It’s only the end of August/beginning of September, but the Gallup poll’s generic ballot numbers should be terrifying for Democrats. This is the question where Gallup (and other pollsters) ask respondents to say whether they intend to vote for generic Republican candidate for Congress or a generic Democratic candidate. It, along with the sitting president’s job-approval rating, is one of the best predictors of the mid-term elections in November. Currently, Gallup shows the Republicans at +10 — the GOP’s largest margin ever. Things could change, sure. But that kind of Republican edge on the generic ballot suggests to many analysts — cue up The Safaris — a “wave” election this fall in which the GOP could win 50 or more seats in the House of Representatives. (Time magazine’s Mark Halperin says it could go as high as 60). That would be a wipe-out, folks, given the fact Republicans only need a pickup of 40 for control of the House.
A new poll showing Obamacare’s popularity sagging almost fails to qualify as news these days. That’s how steady the program’s decline has been. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows 43 percent favor the health-care program enacted in March, while 45 percent oppose it. In the same poll last month, 50 percent were in favor. Other numbers: Just 39 percent think the program will make the country better, down from 43 percent in July. Of course, proof of the substance and accuracy of the Kaiser poll and others is seen in the number of Democratic candidates for office this fall who are making Obamacare a centerpiece in their campaigns: none that we know of. If they were, now that would be man-bites-dog news!
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has taken some lumps here, but today, a little praise. Friedman weighed in on the ground zero Islamic center/mosque controversy on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the other day. While stressing the right for the center to be built a couple of blocks from where the Twin Towers stood, he added the real place tolerance needs to grow is in the Middle East — pointing to strife between differing Muslim sects. Friedman didn’t call for greater tolerance of Christians and Jews in the Muslim world. But still, he rightly redirected attention to a part of the world that’s distinctly intolerant, as far as most Americans can tell. Bottom line: Americans who’re lectured on tolerance quite often would feel a lot better about it if they felt it was a two-way street.
Sarah Palin is a lightning rod for media attention and over-analysis, for sure. And when she endorsed Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller over incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s Republican primary, Palin haters sensed an opportunity to pounce — figuring a Murkowski win would let them downplay Palin’s ability to sway voters. It’ll be interesting to see reactions now that it appears Miller upset Murkowski in Tuesday’s election. With about 98 percent of the vote counted, Miller was clinging to a narrow lead over Murkowski, who was trying to win re-election to her second full term. There’s been bad blood between Palin and Murkowski since Palin beat Murkowski’s father, Frank, in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2006. In the current campaign, Palin questioned Lisa Murkowski’s conservatism in backing Miller. No question, Murkowski was known as a moderate in Washington. If Miller’s lead holds, Palin certainly is due props — demonstrating a pull with voters worthy of respect.
Folks in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., complain all the time about traffic. They can just stop it right now. Chinese officials report a 62-mile traffic jam on the outskirts of Beijing that makes snarls on the I-5 in LA and the Capital Beltway look like joy rides. Road construction is being blamed for hanging up all those Chinese cars and trucks. The jam began Aug. 13, and one official said things might not be normal until Sept. 17, when the road work is scheduled to be finished. As much as it may disappoint The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who has opined on the Chinese government’s efficiency in dealing with problems, even a dictatorship apparently is no match for one of the byproducts of last year’s globe-leading 13.6 million auto sales to Chinese buyers.
Well, that’s embarrassing! No other way to look at separate polls indicating sizable numbers of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim. A Pew poll found 18 percent think that; a Time magazine poll put the number at an amazing 24 percent — nearly one-quarter of the population! “The president is obviously a Christian,” White House spokesman Bill Burton says. “He prays every day.” It’s likely that mistaken views on Obama’s faith stem from the ground zero Islamic center controversy, with Obama’s defense of the constitutional right of the mosque backers to proceed with their project being conflated with the president’s religious beliefs by some. Let’s hope this red herring doesn’t develop the shelf life of another specious belief — that Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen.
Look out the window, look right now, and see if there are donkeys flying around outside. Surely, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s new praise for George W. Bush would be accompanied by the airborne critters. Ms Dowd is queen of snide from the left side of the political spectrum and seldom (ever?) had much use for W. when he was president — other than as a flaying post. In a column this week Dowd begs Bush to come riding to President Obama’s rescue on the ground zero mosque deal, horrified that Obama would retreat from what looked like unequivocal support for the proposed Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. “W. needs to get his bullhorn back out,” Dowd writes. “It’s time for W. to weigh in,” to remind Obama what the former president understood and articulated quite well: the distinction between jihadists and peaceful Muslims. While it would be an exaggeration to say Obama has caused Dowd to join lots of other Americans pining for George Bush, this is noteworthy. Now, about that braying outside the window …
Gallup’s bar graph of President Obama’s declining job approval rating — from a high near 68 percent in February 2009 to 44 percent last week — looks like the descent of a hot-air balloon as it steadily loses altitude. Last week’s average is the lowest of Obama’s presidency. Meanwhile, Gallup’s rolling, three-day tracking poll shows Obama’s popularity at 42 percent and marks the first time Gallup records a clear majority of Americans (51 percent) disapprove of his performance. Note: In 1994, when Republicans picked up 53 seats in the House, then-President Clinton’s job approval number with Gallup was 46 percent.
More bum news for Democrats: Gallup’s latest congressional voting preference poll shows 50 percent of registered voters say if the election were held right now, they’d vote for the Republican candidate in their House district — compared to 43 percent for the Democrat. The 50 percent mark and seven-point lead is the GOP’s best showing so far in 2010. But wait, there’s more! Because Republicans historically turn out to vote in greater numbers than Democrats, Gallup says, that seven-point margin with registered voters “could represent the lower bound of the margin they could expect to win by in the national two-party vote if the elections were held today.” (Cue up the sound of water gurgling down a drain.)
Oklahoma City-born newsman/commentator James J. Kilpatrick died Sunday night in Washington, D.C. He was 89. He rose from cub reporter at the old Richmond (Va.) News Leader to become one of the most recognizable faces on television during the 1970s — as the conservative in the point/counterpoint segment on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program. “Before there was a Bill Buckley, before there was a Ronald Reagan or Rush Limbaugh, there was James Jackson Kilpatrick explaining public-policy issues from a conservative perspective,” direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie told The Washington Post. Kilpatrick became a national conservative voice on TV despite an earlier period in his career when he argued in editorials for segregation and state nullification of federal civil rights legislation, a position from which he later retreated. In between he wrote as a syndicated columnist and contributor to National Review magazine, his favorite topics being patriotism, self-reliance and freedom.
Republicans face an uphill climb to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from the Democrats in November. Democrats currently enjoy a 60-40 majority, counting two independents who usually vote with them. That means the GOP would need a net pickup of 11 seats to win control. Earlier this year that looked impossible. Not so much now.
Latest polls show Republicans leading in nine races for seats currently held by Democrats — including those of incumbents seeking re-election: Barbara Boxer (California), Russ Feingold (Wisconsin), Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas). Granted, some of the GOP leads are within the margin of error. And it’s only mid-August. But the current state of play in those races mirrors an apparent national trend against the Democrats. The only Republican seat in play right now is Florida, and it’s not clear Democrats would have a pickup. Their leading candidate trails Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican running as an independent, and likely GOP nominee Marco Rubio, and Crist is no lock to caucus with Democrats in the Senate if he wins.
Still, that’s only nine and the GOP needs 11. They’ll need to knock off two more Democratic incumbents. Those two might be Patty Murray in Washington and Harry Reid in Nevada, who lead their opponents but, again, not outside the margin of error. If those races break the GOP’s way, with the other nine they’d have their 11. A Republican Senate is still a long shot but no longer unthinkable.