WASHINGTON -- The 2010 midterm campaign push is turning into one of those rare wave elections where the outcome is taking shape long before the votes are cast.
Five weeks before voters go to the polls, election handicappers are having as hard time keeping up with the dramatic political shifts in key Senate contests. Races where Democrats were favored for most of this year are shifting from just "lean Democrat" to "tossup" to "lean Republican," seemingly with the speed of light. Americans -- God bless 'em -- are an impatient people, and the swiftly moving poll numbers showing a looming Democratic bloodbath on Nov. 2 suggest that many voters are making up their minds earlier than usual -- well before the general election debates or the TV ad campaigns have gotten fully underway.
What is especially astonishing is that some of this movement is taking place in heavily Democratic states that were once considered rock-solid safe for the Democrats but no longer.
Moreover, this isn't shaping up as just another anti-incumbent election, although that is driving much of this movement. It's turning into an anti-establishment, anti-ruling party, anti-Democrats, anti-Barack Obama and anti-Washington election.
Republicans are poised to take back an open Democratic seat in Pennsylvania, where Democrats hold a million-voter-registration edge. They are about to topple a Democrat incumbent in Arkansas, are in a close race in Connecticut, are leading in Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Kentucky and New Hampshire, and are closing in on the Democratic stronghold of West Virginia. In Pennsylvania, former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey has broken the 50 percent barrier in a new Quinnipiac University poll, widening his lead over Democrat Joe Sestak who drew 43 percent. "Buoyed by anti-incumbent and anti-Democratic sentiment, Toomey leads among most constituencies: 54-36 percent among independents; 58-37 percent among male voters and 51-40 percent among female voters," the Allentown Morning Call reported Wednesday. The Washington Post just moved this race from "tossup" to "lean Republican."
In Wisconsin, three-term Sen. Russ Feingold, who was a shoo-in a few months ago, is trailing Republican businessman Ron Johnson by 41 to 52 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey for the liberal Daily Kos web site.
Feingold, a knee-jerk liberal who has never seen a tax increase he didn't like, is losing independents in droves and even parts of his dispirited party's base. Obama's unpopularity is a big factor in this race. The PPP poll found voters disapproving of the president's job performance by 54 to 41 percent.