A new Democracy Corps survey of 50 battleground districts that Barack Obama virtually swept 2008, but that elected 35 freshmen House in Republicans in 2010 revealed that the new GOP House majority is in jeopardy for 2012. Only 40% of voters surveyed in these districts said that they would reelect their incumbent compared to 45% who said that they would support someone else.
The 35 House incumbents were identified by name in the survey, but 38% of them were not able to be rated in their home districts by voters, which suggested that these incumbents are not well known. Of the respondents who were able to identify their representative, the Republicans had a net (-10) negative ratings. Only 25 of people gave these incumbents a positive rating compared to 35% who viewed them negatively.
One number that stands out above all others is that 45% of voters in these new Republican House districts said that they can’t vote to reelect the incumbent. Only 40% said they would vote to elect their incumbent. This was not a generic question asked in each district. The incumbents were asked about specifically by name in their home districts. Republicans won these races by 14 points in 2010, but they lead by just two points now, 46%-44%. In the top 25 battleground districts, Democrats lead by a point 46%-45%.
Democracy Corps provided some historical comparisons to illustrate how shaky the ground is beneath the feet of this new GOP House majority, “For comparison, in July 2009, after the luster of President Obama’s inauguration had already begun to fade, the Democratic incumbents in our battleground of 40 districts had a 6-point advantage over a generic Republican challenger. 36 of these 40 Democrats went on to lose their seats. And in June of 2007, in the top 35 most competitive Republican-held districts, the incumbents also held a 6-point lead. 19 of those 35 Republicans went on to lose their seats. And of course, we know that in 2010, two-thirds of Democrats in McCain seats could not hold on. The Republicans in Obama seats are already at risk.”
When this information is combined with the Pew poll yesterday which found that support for House Republicans among Tea Partiers has dropped by more than 20%, this paints a portrait of an already endangered majority. Add in the fact that Obama will be back at the top of the ballot in 2012 in districts where he ran extraordinarily well in 2008, and the elements are in place for a perfect storm.
Democrats need to win 25 seats to retake the House in 2012, and they have already targeted 35 vulnerable freshmen House Republicans. Historic modeling doesn’t seem to apply any more to US congressional elections. The American electorate is impatient and anxious. They want results now, and by focusing on culture war issues instead of jobs and the economy, House Republicans are putting themselves back on the fast track to minority status.
2012 is likely to look more like 2008 than a change presidential election. Republicans could field an even weaker candidate in 2008, while they will be facing a personally popular incumbent president with loads of cash, and a large mobilized bloc of voters who didn’t come out to vote in 2010. It would surprise no one if these Obama Democrats swamped Republicans in battleground districts, and not only reelected Barack Obama, but also returned Nancy Pelosi to the Speakership.
With any luck, Democrats will have John Boehner crying for an entirely different reason on Election Night 2012.