Does it come as any surprise at this point to learn that Republicans, and specifically those members of the party who hold House seats, are not popular? It's still fun to get the occasional data points quantifying it, though.
The latest numbers come from Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, so take them with a grain of salt. But they're in keeping with other data that has come out along the same lines.
Speaking at a breakfast this morning organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Israel said that he commissioned a poll over the summer of by Geoff Garin of Peter D. Hart Associates looking at 68 swing House districts (Israel said they were 32 Republican and 35 Democratic districts ... which only adds up to 67 – and update: the 68th seat is West Virginia's second district, an open seat currently held by Shelly Moore Capito, who's running for Senate), and found that 62 percent of voters disapprove of the job House Republicans are doing and that 64 percent say Republicans are doing too little to cooperate with President Obama, including more than one-third of Republican voters. He said that 81 percent of voters were able to volunteer a specific complaint they had with House Republicans, with the most common criticism having to do with obstruction and gridlock.
And there's been an important shift, he said, in voter views of Washington. "The early data was, ‘You're all responsible,'" he said. "But there has been over the past several months a discernible shift from ‘a pox on both your houses' to ‘the Republicans in the House just can't get it together.' … The Republican brand is toxic and voters are smart enough to realize that with the majority comes responsibility and with responsibility comes accountability."
So all is good for the Democrats, right? Not even Israel was willing to make that case. Voters "still need to be convinced to fire the Republican for gridlock and obstruction," he said. "The vast majority of swing voters in swing districts fundamentally and profoundly dislike their Republican incumbent – now the case has to be made that that incumbent should be fired and you should hire someone else." It's early days, but it's not a great sign if voters positively despise your opponent but still can't decide whether to replace them with your guy.
Side note for Israel: He kept describing Democrats as "solutionists." I don't know if that particular made-up word has been focus-grouped, but even if it has, it should be dropped. It sounds sinister, like "arsonists" or people following some "ism" that won't do anyone any good.
Overall, he said, it's "way too early" to say whether Democrats will retake the House next year: "It is speculative, it is hypothetical, it is crystal ball stuff." He said that Democrats are eyeing 52 GOP-held seats, including 30 where the incumbent won by less than 10 percent of the vote, 15 where Democratic candidates tend to do better during midterm elections, 18 that Obama won last year, and 20 where Obama got 48 or more percent of the vote. He said that there are 25 or 26 Democratic House seats they are defending. "I feel very, very good – extremely confident but not cocky – about our front-liners," he said. His advice for his candidates, he said, is to focus on solutions. "Run as mayors," he said. "Don't run as candidates for congress."
On other 2014 related topics, Israel said that:
- The Syria crisis will have no bearing on the 2014 congressional elections. "It does not complicate the cycle at all," Israel said. "2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria. 2014 is going to be a referendum on solutions. … Syria will not be the subject of a referendum in 2014." Of course – what else is he going to say? If it does have an impact it will be because things went terribly wrong, not because it gets happily resolved.
- On Obamacare, Israel predicted that the debate on the Affordable Care Act will focus on "who is trying to make it work and who is trying to destroy it." In the Garin poll, he said, swing district voters favored fixing Obamacare over repealing it entirely by a margin of 55-40. "The Republicans have not only doubled down, tripled down, they have whatever the number is – 40 times – down" on repeal, he said.
- Read Jamal Simmons: Obama Should Push His Economic Agenda As Hard As He’s Pushed Striking Syria
- Read Susan Milligan: Western Maryland Secessionists Still More Powerful Than Disenfranchised D.C. Voters
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad