disapproving
  • Immigration: 34/65, 58% strongly disapproving
  • Health care: 42/58, 55% strongly disapproving
  • Foreign policy: 39/60, 52% strongly disapproving

One other result seems noteworthy, even though it’s not a policy area. Obama only gets a 38/62 on “managing the federal government,” which is a measure of confidence in Obama’s competence. Only 28% of likely voters actually approve on that question, with another 10% leaning toward approval, but a 54% majority disapproves. The Obama administration’s repeated scandals and failures have all but eroded voter confidence in his presidency, with another two years left on it.

That changes the dynamic for trust on issue areas for likely voters, too:

  • Economy: GOP leads 39/31
  • Immigration: 35/30
  • Managing the federal government: 33/27
  • Handling international crises: 35/25
  • Protecting the country: 42/20

I bolded that last because it’s a big key in this midterm cycle, and potentially for 2016. If that stays the same by then, Hillary Clinton will have a very difficult time selling her candidacy, especially since it’s based on the foreign  and national-security policies of the Obama administration. Democrats only lead on health care (36/32), same-sex marriage (36/21), and public health issues such as Ebola (23/20).

If this gets corroborated by other polling, Democrats could be looking at a worse cycle than in 2010.