IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

No smooth sailing for Dems in midterms

Democrats face an uphill battle in the midterm races, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
A delegate wears a tie branded with a donkey, the symbol of the Democratic party, during day two of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, N.C., on, Sept. 5, 2012. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty)
A delegate wears a tie branded with a donkey, the symbol of the Democratic party, during day two of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, N.C., on, Sept. 5, 2012.

The fight for control of the House and Senate will be wrestled in a handful of battleground states this November, and national polling by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows Democrats shouldn’t count on smooth sailing in an election that Republicans are planning to frame as a referendum on Obamacare.  

Nearly half the voters polled said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports President Obama come this November’s midterm elections. Just over a quarter of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for an Obama supporter. 

While 41% of respondents said their vote in the midterm election would have nothing to do with Obama, a third said they would cast a ballot to signal opposition to the president, while just under a quarter said their vote would signal support.

President Obama’s approval rating dropped to a record low of 41% in the March NBC News-Wall Street Journal Poll, including 20% of his own party. Another 41% of respondents said they approved of his handling of foreign policy and the economy, two issues that are sure to dominate debate ahead of the midterm elections. The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7% in February (from its record low of 6.6% in January) and the invasion of Crimea brought U.S.-Russian tensions back to the headlines, so soon after the Sochi Olympics.

But the poll isn’t all bad news for Democrats: Asked which party they would prefer to control Congress, respondents came up nearly even, with 44% pulling for the G.O.P and 43% in favor of Democrats.

The poll also showed that the sting of the government shutdown could affect all candidates: a majority of respondents said they wanted to oust their own representative, and would vote to replace every sitting member of Congress if they could.

Republicans, needing to hang on to their seats and win six more to take over the Senate, are aiming to topple Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina – all states Obama lost in 2012. 

Political analysts are looking at Florida’s 13th district, a stretch of coastline encompassing parts of St. Petersburg that has been trending blue, as a swing district not unlike those in the battleground states. Republican lobbyist and former congressional aide David Jolly edged out well-known Democratic statewide official Alex Sink in a special election Tuesday, revealing the power of anti-Obamacare attacks and their potential in November.  

Even though 49% of respondents said they view the health care law negatively, compared with 35% who said it is a positive development, NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling shows that voters are neck-in-neck over whether to fix or repeal the law. Forty-eight percent said they would vote for a Democrat who wants to fix the Affordable Care Act, while 47% said they would vote for a Republican who wants to repeal it.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted of 1,000 adults (including 300 cell phone-only respondents) March 5-9, and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.