WASHINGTON -- The possible collapse of the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections is increasing with each passing week, as evidence mounts that they could lose majority control of the House and Senate.
A month ago, the prospect of Democrats losing both chambers was a figment of the Republicans' wildest imagination. The GOP was expected to make major House gains, and win six to seven seats in the Senate. But toppling the Democratic majority from power was still a reach.
That's now not only a possibility, but swiftly becoming reality. Some of the most entrenched Democratic Senate seats are now considered toss-ups; President Obama's approval polls continue to fall as the economy weakens; and key Democrats have turned against Obama's plan to raise tax rates on the wealthy at the end of this year.
The political terrain is changing so fast that even the most veteran election trackers are having a hard time keeping up with the shifting tides that threaten to engulf Democrats and the Obama presidency.
"Until about 10 days ago, I agreed with the conventional wisdom that control of the House of Representatives was up for grabs this fall, but that Republicans had yet to put the Senate in play. I no longer believe that," election analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
"The chances that the next Senate will have a Republican majority are not great, but even three months ago there were not enough Senate seats in place to imagine a Republican gain of 10 seats. Now there are, with 11 Democratic seats definitely competitive," he says. "Three more Democratic seats, which I didn't regard as particularly competitive six months ago, now could possibly change hands: Wisconsin, Washington and California."
In heavily Democratic California, Sen. Barbara Boxer was certain to hold her seat a few weeks ago. No longer. She holds just a three-point margin over former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (47 to 44 percent) who is running an aggressive and skillful campaign.
Fiorina is focusing heavily on the state's dismal economy and Boxer's leftist voting record for higher taxes and other anti-business legislation. But she is vulnerable in issues of national security, too.
In one ad, a woman says, "Barbara Boxer on national security?" -- then shows Boxer saying, "One of the very important national security issues we face frankly is climate change."
Fiorina: "Terrorism kills ... and Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather. I'm Carly Fiorina. I ran Hewlett-Packard. I chaired the external advisory board for the CIA. We've had enough of her politics. I'll work to keep you safe."