WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's winning coalition from 2008 has crumbled and his core backers are dispirited. It's now Republicans who stand to benefit from an electorate that's again craving change.
Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama's first midterm elections.
Yet in a reflection of broad dissatisfaction with politics, just as many people who backed Republican presidential nominee John McCain are either supporting Democrats now or still considering how to vote.
Still, McCain voters — to borrow Obama's campaign rallying cry — are far more "fired up, ready to go." Two-thirds say they are certain to vote next month.
It's a wide enthusiasm gap that's buoying Republicans, who are poised for big electoral gains, and worrying Democrats, who are seeking to hang onto majorities in Congress as well among governors. Obama's party hopes its superior get-out-the-vote operation, updated from his groundbreaking campaign, can overcome Republicans' energized supporters to mitigate expected losses across the board.
While no president can be expected to fully rally his supporters when he's not on the ballot, the survey illustrates the wide scope of Obama voters' disappointment with the president and his policies almost halfway through his first term — and two years before he's likely to seek their backing again.
To find out how the electorate's political views have changed since the 2008 election, the AP and Knowledge Networks re-interviewed the same 1,254 people who were part of a random sample of Americans surveyed up to 11 times throughout the 2008 campaign by the two organizations and Yahoo News. The recent interviews occurred Sept. 17 to Oct. 7. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
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