Will anyone be happier to see August go than Democrats? The party has been languishing in the worst kind of political summer doldrums, buffeted both by the president dipping his toe into unpopular end of a transitory political debate--regarding the so-called "ground zero mosque"--and by continuing bad news on more enduring issues, namely unemployment and the economy. What better capstone to the month, then, than the latest Gallup generic ballot for the 2010 midterm elections, giving Republicans a 10 point lead, their biggest ever.
That's "ever" not in the context of this election. That's "ever" in the context of 68 years of Gallup polling. That 10 point margin is twice as large as the GOP records that stood before this year, five points in both the summers of 1994 and 2002.
Republicans' presumed turnout advantage, combined with their current 10-point registered-voter lead, suggests the potential for a major "wave" election in which the Republicans gain a large number of seats from the Democrats and in the process take back control of the House.
Gallup's generic ballot has flip-flopped all year long. It gave Democrats a significant lead as recently as the middle of July, remember. So it will be interesting to see whether this lurch marks the electorate starting to break toward the GOP or whether the race tightens again in a week.
But the Gallup poll does also contain an ongoing trend that should scare the daylights out of Democrats: the GOP's chasm-like advantage in voter enthusiasm. Fully half of Republican voters are now "very enthusiastic" about voting in the fall, twice as many as Democrats (25 percent).
Labor Day will bring the traditional start of the campaign season, though really it's the beginning of the end of the campaign. As The Fix's Chris Cillizza notes, Democrats have one last line of defense upon which they can fall back in their fight to hold control of Congress. Chris writes:
The next few weeks will be critical to Democrats' hopes of holding onto the House. Most targeted Democratic incumbents as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have fundraising edges over their GOP rivals. That means that Democrats will hit the television airwaves first with ads that, almost certainly, will seek to hammer their foes over a variety of issues ranging from Social Security to job creation.
If those ads move numbers against Republicans across the country, Democrats may be able to mitigate -- if not totally alleviate -- their losses. If the ads don't change voters' perception in a meaningful way, Democrats could be headed to an electoral Armageddon on Nov. 2.
Right on cue, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Monday released its first independent expenditure ad of the cycle, hitting GOP-er Sean Duffy who is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin. Do the Democrats have the cash to build a big enough firewall to hold the House? Stay tuned.