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Democrats Struggle to Avoid Wipeout from Electoral Wave

by Carroll Doherty, Associate Director, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Special to the BBC

Less than two years ago, Democrats basked in the glow of their most impressive political triumph in more than four decades. Today, they are contemplating the very real prospect that they could lose their House majority and possibly, though less plausibly, control of the Senate as well.

What happened?

An economy stuck in neutral and a jobless rate that remains stubbornly high. Growing criticism of the federal government, fueled in part by opposition to President Obama’s own signature programs — last year’s economic stimulus and this year’s health care overhaul. And finally, continued frustration with the political status quo, which is now directed at Democrats.

Next month’s midterm is shaping up as a classic “wave” election, one in which national trends endanger the party in power. The Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 wave, which was powered by opposition to the war in Iraq and dissatisfaction with President Bush. Just 12 years earlier, an electoral wave wiped out the Democrats, costing them their 40-year hold on the House and control of the Senate.

Just as in 2006 and 1994, this year it is the political opposition that has greater energy and enthusiasm. In the most recent Pew Research Center survey, 83% of Republican voters said they will definitely vote, compared with 69% of Democratic voters. The GOP’s lead on this measure is the highest for either party at this stage in midterm campaigns dating to 1994.

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