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Analysis: That 2014 Pew Poll is Even Worse Than it Looks for Democrats

Dan already summarized the latest topline polling numbers from Pew and USA Today, which highlight the GOP's electoral edge heading into the fall. The pollster calls the results "daunting" for Democrats, as the newspaper's write-up explains that Republicans' current advantage represents "the strongest tilt to Republican candidates at this point in a midterm year in at least two decades, including before partisan "waves" in 1994 and 2010 that swept the GOP into power." Democrats have given up on retaking the House of Representatives, but even under the most favorable of circumstances, the best Republicans can hope for are modest gains in the lower chamber. Most of the low-hanging fruit was harvested in 2010's wave election. These generic ballot numbers are more significant to the Senate picture, where the GOP needs to net at least six seats to wrest control from Harry Reid and company. Favorable turnout models could also have ripple effects elsewhere, such as helping some embattled Republican governors survive; Democrats are targeting Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine most aggressively (while abandoning candidates like Wendy Davis in Texas). A right-leaning electorate could also lead to the ouster of vulnerable Democratic governors, like Illinois' Pat Quinn, and perhaps flip some state legislative chambers from blue to red. As we saw in last week's Washington Post/ABC News poll, President Obama is a millstone around his party's collective necks. Questions that invoked the president's name didn't end well from Democrats generally. That trend is fortified in the Pew numbers. The fresh survey included some interesting nuggets lurking in the internals:

The foundation of Republicans' overall generic ballot lead is twofold: An enthusiasm gap, and dominance among independents. According to the poll, independent voters are leaning toward the GOP by a whopping (49/33) margin.

Two-thirds of voters say the current economic recovery is weak. Another 26 percent say the economy isn't in recovery at all. This helps explain why Democratic pollsters have been warning their candidates against mentionong the R-word. The Pew poll was taken before the April jobs numbers were released last week. Though the "U3" number fell significantly with better than expected job creation, the good news was blunted by a staggering 800,000 Americans dropping out of the workforce. Eighty-three percent of respondents described the current economic conditions as either "only fair" or "poor."

Obamacare is as unpopular as ever (41/55), with a 17-point intensity gap on the question. The law's much-hailed "winning streak" has failed to materialize in public polling, as its "accomplishments" appear increasingly dubious. Average Americans do not share Democrats' misplaced triumphalism. Quoth Pew, "the share disapproving of [Obamacare] is as high as it ever has been in the four-year history of the law.”

The president is approaching Bush territory on this question, which will be more relevant two years from now:

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 1.20.59 PM

It's entirely conceivable that Democrats will have to contend with a Republican ticket running on a popular "change" message in 2016. If so, that irony will not be lost on the Democratic nominee. Speaking of whom, I'll leave you with one of her big supporters trying and failing to articulate a cogent case for why she should be president:

Hillary backers getting stumped by simple questions about her accomplishments and the raison detre for her campaign-in-waiting is becoming a recurring feature.

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