Before we get to the poll, let's check in on MSNBC's Morning Joe as the gang grapples with last night's seismic event in Florida. The New York Times reporter "plays the contrarian" by spinning a story about how Obamacare wasn't really determinative in the race, claiming that it's only a base-energizing issue. Host Joe Scarborough quickly knocks that analysis down, predicting that Obamacare will deliver punishing blows to Democrats in back-to-back midterm cycles:
I'll re-up veteran political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg's piece from January to underscore why the FL-13 results are significant. This wasn't some random battle; the deck was stacked for Democrats, yet prevailing political fundamentals pushed the W into the Republican column. Which brings us to the NBC/WSJ poll -- a survey series that's consistently been the most forgiving of Obama and Democrats among its peers. Chuck Todd teased that some ominous notes were on the way last night, and he wasn't overselling it:
Barack Obama and his Democratic Party are facing difficult political headwinds less than eight months before November’s midterm elections, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Obama’s job-approval rating has dropped to a low point of 41 percent, never a good position for the party controlling the White House; By a 33 percent to 24 percent margin, Americans say their vote will be to signal opposition to the president rather than to signal support, though 41 percent say their vote will have nothing to do about Obama; Forty-eight percent of voters say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate who’s a solid supporter of the Obama administration, versus 26 percent who say they’re more likely to vote for that candidate; And Republicans hold a one-point edge over Democrats on which party registered voters prefer to control Congress, 44 percent to 43 percent. While that’s within the poll’s margin of error, Republicans have traditionally fared well in elections when they’ve held a slight lead on this question.
That's a new nadir for Obama, mirroring an approval slide measured by most other polls. Ed Morrissey looks at some of the internals:
The right/wrong direction was at 41/53 just before the 2012 election, which Obama barely won; it’s now 26/65. The approval rating for Obama is worse now than it was when HHS laid an egg last October with ObamaCare. Obama’s approval on the economy slightly improved from December’s all-time low in this series of 39/58, but the 41/56 rating now is (a) a margin-of-error change, and (b) the second-worst of the series. His ratings on foreign policy have now dropped to an all-time low as well of 41/53, although it was 41/49 last August, during the Syrian “red line” debacle. This may be a better indicator of Obama’s fall from polling grace, too, since foreign policy had been a strong suit in his polling. August 2013's poll was the first time in his presidency that those ratings had gone negative....The problem for Obama and Democrats in this poll is that his personal likeability no longer keeps his overall numbers afloat. The “personal feelings” rating for Obama is now 41/44, with 15% neutral, in this poll.
Todd notes a data point that he says is the "best news" for Democrats:
Three problems with that argument: First, this question essentially produces a tie. Democrats have claimed the repeal crowd is a relatively small minority. Second, some of the biggest Obamacare "fixes" (and they're just that -- big -- not tweaks) that Americans want would destroy the underpinnings of the entire law. Third, Democrats just test drove the "fix it" message in Florida. And lost. It's a long way to November. There should be no counting of chickens on the Right. But the momentum and political winds are hard to ignore.