New opinion polls Tuesday made painful reading for President Barack Obama’s Democrats, cementing conventional wisdom that they face a pounding by Republicans in November’s congressional elections.
The surveys, published after the traditional campaign kick-off date of the Labor Day weekend, suggest voters have soured on Obama, see him as too liberal and are increasingly pessimistic about the sluggish economic recovery.
At a time of high unemployment and economic pain, it appears that the cocktail of hope and change that powered Obama to the presidency has drained away and that a short era of Democratic political dominance may be closing.
Yet the polls also suggest that despite its anger at incumbent Democrats, the public has little genuine affection for Republicans, opening possible lines of attack for the White House as it seeks to limit the damage.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Republicans have a yawning 49 percent to 40 percent advantage among likely voters, which would probably be enough for them to grab back control of the House of Representatives.
All 435 House seats are up for grabs along with 37 of the 100 Senate seats in the November 2 election.
Several key analysts believe Republicans are in reach of winning the 39 seats they need to capture the House but are less likely to snatch the Senate.
The polls were released as Obama makes a new bid to convince Americans he is focused primarily on the economy, and unveils a new batch of measures, including tax breaks for small businesses designed to spur jobs growth.
Obama will also focus on his new 50-billion-dollar proposal to spur employment with a transporation infrastructure program in a major speech laying out his economic policy in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday.
But the White House insisted that his new raft of plans was geared toward mending the economy, not on his own personal political prospects.
“The president isn’t here to solve the nation’s problems on a political calendar. He is here to solve the nation’s problems as they exist,” said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.
The Journal survey revealed the depth of the economic pessimism soaking the electorate — with only 26 percent of those surveyed believing that the economy will improve over the next year, down 47 percent from a year ago.
Obama argues that his policies headed off a far deeper disaster and warns Republicans would revive policies that sparked the crisis and consign America to perpetual economic purgatory.
“We have tried what they’re peddling — we did it for 10 years, we ended up with the worst economy since the 1930s and record deficits to boot,” Obama told a rally of union workers in Wisconsin on Monday.
“It’s not like we haven’t tried what they’re trying to sell us.”
A Gallup national poll last week showed Republicans had an unprecedented 10-point edge among registered voters nationwide.
However, the same national tracking poll this week had the parties deadlocked at 46 percent each in the generic vote — giving Democrats a boost as the election campaign heats up.
And Obama’s own diminished approval ratings may limit the impact he has in energizing core voters and winning back crucial independents.
Obama’s job approval stood at 45 percent in the Journal survey, while a Washington Post poll Tuesday pegged it at 46 percent.
Any ratings below 50 percent have historically spelled bad news for a first-term president in mid-term polls.
Again, it appears that economic agony is to blame. The Post poll found that 57 percent of Americans now disapprove of Obama’s management of the economy.
The Post survey also suggests that Obama has lost his ability to ride the prevailing political sentiment that underpinned his 2008 election campaign.
Some 45 percent in the Post/ABC survey said Obama was “too liberal” — a new high, a factor likely depressing his standing among independent voters who can sway close elections — 57 percent of whom now disapprove of him.
Though Democrats are unpopular, Republicans cannot boast of any groundswell of public affection either.
The Journal survey shows that Democrats are viewed positively by 36 percent of those surveyed — actually higher than the 30 percent who had a favorable view of Republicans.
In the Post poll, only 31 percent of those asked had a positive view of Republicans — an impression the president is trying to deepen.