The GOP has been in a pretty good position to pick up the six seats needed to gain a majority in the Senate. The president is very unpopular, the GOP Senate candidates have been vetted to be unoffensive, and they have run their campaigns to be as boring as possible. It looked good enough.
It still looks good enough but . . . The president’s RCP approval rating has recently been bouncing around from 41 percent to 43 percent. That is noticeably worse than his approval rating this time in 2010. Obama’s disapproval rating is also higher. Basically, the usual floating voters are unanimously not approving, and some Democrats are demoralized. If 2010 is the standard, Obama’s approval rating is 3 percent lower and his disapproval rating is 4 percent higher. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Obama is now at the high end of the band for his approval rating. He is almost at 43 percent, the good jobs report has yet to sink into public consciousness, and gas prices are falling. I’ve never seen an improving economy rescue an unpopular incumbent during his second term, but then again, I’ve never seen an economy this bad for this long. A shift of a few points in Obama’s approval rating could make it a little easier for Democrats to turn out some Democratic voters and make a few of the usual floating voters a little more open to voting Democratic. The Republicans are (were?) on track to win a lot of Senate races very narrowly. Circumstances might turn their narrow victories into narrow defeats.
Then the Republicans might regret not having a positive agenda and counting on Obama’s unpopularity to do the work. Or else, establishment Republicans could just blame the Tea Party, and the tea-partiers could blame the establishment.