A series of recent polls show anti-incumbency sentiments are at a record high and Republicans are more enthusiastic than ever about voting in the midterm elections when compared to Democrats. The results suggest it could be a favorable election year for the GOP.
A recent Gallup poll shows 60 percent of those surveyed said most members of Congress should not be reelected. Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, says that percentage "is the highest in our history." When asked to explain why, 29 percent of those surveyed said lawmakers are "not doing a good job." According to the poll, 15 percent cited a need for fresh faces in office and another 15 percent were concerned that lawmakers were not representing their interests. Many cited general worries about partisanship and congressional self-interest. [See a slide show of 11 hot races this fall.]
Another Gallup poll shows Republicans leading Democrats in voter enthusiasm by 28 percentage points. Newport says Republicans "have had more fervor" about voting in recent midterms, except for in 2006 when Democrats gained control of Congress. But this is the largest enthusiasm gap between the parties the poll has found since first asking the question in 1994, the year Republicans historically took over the House.
One factor contributing to the spike in Republican enthusiasm could be the tea party movement. Though it's still too early to tell what impact the movement will have on the election in November, tea party endorsed candidates have been able to win in highly publicized races. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle won her Nevada primary, thanks to key endorsements from fiscally conservative groups like Club for Growth and the Tea Party Express. The movement bolstered Senate candidate Rand Paul's run in Kentucky and propelled Nikki Haley to win South Carolina's gubernatorial race.
Yet it remains unclear whether the Republican candidates riding the waves of this movement can take down incumbents in November. Kathleen Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania says each individual race could be different. "It's possible that in the general election, an incumbent will look safer, or smarter, or saner or more acceptable against the tea party endorsed candidate," says Jamieson. "Or the tea party candidate will look like a genuine outsider no matter who the person is running against."
Some argue that the tea party has actually divided the GOP. They point to examples like the Florida senate primary where tea party candidate Marco Rubio's success forced more mainstream Republican Governor Charlie Crist to turn independent. If the emergence of the tea party has divided the GOP then high voter enthusiasm among Republicans may not necessarily equal more Republican wins in the fall.