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First thoughts: Jet Blue Nation

New NBC/WSJ poll suggests we’re living in a ‘Jet Blue’ nation… Survey also points to voters holding their noses when they head to the polls in November… In the generic ballot, GOP leads in the South but nowhere else… One problem for Obama solved (BP spill), but others remain (Afghanistan and economy)… Previewing NM-1… And Bill McCollum has the debate stage to himself.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Jet Blue Nation: If you follow politics and read polls, you already know the public is angry. But our new NBC/WSJ poll reveals that Americans are more than angry -- they're ready to cuss out someone over the intercom, grab a beer from the drink cart, and exit via the emergency slide. Consider: 60% believe the current Congress is either below average or among the worst, an all-time high in the survey; the percentage viewing the GOP favorably (24%-46% fav/unfav) is at an all-time low; the numbers for the Democratic Party aren’t much better (33%-44%, and the "very negative" for the Dems matches an all-time high); nearly six in 10 say the country is headed in the wrong direction; and 64% think the U.S. economy hasn’t yet hit rock bottom (“Recovery Summer," anyone?). “I think it’s a ‘Jet Blue’ election. Everyone is frustrated,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D). “And everyone is headed for the emergency exit.”

*** A hold-your-nose election: So what does this mean for the upcoming midterms? Well, if you’re a politician -- especially from the party that’s currently in power -- brace yourself for a tough election. The NBC/WSJ poll shows Democrats with a one-point advantage on the generic ballot (43%-42%), which is an improvement from its two-point deficit in June. But among those expressing a high interest in voting in November, the GOP has an 11-point edge (50%-39%). Yet that is down from the Republicans’ 21-point lead in June (56%-35%). Where Republicans have made major gains in the poll is on the issue of the economy. In July ’08, Dems held a 16-point advantage on this issue (41%-25%); a year later it was six points (35%-29%); and in March it was even (31%-31%). Now -- Republicans have a three-point edge (34%-31%). By the way, Republicans made gains on just about every domestic economic issue imaginable, including Social Security. The Dem lead on that issue is at its lowest point in 16 years. “The economic story is a vise on the Democratic Party that will lead to a very large electoral night for Republicans,” says co-pollster Bill McInturff (R).

*** It’s the geography, stupid: But could those GOP electoral gains come from just one part of the country? The poll contains this interesting finding: The GOP has a HUGE generic-ballot edge in the South (52%-31%), but it doesn’t lead anywhere else. In the Northeast, Dems have a 55%-30% edge; in the Midwest, they lead 49%-38%; and in the West, it’s 44%-43%. Yet do keep this caveat in mind: Many of the congressional districts Republicans are targeting outside of the South resemble some of those Southern districts they’re hoping to win back in November -- where you have whiter and older voters. Think Stephanie Herseth's seat in South Dakota; Tim Walz' seat in Minnesota; Leonard Boswell's seat in Iowa; and Ike Skelton's in Missouri.

*** One problem for Obama solved, but others remain: President Obama’s job approval stands at 47%, which is up two points from June. Yet get this: 50% now say they approve of his handling of the Gulf spill’s aftermath (up from 42% in June -- nothing like plugging a hole finally), but because of the Wikileaks story and the continued violence in Afghanistan, his numbers on the handling of the war have plummeted (from 53% approval in June to 44% now). More troubling for the White House, 52% say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy -- the highest percentage for Obama since he took office. Overall, 40% think the country is worse off since he became president; 31% think it’s better off; and 28% think it’s in the same place. However, seven in 10 believe Obama’s performance has met or exceeded their expectations, which suggests that the country hasn’t given up on his presidency. “People haven’t turned in a personal way against him,” Hart says. “His numbers, as they’ve gone up on the Gulf [spill], sort of says that he will not be like Bush where Hurricane Katrina took him under.”

*** Two other things to keep an eye on: In our poll, Obama’s job-approval rating (47%) is higher than his personal rating (46%). Now it's just one point, but is it possible that as the president becomes more political on the campaign trail, his personal ratings take a hit? But with the GOP’s favorable score dropping (from 30% in June to 24% now), are those attacks working? Also, for the first in the survey, the Tea Party has a net-negative fav/unfav rating (30%-34%). Are the Democratic attacks working here, too?

*** 75 House races to watch: NM-1: The Democratic nominee in the race is first-term incumbent Martin Heinrich (the first Democrat to represent the district since its creation in '69). His Republican opponent is businessman Jon Barela. As of June 30, Heinrich had $1.3 million in the bank, while Barela had $540,000. In 2008, Obama won 60% in the district, and Kerry won 51% in ’04. Heinrich voted for the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate it as Lean Democrat.

*** More midterm news: In Florida, Bill McCollum had the debate stage to himself yesterday, after Rick Scott opted out… And in Michigan, a new Detroit News/WDIV poll has Rick Snyder with a sizable lead in the general election for governor. and

Countdown to WA and WY primaries: 5 days
Countdown to AK, AZ, FL, and VT primaries: 12 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 82 days

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