Greenberg cites an improvement in Obama and the Democrats’ polling numbers over the last month, but the improvement is very slight. What I’d point to instead is a comparison between where Obama and the Democrats stood in January 2010 and where they stand today. In January 2010, they were about to lose the Massachusetts senate race, and in November 2010 would lose 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. If Obama and the Democrats’ numbers are better now than they were then, they may not be in trouble; but if they’re worse, the convention wisdom is right. And they’re worse.
The most recent standard of comparison is the ABC/Washington Post poll that asked some of the same questions in January 2010. First, there are the questions about Obama. These are relevant because midterm elections are often referenda on the president and his party. In January 2010, Obama’s approval ratings were 53 approval to 44 percent disapproval of his “handling his job as president.” Today, 46 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove – a 13-point swing. In January 2010, 47 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved of his handling of the economy. Today 43 percent approve and 55 percent disapprove – a seven-point swing.
In January 2010, 57 percent of registered voters thought that Obama understood “the problems of people like you.” 42 percent did not. Today, it’s 47 to 52 percent – a twenty-point swing. And there is a similar twenty-point swing in the question of how much confidence voters have in Obama’s ability to “make the right decisions for the country’s future.” In short, the electorate has far less confidence in Obama now than they did in January 2010.