Still bad, but better

STILL BAD, BUT BETTER…. A month ago, a Washington Post/ABC News poll came as a punch to the gut to Democrats. On the generic congressional ballot, Republicans had an enormous 53% to 40% lead among likely voters, and it looked as if the entire midterm cycle was slipping away from the Democratic majority.

A month later, things are looking up for Dems — at least a little. Several recent polls have showed the Republican advantage slipping a bit, and the new Washington Post/ABC News poll offers similar evidence.

Less than a month before the midterm elections, the political landscape remains strongly tilted toward Republicans, although Democrats have made modest improvements with voters since their late-summer low point, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Democrats have cut in half the GOP’s early-September advantage on the question of which party’s candidates voters say they will support on Nov. 2. They have also made small gains on the question of which party people trust to handle big issues, such as the economy and health care.

Voters give Democrats a significant edge as the party that would do a better job in helping the middle class, which has been a key campaign message from the White House in recent weeks.

President Obama’s approval rating has rebounded to where it was in July after hitting an all-time low a month ago. Also, in some state races, Democratic candidates have taken the lead over their Republican opponents or narrowed GOP advantages.

It’s a stretch to say the new numbers are good news for Democrats, but they’re at least better news. It’s certainly helpful, for example, that President Obama’s approval rating has ticked up in the poll to 50%, and support for the president’s handling of the economy is up four points to 45%.

On the generic ballot, a month ago, the GOP lead was 13 points, 53% to 40%. In the newly-released poll, the Republican advantage has shrunk to six points, 49% to 43%. (Among registered voters, Democrats actually lead by four points, suggesting the enthusiasm gap between the parties is still likely to be the deciding factor.)

Of course, a six-point deficit may yet prove devastating to Democrats at the ballot box — at this point in 1994, the GOP lead was two points, and the party went on to do pretty well — but what Dems are focusing on now is the trend line. Republicans may have peaked in late August and early September, with Democrats starting to turn things around.

At least, that’s the hope.

Elsewhere in the poll, the “Pledge to America” appears to have gone almost entirely unnoticed, and among those who did hear about it, the plan isn’t particularly popular. It’s not exactly the stuff “mandates” are made of.

Also, support for the Affordable Care Act appears to be increasing, at least in this poll. Opponents of health care reform still outnumber backers, but a combined 47% support the new law — the highest level in nearly a year — while 48% oppose it.