While two Senate Democrats already have seen the handwriting on the wall and bailed out of re-election races, five others trail Republicans in states where President Obama and his trillion-dollar health-care-reform plan are increasingly unpopular.
From Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid trails badly, to Arkansas, where Sen. Blanche Lincoln is polling at just 40 percent in head-to-head matchups with four possible Republican challengers, opposition to the health-care bill is reverberating.
“As numerous polls continue to reflect, Americans in key battleground states disapprove of the president’s massive health-care proposal and the partisan manner in which Democrats have pursued it,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The Washington Times.
“An increasing number of voters, and particularly independents, have made clear they intend to hold Democrats accountable for recklessly spending their hard-earned taxpayer dollars and crafting this contentious legislation behind closed doors. Next November, we’re confident that voters will cast their ballots in favor of restoring the much-needed checks and balances in Washington.”
In at least seven states — Connecticut, Nevada, Ohio, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Colorado — the Democratic candidate for Senate trails the Republican in the most recent polls. In those states, Mr. Obama’s popularity has dropped below the percentage of votes he drew in 2008, and opposition to the health-care-reform bill is deep and wide.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, on Tuesday both dropped out of re-election bids, with Mr. Dorgan saying his decision “is not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with my work in the Senate.”
“After 35 years in Congress of representing the people of Connecticut, I will no longer be a candidate,” Mr. Dodd said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon outside his home in East Haddam, Conn. “This is my moment to step aside.”
Dodd acknowledged that wining re-election in 2010 would be difficult but said his recent bout with cancer and the deaths of a sister and Senate colleague Ted Kennedy contributed to his decision, which he made on Christmas Eve.
“Those challenges gave me pause and made me take stock in why I am running,” Mr. Dodd said, adding he was in “the toughest political shape” of his career. “I’m proud of the job I’ve done and the results delivered.”
Most striking is the plight of Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat. After shepherding the health-care bill through the Senate — making deals throughout that Republicans decried — the Nevada senator finds himself in a pickle with 11 months to go before midterm Election Day.
Mr. Reid has been polling in the mid-40s in recent surveys, trailing two Republicans hoping to unseat him. In addition, the latest Rasmussen poll found 49 percent of Nevada voters have a “very unfavorable opinion” of Mr. Reid.
That number mirrors the unpopularity of the president in Nevada. While Mr. Obama beat Sen. John McCain 55 percent to 43 percent in 2008, now 55 percent disapprove of the president’s performance, including 44 percent who strongly disapprove.
The health-care bill passed by the Senate fares even worse. Sixty-six percent of Nevada voters say the health-care plan will raise the deficit. Seventy-five percent believe Mr. Obama’s plan will prompt a middle-class tax increase to pay for it.
“The White House has overshot the runway on many broad policy objectives in an effort to carry out a liberal agenda,” Republican strategist Scott Reed said. “Independent voters are turning on the president over the issue of spending and giving the GOP hope in many Senate races as Democrat candidates are torn between Potomac fever and their home-state priorities.”