Monday 5 December 2016

US voted for change ... but now wishes it hadn't

Obama's Democrats are about to take a hiding in the mid-term elections. Michael Barone looks at the reasons why the US electorate has turned its back on big government

Published 26/10/2010 | 05:00

President Barack Obama greeting Democratic senator Barbara Boxer at a campaign rally in Los Angeles, California, during a four-day, five-state mission to gather support for Democrats in the upcoming election
President Barack Obama greeting Democratic senator Barbara Boxer at a campaign rally in Los Angeles, California, during a four-day, five-state mission to gather support for Democrats in the upcoming election

Why have American voters gone so sour on Barack Obama's Democratic party? It's a question that must puzzle many abroad who welcomed Obama's election two years ago and saw him leading America and the world into broad, sunlit uplands. But now it appears that Obama's party is about to take what George W Bush called a "thumping" in the mid-term elections on November 2.

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It looks to be quite a fall. Obama won the popular vote in 2008 by a 53 to 46pc margin. That's not quite a landslide, but he won a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic candidate in history except for Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. More than John Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Grover Cleveland; more even than Bill Clinton. And Democrats won the popular vote for the House of Representatives -- a key index of public support -- by a 54 to 43pc margin. Their best showing since 1986.

Polls now suggest that those percentages could turn upside down. Republicans lead on the generic ballot question -- which party's candidates will you support for the House of Representatives -- by an average of 49 to 42pc. In no previous election cycle since the Gallup organisation started asking the question in 1942 have Republicans led by more than 4pc. Now in Gallup's "low turnout" likely voter model they lead by 17. Republicans seem very likely to win more -- perhaps many more -- than the 39 seats they need for a majority in the House and might, if they get lucky, win the 10 seats they need for a majority in the Senate.

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