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Republicans Poised to Win Mid-Term Elections: Survey

John Harwood|Chief Washington Correspondent
Sunday, 31 Oct 2010 | 11:01 PM ET

Gaining strength as the campaign draws to a close, Republicans are poised for enormous gains in the 2010 mid-term elections, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Jeffrey Coolidge | Iconica | Getty Images

The poll shows that likely voters prefer a Republican-controlled Congress by a solid 49 percent to 43 percent margin. Among all registered voters, Republicans lead 46 percent to 44 percent, reversing the two percentage point edge that Democrats enjoyed earlier this month.

Underlying voters' desire to jolt a Democratic-controlled Washington is overwhelming unhappiness over near-10 percent unemployment and weak growth after the Great Recession; fully 84 percent of voters call themselves dissatisfied with the economy. The poll results point toward a reshaped post-election landscape with far-reaching implications for President Obama's agenda, and for his party across the country.

"The Democrats are about to feel the full force of the tidal wave," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC survey with Republican counterpart Bill McInturff. "It's going to change things from the White House to the courthouse."

Indeed, Mr. McInturff said the poll results augur "a larger election for Republicans than 1994," when his party gained more than 50 House seats. This year, Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to recapture control of the House.

Underlying those assessments are a wide disparity in Republicans' favor in enthusiasm of their partisans and in the views of key swing voter groups. Some 70 percent of Republicans report a high level of enthusiasm about the election, compared to 58 percent of Democrats.

Independents currently favor Republicans for Congress by a massive 60 percent to 31 percent margin. That exceeds the margin by which independents backed Democrats in their 2006 breakthrough to recapture both the House and Senate.

Mr. Obama's overall approval rating is 45 percent. That approximates the standing of Presidents Reagan and Clinton before their mid-term election setbacks in 1982 and 1994, respectively.

But the president receives just 32 percent approval from independents and 38 percent approval among whites. That's an especially worrisome sign for Democratic Congressional candidates, since the minority voters who fueled Mr. Obama's 2008 victory traditionally turn out at lower rates in mid-term elections.

The implications for governance in Washington and for the Republican Party's political future remain unclear. The poll shows that, while 39 percent of voters view the Democratic Party positively, only 34 percent view the Republican Party positively.

"The Republican brand has not been repaired," Mr. McInturff said.

With Democrats controlling both the White House and Congress, however, the Republican brand has only limited relevance to this week's election outcome. The poll shows that Republicans have succeeded in making a lightning of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Likely voters view Ms. Pelosi unfavorably by a two-to-one margin. Among independents, just 8 percent view the Speaker positively, compared to 61 percent who view her negatively.

The telephone survey of 1,000 voters, conducted Oct 28-30, carries of margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

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