A SIGNIFICANT number of swinging voters who backed Barack Obama for the White House two years ago have switched allegiance.
This has given the Republican Party a comfortable lead for Tuesday’s mid-term elections.
The US President’s Democratic Party looks certain to lose control of the House of Representatives, based on results of a New York Times/CBS News poll released yesterday.
The only bright outlook for Mr Obama is that his party could narrowly keep its Senate majority. Continued control of the Senate would be a buffer against attempts by Republicans to roll back the President’s reforms on health and regulation of Wall Street.
The poll found 46 per cent of likely voters were expected to vote Republican, while 40 per cent said they would vote Democrat. The main gain for Republicans comes from swinging voters, who favour the party by an extraordinary 47-32 per cent over Democrats.
The poll shows a high level of voter disappointment with Mr Obama’s economic management after the US has failed to rebound from recession, with unemployment staying high at 9.6 per cent.
Mid-term elections have become a referendum on the President’s policies as all 435 members of the house and 37 members of the 100-seat Senate face voters on Tuesday.
The poll showed voters overall had a more favourable opinion of Mr Obama’s party compared with Republicans – 46-41 per cent.
But a clear majority rated the Republicans better managers of the economy. They confirmed disappointment in Mr Obama’s performance, believing he had no clear plan for creating jobs and had made no progress on improving the economy.
The President defended his record on national TV yesterday, appearing on comedian Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show to woo younger voters. Staying mainly serious, Mr Obama rebutted barbs from Stewart about unfulfilled promises of “change”. He said his administration had prevented an economic depression, created jobs and pushed through historic health laws. “This notion that we could quickly transform Washington, it’s a work in progress, it’s just not going to happen overnight,” the President said.
“When we promised during the campaign ‘change you can believe in’, it wasn’t change you can believe in 18 months.”
Mr Obama dismissed Stewart’s suggestion that he had been “timid” after running for the presidency two years ago with “such audacity”. He rated health reform as one of the most historic pieces of legislation in decades.
When the President said his administration had done some things people did not know about, Stewart shot back: “What have you done that people don’t know about?
“Are you planning a surprise party for us?”
The interview came just days before Stewart hosts an event in Washington’s mall called “Rally to Restore Sanity”.
The event, held in conjunction with another hosted by fellow Comedy Central comedian Stephen Colbert called “March to Keep Fear Alive”, is meant to send up Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, a constant Obama critic who held a Washington rally called “Restore America” in August.
As pessimism about the mid-term elections gripped Democrats yesterday, a separate CNN/Time poll showed the party’s Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, was in danger of losing his seat. The poll found his Republican challenger, Tea Party-supported Sharron Angle, had a lead of 49-45 per cent.
Senator Reid is the politician linked most to Mr Obama after he pushed health reforms through the Senate.