The news: If the 2014 midterms were held today, the Democrats would be in trouble.
According to a CNN/ORC poll released on Thursday, the Democratic Party has lost its national advantage and the GOP is pulling slightly ahead. Two months ago, polls indicated the average voter would prefer a generic Democrat to a generic Republican by a 50%-42% split. A month ago, that split had flipped with the GOP in the lead at 49%-47%. Now Democrats are doing even worse, with CNN's pollsters indicating Republicans hold a 49%-44% lead.
Says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, "Virtually all the movement toward the GOP has come among men. 54% percent of female voters chose the Democratic candidate in October; 53% pick the Dem now. But among male voters, support for Democratic candidates has gone from 46% in October to just 35% now."
The stakes are high: It's still early, but the Democratic Party's chances of winning in November's looming elections are on the downward spiral. Thanks to gerrymandered districts, Republicans have a solid 17-seat majority in the House of Representatives that seems unlikely to change. Meanwhile, there's a chance the 55-45 Democratic majority in the Senate could narrow.
The culprit is likely Obamacare. While the GOP's extreme October government shutdown was a disastrous mistake, President Obama's botched rollout of HealthCare.gov destroyed constituents' trust, as did his false statement that Americans would get to keep their current health care plans. These two factors became more important than the GOP's 64% unfavorability rating following the 16-day shutdown. And voters have notoriously short attention spans, meaning the memory of the Republican-led shutdown will be distant by the time Americans head to the polls in November.
Worse, perhaps, than sagging poll numbers is low voter enthusiasm. CNN says just three in 10 Americans are extremely or very enthusiastic about their midterm vote, while 43% say they're not enthusiastic. That's down from four in 10 excited voters and up from 25% less-than-thrilled voters in 2009. Meanwhile, 36% of Republicans are enthused, compared to just 22% of Democrats.
The fight is far from over: Eight months is an eternity in politics, and if the past few years have proven anything, it's that both parties have become incapable of delivering on their agendas. Internal fighting in the GOP could prove their undoing, as could unpopular stances on Medicare and Medicaid expansion, food stamp cuts, and especially unemployment insurance extension, which 63-68% of voters support, but the GOP wants to end.