Pollster John Zogby warns time is "running out" for Democrats to escape the beating that most political analysts expect them to receive in the looming midterm elections.
In an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview, Zogby cited his firm's recent survey showing Republicans holding a 46 to 38 percent lead when voters are asked which party's candidates they are more likely to support in November.
And a whopping 60 percent of voters now say the nation is on the wrong track, according to that Zogby International poll.
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Zogby says that if the election were held today, Republicans could re-take control of the House of Representatives. But he cautions that that Republicans still need to "close the deal" in the months ahead to complete a successful political comeback.
"What this most recent poll shows is not only an 8-point [GOP] lead in what we call the congressional generic, but Republicans moving up to 46, Democrats slipping down to 38. That's an ominous number for Democrats, and time is running out," the pollster tells Newsmax.
Zogby primarily attributes President Obama's weak job-approval numbers to the poor economy. But he says there is also a growing sense among voters that "the country isn't moving forward, that it's heading in the wrong direction." Unemployment, for example, remains at 9.5 percent despite over $1 trillion of stimulus spending.
"I think these three letters: R-O-I," Zogby tells Newsmax. "Voters are saying, 'OK, where's the return on investment?' We're starting to hear trillions more and more as a unit of measurement. But trillions have been spent, and is it all coming back? And I think certainly the sense today is either 'No, or we haven't seen enough or heard enough to suggest that it is.'"
One of the great ironies of the Obama administration, Zogby says, are the major pieces of legislation he's squeezed through Congress. Zogby says they "will make the history books," but could hurt Obama with swing voters because "it has also really consolidated the opposition to President Obama."
And it was those centrist voters who helped elect President Obama in 2008, Zogby says: "He's got to worry about having lost that center with a big question mark: Has it all been worth it?"
The problem for Republicans is that polls show voters don't trust them to properly manage the economy either, Zogby says.
"Do they have confidence the Democrats can get us out of our economic doldrums?" Zogby asks. "No. But they trust Republicans to get us out of our economic doldrums even less.
"So this is not good news for pretty much everyone. And that's what makes this election very, very interesting… Republicans would win big today, but the deal has not been closed yet."
Taking a closer look at non-affiliated voters explains why the president "is doing very poorly with independents," Zogby says.
"Fifty percent of independents are moderate," says the author and pollster. "Obama does well with them. But of the remaining [voters], 3-to-1 they break for conservatives. They don't want to call themselves Republicans because they were alienated by the Bush years and by Republican spending.
They're not necessarily a base for the president or for Democrats. The issue there is are those independents going to vote Republican? Are Republicans going to be able to close the deal?"
Other key points that Zogby made in Monday's exclusive Newsmax.TV interview:
- Conservatives aren't the only ones unhappy with the president's job performance. Liberals are complaining he has been too moderate in his reforms. So Obama's policies do not "seem to have really pleased anyone," he says.
- Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is in "a danger zone" in her California's Senate showdown against GOP challenger Carly Fiorina. Boxer is winning about 45 percent of the vote in recent polls. But Zogby points out that Fiorina is a well known figure in California as well, and she is only getting about 41 percent of the projected vote. "Generally the challenger does win in a circumstance like that, but Fiorina is going to have to do some heavy campaigning," Zogby says. "She has that mixed blessing of having gotten some tea party support in that effort to defeat Barbara Boxer. California is not a tea party state."
- Obama could face an insurgent opponent from his party's left in 2012, but Obama still has time to turn things around. "And let's put things in context: Ronald Reagan's numbers in 1982 were even lower than Barack Obama's are today. So in that sense two years … is a long ways away," he adds.
- If Hispanic turnout is low in the midterms it "could be very very devastating to Democrats' chances," he says. He adds that's one reason the administration decided to challenge Arizona's controversial immigration law."
- He says long-term GOP prospects for attracting Hispanic voters aren't bright. "When Republicans push on illegal immigrants, that is defined by Hispanic voters as anti-immigrant and therefore anti-Hispanic."
- Republicans must be wary that their alliance with grass-roots conservatives doesn't alienate moderates. "The Tea Party appears to be strident, there's a lot of anger out there," says Zogby. "And if Republican candidates tilt too far towards the tea party, the shrillness of some of what the tea party is calling for -- for example, repeal of the 14th Amendment. It may sound good to the base, but it's the sort of thing that really worries the moderate elements that are really looking for problem solving, not problem creating."
- Growing public opposition to the war in Afghanistan represents "a real conundrum" for President Obama, who campaigned on the idea that Afghanistan was the "good war." The issue could determine which party wins the White House in 2012, he says: "We're seeing the death count of Americans going up, no real sense of progress taking place on the ground. This, in addition to the economy, could be the top issue."
- Arab approval of the United States, which improved in the months following President Obama's election, has plummeted. "Almost all of that progress is gone and we've reverted back to the low numbers that we had seen following the launching of the war on Iraq," Zogby says.
- A Republican "we don't know" would probably have the best chance against President Obama in 2012, he says, rather than current frontrunners Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich. He believes a successful GOP governor such as Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, or Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi is more likely to emerge as the greatest threat to Obama.
- He predicts Sarah Palin will do well in conservative primaries, but questions her ultimate viability. "Does she get nominated? It's hard for me to see that scenario," Zogby says.
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