>The House is already on its August recess; senators -- after confirming Elena Kagan -- will leave Friday. This summer's town halls aren't expected to be as raucous as last year's, when health care whipped the Tea Party into an angry rave, but Democrats' political fortunes might be even bleaker. President Obama's job approval is in the low to mid 40s. The GOP gained a 5 point lead on the generic congressional ballot and only half as many Democrats are "very enthusiastic" as Republicans about voting in the midterms.
Which is to say: if the election were held today, Democrats would lose at least five Senate seats and probably their majority in the House. The view among most political professionals is that two issues are driving the Democrats' decline: a painful economic recovery (which is depressing swing voters), and a confusing war in Afghanistan (which is depressing the party base).
Both problems exist, to some extent, outside the president's control. Whether particular policy choices have helped or hurt is a debate for another blog, another day. But they have been made harder to handle by messaging failures from the White House.
On the economy: Slow job growth, high unemployment, and disappointing second quarter GNP have all contributed to broad pessimism. In a new poll from Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg, voters feel worse about the economy than at any time in the last seven months. Sixty-four percent say the country is moving in the wrong direction; only 35 percent believe the economy is improving. As a result, Republicans have a bigger-than-ever 13 point lead on which party can be trusted to handle economic issues.