Are we about to reprise the pendulum swings of the Gingrich-Clinton era?
Report by Chris Graham
“For all the trouble Barack Obama’s had lately voters still prefer him to any of the top Republican contenders for 2012,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, which polled 743 registered voters in February and found the Democrat Obama leading all of the top potential 2012 Republican Party hopefuls at this very, very early stage more than two and a half years out from the November 2012 presidential election.
An Obama win might have to come after a November 2010 switch in majority-party status in at least the House of Representatives, which would mirror the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 that was followed by the re-election of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996.
An analysis from the University of Virginia Center for Politics released last week suggests that Republicans could be poised to gain 37 seats in the ’10 midterms, which would put the GOP within hailing distance of taking majority control of the legislative chamber. A switch of 40 seats from the D column to the R column would give the Republicans the majority in the House.
UVa. Center for Politics analyst Isaac Wood joined The AFP Show news podcast last week to talk about the report from UVa. professor Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Wood explained that the tough thing for Democrats and Republicans to have to swallow regarding the upcoming elections is that a lot of what will happen is outside of either party’s control.
“A lot of the gain the Republicans are going to get is merely because of the number of seats and the type of seats that Democrats hold right now. After picking up seats in very unfriendly territory in 2006 and 2008, it seems only natural that the pendulum swings the other way for Republicans,” Wood said.
A case in point there: The Crystal Ball report moved the Fightin’ Ninth in Southwest Virginia from a Safe Democrat rating to Competitive. That would put Southwest Virginia political institution Rick Boucher in the crosshairs. Boucher hasn’t even had a Republican opponent since 2006, and he won that race over Republican Bill Carrico by a 2-1 margin.
Obama, though dinged in the partisan crossfire that has marked the first year-plus of his term despite his efforts to achieve bipartisan consensus, is still the candidate to beat in 2012 even in an environment where Republicans have good reason to think that they may be on track to big wins this November. According to Public Policy Polling, Obama leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 45 percent-to-43 percent in a hypothetical matchup, with leads of 46 percent-to-43 percent over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and 50 percent-to-43 percent over former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The PPP poll has Obama back at a positive net public-approval rating, with 48 percent of those surveyed saying they approve of the job that he has been doing as president and 47 percent expressing disapproval.