Buyer’s remorse is setting in quickly, according to Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
GQR polled 50 House districts currently held by Republicans which are expected to be major Democratic targets in 2012. The results indicate that the Republican House majority is already endangered, less than three months into Speaker John Boehner’s regime.
From GQR’s polling memo:
The Republican incumbents in these districts, 35 of them freshmen, remain largely unknown and appear very vulnerable in 2012 (depending on redistricting). In fact, these incumbents are in a weaker position than Democratic incumbents were even in late 2009, or Republican incumbents were in 2007 in comparable surveys conducted by Democracy Corps.
These incumbents, identified by name, have an average approval rating of 35 percent across the 50 districts, with 25 percent disapproving. Another 38 percent were not able to give the candidates a rating, suggesting lack of visibility. This is about 10 points lower than the approval rating Democratic incumbents held in July of 2009 (with comparable disapproval rating).
More importantly at this early point, just 40 percent of voters in these districts say that they will vote to reelect their incumbent (asked by name in each district), while 45 percent say that they “can’t vote to reelect” the incumbent.
This leads to a congressional race that is dead-even in the battleground. After winning these seats by a collective 14 points in 2010, these Republicans now lead generic Democratic challengers by just 2 points, 44 to 46 percent, and stand well below the critical 50 percent mark. The race is dead even in the top tier of the 25 most competitive seats‚ 46 percent for the Democrats versus 45 percent for the Republicans. In the next 25 seats, the Republicans have a slight 42 to 47 percent advantage.
You can find a list of the 50 districts polled here. House junkies will recognize most of the usual suspects there – IL-13 and IL-16 are probably the biggest surprises.
In the summer of 2009, the 40 vulnerable Democrats tested in this poll actually had a six-point lead; 36 of them wound up losing. And at this time in 2007, the 35 most vulnerable Republicans had the same six-point lead; 19 of them lost reelection.
Compared to that, a 2-point lead for GQR’s 50 most vulnerable Republicans doesn’t look very strong. And if even half these seats are lost, there goes the Republican majority.
Now, the Republican incumbents have a couple things on their side. One is time; a lot can happen in the next year and a half. Another is redistricting; while Republicans don’t control the redistricting process for all these incumbents, they can make some of them safer, and they can also endanger a few of the remaining Democrats to balance out losses.
Still, these are bad early indicators for the new Congress. Voters don’t know their new representatives very well, and they don’t like them especially well, and they seem quite prepared to vote Democratic in 2012.