Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 3, 2009 7:56 PM

2010 Congressional Campaigns

The public is increasingly unhappy with the job being done by Congress. In the July NBC/WSJ poll, 63% disapproved of the job being done by Congress, which is up from 58% in the same survey in June. Approval has dropped from 29% to 24%. Other national surveys show a similar pattern.

Gallup, in early-August, finds Congressional job disapproval at 62%, with approval at 31%. Approval hit a high-water mark in March at 39%. Even among Democrats, approval is less than overwhelming. 55% approve the job Congress is doing, while 40% disapprove. Not surprisingly, among Republicans 82% view the Congress as failing. But perhaps of greatest significance, 70% of Independents express disapproval.

In early July, Gallup found that among registered voters, the Democrats were ahead with a +6 point margin, 50% - 44%, when folks are asked whether they intend to vote Democrat or Republican for Congress in 2010.

93% of Republicans are voting Republican, 94% of Democrats are sticking with their Party's candidates. Independents are split dead even, 42% Dem - 43% GOP, in their stated voting intentions.

Historically, Gallup has found that this generic question put to registered voters favors the Democrats by 4 or 5 points. This suggests that 2010 is likely to be a close election in the House.

WW looked at the impact of the unemployment rate the month before the first mid- term election of a new President. In 1982, with unemployment in October at 10.4%, George Bush (I) saw 24 Republicans lose seats in the House, but picked up 2 Senate seats. In 1994, with Bill Clinton in the White House and unemployment at 5.8%, the Democrats lost 54 House Democrats and 9 Democratic Senators.

And in 2002, with unemployment at 5.7%, George Bush (II) presided over Republicans adding 8 seats in the House and losing 1 seat in the Senate.

To remind, Obama won 34 districts which have Republican incumbents, while McCain carried 49 districts that currently have Democratic incumbents. 31 districts currently held by Democrats were won by Bush and McCain.

36% find that Congress is more partisan and divided than in the past. 26% had this view in December 2006. [NBC/WSJ 7/09]

The U.S. Senate

The only change in the overall status of the Senate races is that WW has moved the Pennsylvania contest into the Toss-Up category.

Arlen Specter (D-PA), having made the big switch in Parties, may well have two significant contests on his way to re-election. In the Democratic primary he is facing Congressman Joe Sestak. Sestak visited all 67 Pennsylvania counties before he announced his candidacy.

In a May survey conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research, Specter headed Sestak by a very comfortable 40 points 56%-16%.

By mid-July Specter had a still comfortable 32 points. But in an early August survey by Research 2000, Specter had a 15-point lead and for the first time Specter's total fell below 50%, 48%-33%.

Assuming he comes through the May 2010 primary, Specter will likely face former Republican House member Pat Toomey, who Specter bested in the 2004 Republican primary. In a mid-July Quinnipiac survey Spector was essentially running even with Toomey 45%-44%.

Chris Dodd (D-Conn) continues to trail former Congressman Rob Simmons (R- Conn) in the general election. At the end of March Quinnipiac found Dodd trailing Simmons by 16 points. In a mid-July survey by the same firm Dodd still trailed by 9, 48% -39% (Dodd).

Harry Reid (D-NV) has a fight on his hands as he seeks re-election. A recent Mason-Dixon poll shows Reid trailing Danny Tarkanian ®) by 38% to 49%. He also trails Sue Louden by 40% to 45%. Tarkanian is a real estate developer who twice previously failed in efforts to be elected Secretary of State and to the State Senate. Sue Louden is the Chair of the Republican State Party.

Beyond the races above, some of the following races will or could become interesting.

The Democratic seats in Illinois and Colorado would seem to be the most problematic of that Party's seats. Delaware could become interesting. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) may have a primary and a couple of Republicans who have not even announced their intention to run are within the margin of error and head-to-head matchups.

Republicans should be most concerned about Ohio, Missouri and Kansas, where popular incumbents are retiring.

  • Democrats 57
  • Republicans 40
  • Independents 2 (caucus Dem)
  • Open 1
Here is how the 37 Senate elections (18 Democratic incumbents, 19 Republican incumbents) look to me at this time (underlining reflects retirement). (D=Dem incumbent in office, R=GOP incumbent in office, I=Ind. incumbent in office)

Safe Democratic (9) Leaning Democratic (6) Toss-Up (7) Leaning Republican (3) Safe Republican (12)
Arkansas California
Connecticut Florida
Delaware Colorado Illinois Louisiana
Hawaii Nevada
Kentucky No. Carolina Arizona
Indiana No. Dakota
Missouri   Georgia
Maryland Washington New Hampshire
New York (A) Wisconsin Ohio
New York (B) Pennsylvania   Kansas
Oregon       Oklahoma
      So. Carolina

      So. Dakota



  Democrats Republicans Ind
Seats not up in 2010 40 21 2
Safe in 2010 9 12 0
Leaning in 2010 6 3 0
Total 55 36 2
Toss-ups 7 (4R / 3D)    

The U.S. House of Representatives

It is 13 months before the mid-term election, and anything can and will happen. Charlie Cook has suggested that as of now Democratic losses in the House could hit 20. A result in this neighborhood would dramatically affect the ability of the House leadership to work its will in the next Congress.

  • Democrats 256
  • Republicans 176
  • Vacancy 3

4/1/09 6/4/09 8/15/09
Total Dem 255 257 256
Solid Dem 204 198 195
Likely Dem 29 34 37
Lean Dem 20 21 17
Toss-Up 2 4 9
     D 2 4 7
     R 0 0 2
Lean GOP 6 6 9
Likely GOP 26 36 27
Solid GOP 147 134 138
Total GOP 179 176 176

As always, thanks to the “Cook Political Report,” which is the best when it comes to analysis of Congressional races (as well as other electoral matters).

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