Congress bracing for anti-incumbent anger among voters
By the look of things, the American public just might vote Congress out of office this November — Republican and Democrat alike.
But Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine sounds downright stoic, even as he admits that his own party could lose more than 28 House seats and four Senate seats.
Kaine says Democrats must accept voter anger as a fact of life in an economy that is recovering only slowly from the worst recession since the 1930s.
“Congress has to pay attention to it. But we also just have to acknowledge that in a tough time, there’s going to be a lot of dissatisfaction,” he told MSNBC.
How much dissatisfaction is a lot?
A new CNN poll says that 63 percent of U.S. voters want the bunch in Congress out of office. Only 34 percent say they can stay. Fifty-six percent say most congressional Democrats do not deserve to be re-elected, about the same number who say most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election either.
That’s quite a challenge for incumbents nine months before mid-term elections, when all 435 seats in the House will be up for grabs along with one-third of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate.
The ax could fall hard on Democrats and Kaine seems to have no illusions about it.
“Presidential mid-terms since Teddy Roosevelt have been very tough. The average president loses 28 House seats, four Senate seats and governor’s races. And we’re not living in average times. We’re living in times of significant economic anxiety,” the former Virginia governor said.
In early January, political analysts expected House Democrats to lose no more than 25 seats.
But the challenge doesn’t mean Democrats can’t do well, according to Kaine, if they recognize voters’ economic troubles and reinforce the idea that their party has helped under President Barack Obama’s leadership.
Kaine and other Democrats used Wednesday’s anniversary of the passage of Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package to claim credit for stabilizing the economy after its worst-since-the-Depression free-fall last year.
White House economic adviser Christina Romer sounded a shade upbeat about the jobs picture, despite a near-record unemployment rate that could be the real killer for incumbents in Congress.
“Right now, the employment numbers look basically stable,” Romer told ABC’s Good Morning America days after the U.S. jobless rate for January fell to a five-month low of 9.7 percent. “We think we’re going to see positive job growth by spring.”
The jobless rate for Congress won’t be announced until early November.
Photo Credits: Reuters/Jason Reed (U.S. Capitol); Reuters/Chris Keane (Tim Kaine); Reuters/Staff Photographer (Jobless Protesters)