Both Parties Equally Vulnerable in November? Hardly

Reporters Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan examined the findings of the latest CBS/New York Times poll. As November elections approach, things look pretty bleak for Democrats and President Obama especially, who earned a record low approval rating and bad marks on his handling of the economy.

But Zeleny whispered a little between-round encouragement into the ear of the battered Democrats, suggesting both sides were equally vulnerable on Thursday's front page "Poll Finds Hazards and Opportunities for Both Parties." The original online headline, "Poll Suggests Big Opening for G.O.P. Going Into Midterms," was far more accurate.

Of course, since Democrats control the executive and legislative branches, the opportunities are going to be stacked on the Republican side, not equally distributed.

Republicans are heading into the general election phase of the midterm campaign backed by two powerful currents: the highest proportion of voters in two decades say it is time for their own member of Congress to be replaced, and Americans are expressing widespread dissatisfaction with President Obama's leadership.

But the latest New York Times/CBS News poll also finds that while voters rate the performance of Democrats negatively, they view Republicans as even worse, providing a potential opening for Democrats to make a last-ditch case for keeping their hold on power.

The poll represents a snapshot of the country's political mood as the campaign pivots from primary contests that have revealed deep divisions among Republicans into the general election, where the parties deliver their competing arguments to a wider audience.

The findings suggest that there are opportunities and vulnerabilities for both parties as they proceed into the final seven weeks of the campaign.

A case for Republicans: Voters are remarkably open to change, even if they are not sure where Republicans will lead them. Most Americans, including one-third of those in the coalition that elected Mr. Obama, now say he does not have a clear plan to solve the nation's problems or create jobs. Democrats remain highly vulnerable on the economy.

A case for Democrats: They are seen as having better ideas for solving the country's problems. The public steadfastly supports the president's proposal to let tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans. And far more people still blame Wall Street and the Bush administration than blame Mr. Obama for the country's economic problems.

But the Times (albeit burying the news at the end of the last sentence of paragraph seven) apparently thinks at least one house of Congress may fall into Republican hands.

Voters have a darker view of Congressional Republicans than of Democrats, with 63 percent disapproving of Democrats and 73 percent disapproving of Republicans. But with less than two months remaining until Election Day, there are few signs that Democrats have made gains persuading Americans that they should keep control of Congress.

Not until paragraph 18 did the Times mention Obama's record low approval rating, of 45%-47% approval-disapproval. The paper didn't mention it's Obama's lowest-ever approval rating in a New York Times poll (the last joint Times/CBS poll, in June, had Obama at 47%-43% approval-disapproval).

The president's overall job approval rating is 45 percent, with 47 percent disapproving. On the economy, his rating is worse, with 41 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving. When asked whether Mr. Obama has a clear plan for solving the nation's problems, 57 percent responded that he did not, yet twice as many give him more credit than Republicans for having a plan.

The Times pushed higher taxes in a short sidebar article by Megan Thee-Brenan, "Support for Higher Tax on Wealthiest."

Amid heated debate in Washington over the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts, there is strong support for the Obama administration's proposal to allow the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire at the end of the year. However, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds the public does not expect that to happen if the Republicans win control of Congress in November. The poll found that 53 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama's proposal to increase taxes on households earning $250,000 or more is a good idea, and 38 percent say it is a bad idea.

But she didn't mention that that's less support then the last time the Times polled that question. Back in February, 62% thought it was a good idea, 31% a bad idea. That spread has since narrowed to 53%-38%. That was Question 63; you can read a .PDF version of the Times' latest poll here.

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