New Poll Gives Democrats Shot of Good News

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The Democrats are in trouble in the fall, goes the conventional wisdom of Beltway pundits, who have shown no signs of quieting down before November. Yes, it's possible they'll lose seats and, yes, it's possible they could lose one or both houses of Congress. But is it really as bad as everyone thinks?

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll offers Democrats reason to believe, in short, no. And it arrives, coincidentally, just a day after a series of congressional and gubernatorial primaries that already brought good news to the party currently in power. Some notable points:

  • Perception of President Obama's handling of the Gulf of Mexico spill has flipped from a net negative to a net positive (42 percent in June to 50 percent now.)
  • Republicans' image is in the doghouse, relatively. Only 24 percent have "very" or "somewhat positive" views of the GOP, which is less than the Tea Party (30 percent) and the Democratic Party (33 percent).
  • Which party is void of ideas? Forty-three percent say the GOP. Thirty-nine say the Dems.
  • When asked who should control Congress, just slightly more said Democrats (43 percent) over Republicans (42 percent)—a statistical wash given the margin of error, but even a tie is better for Dems than the landslide they were thought to be headed for.

That said, it's not all hugs and high-fives for Obama and his partisans. It's a big poll, and there are plenty of numbers that aren't as bright for Dems. You can read the whole poll here.

Still, the one number that stuck out most to our politics team was 59—as in, the percentage who are eager to install a Republican majority solely because they oppose Obama and the Democrats. That might seem intuitive, but it has deep meaning. Optimistic progressives have thought this year that the GOP winning some seats (but not enough for a majority) could be a good thing for Obama. A mixed Congress would bring more Republicans to the table, and therefore make them more willing to negotiate. But with an overwhelming majority of Republicans insistent that their party take power strictly to squash the Democrats, it doesn't make it seem like too much compromise is in the cards.