Democratic pollster PPP delivered a heaping helping of bad news to Democrats last night from their latest polling in the special election contest that will fill the unserved term of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner.  In a district where Democrats enjoy a distinct registration advantage and have held this seat since Warren Harding was President, Republican Bob Turner leads Democrat David Weprin by six points.  But losing the seat isn’t really the big problem for Democrats, PPP explains, and it’s not just this district that’s the problem:

Turner’s winning in a heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of crossover support.  He’s ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party.  And he’s winning 29% of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60% with voters of his own party, while losing just 10% of Republican partisans.

If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district.  Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him.  It’s a given that Republicans don’t like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he’s below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving. Obama trails Mitt Romney 46-42 in a hypothetical match up in the district and leads Rick Perry only 44-43.

If Weprin loses, it won’t be because he’s been a poor candidate, PPP says:

Weprin has been much maligned as a candidate but he actually has positive favorability numbers too with 39% of voters rating him positively and 36% negatively.  Over the last few years there have been very few races we polled where a candidate had a postive net favorability spread and still lost.  If Obama’s approval in the district was even 40% Weprin would almost definitely be headed to Congress. He’s getting dragged down by something bigger than himself.

I’ll say.  The Cook index rates this district rated as a D+5, but Weiner won it handily in 2010, 61/39.  PPP’s sample in this poll has a D/R/I of 59/25, which seems to be undersampling Republicans by quite a wide margin.  That could explain PPP’s favorability ratings; a Siena poll last week had Weprin at a flat 41/41 favorability.  However, Siena’s sample gave Democrats an even wider advantage, 58/18.

Either way, running in statistical dead heats with Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in NY-09 is a big sign of trouble for Obama.  Even more so is the finding that a district with such a large Democratic advantage would slightly prefer a Republican Congress, 45/44, and have slightly more confidence in Congressional Republicans than Obama on leading America in the right direction, 44/42.  Bear in mind that this same sample gave Congressional Republicans a 31/50 approval rating in the question directly preceding the questions about leadership and Congressional control.

PPP concludes that Obama has lost independents, and a significant number of Democrats as well — all of whom will vote with the GOP tomorrow:

One final note on the poll and what perhaps should concern Democrats most of all. 55% of voters in the district report having voted for Obama in 2008, which is the actual percentage of the vote he got in the district.  Last year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters didn’t show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a Presidential year.  When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we’ll be fine.  But there is no enthusiasm gap here.  Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008.  But only 65% of them are voting Democratic.  That’s a really big cause for concern.

In that case, a big  GOTV effort tomorrow won’t help, since it’s about a third as likely to make the situation for Weprin worse than it is better.  And if Democrats can’t find a way to turn this around in the next few months, they can expect Turner to hold this seat in a regular election — and for a lot of Democratic incumbents to join the ranks of the unemployed.

National Journal reports that Democrats are beginning to panic at the thought of losing this seat and another in Nevada tomorrow:

Democrats are facing the very real possibility that a pair of special elections on Tuesday will shake the foundations of the 2012 political landscape. The party is at serious risk of losing a House race in New York City that few thought would be close, and campaign officials are already close to writing off a Nevada House race they had once hoped to contest.

If Republicans win both contests, it would raise fresh concerns about President Obama’s drag on down-ballot Democrats and the party’s ability to keep its Senate majority. The losses would also raise questions about whether the party can gain the 24 seats it needs to regain the House. …

In the Silver State, the situation isn’t as ominous, but Democrats have all but written off contesting a Republican-leaning seat in rural Nevada that once seemed squarely in play weeks ago. The Democratic nominee is state Treasurer Kate Marshall, and Democrats had touted her as a leading recruit. She got off to a fast fundraising start, and hammered the Republican nominee, Mark Amodei, for supporting entitlement cuts.

I’m not sure that two Republican wins tomorrow will shake any foundations.  They would destroy the illusions under which Democrats have labored that (a) 2010 was a fluke, and (b) Obama is so personally likeable that he has Reagan-like Teflon.  Pay special attention to the Nevada contest, too, because Democrats there have begun to worry about their presumed nominee for the 2012 Senate race in the state.