If this year’s election had been held on June 7 or even Sept. 7, the Democrats probably would have won the House and maybe the Senate. But Election Day is Nov. 7, and a Democratic victory is increasingly uncertain.
Several ominous trends are working against the Democrats, but the most important is the sharp drop in gasoline prices. Instead of sprinting toward the finish line, Democrats seem to be staggering, hoping their opponents don’t have time to catch up. In April, voters told ABC News they favored Democratic candidates over Republicans by a 15-point margin. By Labor Day that advantage had been cut in half.
Republicans still have plenty to worry about. As one GOP strategist told us, “the general issue environment stinks for Republicans.” Gas prices may be down, but the body count in Iraq is mounting daily, and that’s having a huge impact on swing voters. In the latest Pew Research Center poll, almost half of all independents said that using force in Iraq was a mistake, and those unaffiliated voters favored Democrats over Republicans by 14 points.
Republicans are still suffering from the Katrina Effect. GOP pollster Linda DiVall says that White House bungling badly damaged the party’s reputation for “leadership and accountability.” Independent voters, she said, “couldn’t believe this was happening in our country.”