ENTERING THE FINAL STRETCH, AN UGLY FINISH LINE AWAITS…. Traditionally, Labor Day marks the unofficial kickoff the election season. Summer vacations end, kids head back to school, and candidates focus their efforts on connecting with voters, buckling down for the two-month stretch that leads to Election Day.

And with this calendar in mind, three national polls have been released over the last 24 hours. To say that they all offer bleak news for Democrats would be a dramatic understatement.

Last week, I was dismissive of Gallup’s erratic generic-ballot poll showing the GOP with a 10-point edge. It’s impossible, however, to dismiss the obvious trend evident in the latest data.

CNN/Opinion Research

It’s the kind of data that has to drive Democrats batty — the CNN poll shows an unpopular Republican Party, which voters blame for the nation’s economic problems. The same poll shows Republicans leading on the generic ballot by seven, 52% to 45%, up from a three-point edge a month ago.

Washington Post/ABC News

Respondents in this poll prefer Democrats to Republicans to handle the nation’s problems, believe Democrats are more in line with their personal values, and consider Democrats more interested in the concerns of people like them. Like the CNN poll, this survey also shows the public blaming Republicans more than Democrats for the state of the economy.

And yet, on the generic ballot, among likely voters, Republicans have an enormous 53% to 40% lead.

NBC News/Wall Street Journal

As with the other results, this poll shows an unpopular Republican Party pushing unpopular ideas. And yet, on the generic ballot, among likely voters, the GOP edge is now up to nine points, 49% to 40%.

I realize that results like these don’t make a lot of sense. Given a choice between the party that created the mess and the party cleaning it up, voters are prepared to side with the former in large numbers. It’s irrational and counter-productive, but it’s happening anyway — voters are angry and frustrated, so they intend to punish the majority, even if it works against their interests; even though it’s not the majority’s fault; even if makes things worse.

Democrats have eight weeks to make a strong closing argument, and figure out a way to get Democratic voters to show up and prevent a disaster.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.