There’s plenty of evidence to support Chuck Todd’s conclusion, and not just on foreign policy, either. The new host of Meet the Press told the Morning Joe panel today that the new NBC/WSJ polling on issues shows that Obama really may be the second coming of Jimmy Carter … and that’s bad news for the Democrats:
Earlier, I wrote about the latest in the series of cratering poll numbers for Barack Obama and how it would impact his ability to restore confidence in his leadership. The NBC/WSJ poll numbers have more interesting data on domestic issues, especially in the context of the upcoming midterms. Obama’s leadership and popularity have become a boat anchor on Democrats’ hopes to avoid a GOP wave this November, but those aren’t the only problems facing the President’s allies in the midterms.
First, the generic ballot question looks better for the GOP than it has since the last election, but only marginally. Republicans have a 45/43 lead, about the same as last month’s 44/43, and the numbers for both parties are within the narrow range we have seen in this series all year. That doesn’t take into account likely voters, though, only registered voters. This poll doesn’t have any explicit enthusiasm tests, and for some reason NBC/WSJ isn’t testing for voting likelihood on these questions, even though the midterms are less than two months away.
The big problem for Democrats is on the issues. Democrats have wide lead on their traditional issues, including environmentalism (+27, but the lowest since 1992), abortion (+15), and health care — which is only at +8, when it was a +36 in January 2008. Republicans lead on their traditional issues too, such as national defense (+38) and the federal deficit (+18), both highs for this series — but those issues are more relevant in polling. Even more relevant than those are the economy, for which Republicans have a +10 advantage. In the 2006 midterms, Democrats had a +13 advantage. On taxes, Republicans have a narrow edge at +4. On the issues that matter most to voters in this cycle — the economy, taxes, national security — Republicans are peaking while Democrats are fading.
Even more surprising is a new Republican edge on immigration. That has flipped from a D+5 to an R+7 over the last nine months, no doubt fueled by the present border crisis and the lack of action to stem it from the Obama administration. Nor is that the only erosion seen in the traditional Democratic positions on immigration. Support for amnesty for long-term illegal residents has dropped from 64% in April 2013 to 53% this month — still a majority, but a significant drop. Even the conditional comprehensive reform proposal to normalize those who pay fines and pass background checks has dimmed slightly. Only 32% strongly favor the approach, down from 39% in April 2013, although the overall favorable response has only dropped four points in the same period. If Democrats hoped to change the subject to immigration in this general election, Obama cut their legs out from underneath them, but it may not have made much of a difference anyway.
Finally, a midterm election directly relates to the perceptions of the President and his performance, especially in a sixth-year midterm. How do voters project Obama’s performance over the next two years? Forty percent say they are “pessimistic and worried,” the highest since August 2011, and another 19% say they are “uncertain and wondering.” Only 17% claim to be “optimistic and confident.”
Which voters are more likely to show up at the polls to have their concerns heard in November — those optimistic under Obama’s leadership, or the 59% who are worried and/or uncertain about his ability to do the job?