Punished by voters in New York and Nevada on Tuesday, the president's party faces a daunting enthusiasm gap
For much of the year, the battle for control of Congress looked unclear. President Obama's approval ratings were dropping, but Republicans in Congress were even more unpopular. Senate Democrats faced a tough landscape, defending many more seats than Republicans, but the races hadn't jelled. Voters were registering historic levels of anger at their own representatives, making a 24-seat House pickup for Democrats appear doable--even with redistricting helping Republicans.
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But Tuesday's special elections for two House seats, one in New York and one in Nevada, are starting to put the picture in clearer focus--and it's not good for Democrats. Democrats lost a deeply-Democratic New York City district that had been in party hands for nearly a century, and they lost by over 20 points in a congressional race in the battleground state of Nevada, a contest that once promised to be a bellwether because of the GOP's positioning on Medicare.
Put simply, Obama and Republicans in Congress are both unpopular--and voters are taking out their anger on Democrats--even in a reliably Democratic district. The president's base of supporters isn't showing up, while his opponents are as mobilized as ever. Obama's approval ratings are lower than they were in 2010, when Republicans picked up a historic number of House seats.