The Hill is now halfway through its groundbreaking series of polls in 42 key House districts. By the final week of this month, these surveys will reveal more clearly than any others who will control the House in the 112th Congress.
The data so far make grim reading for Democrats. Likely voters put Republicans ahead in 19 of the 22 districts polled to date, with Democrats ahead in just two, and one tied.
This week, our pollster, Penn Schoen Berland, switched the focus from Democratic freshmen to 10 seats of which nine are open because incumbents are retiring or seeking higher office, and one was filled by a special election just this May. Of the open seats, eight are currently Democratic and one is Republican, but GOP candidates have the lead in eight, and only one looks like it will be won by a Democrat. Notably, that one seat, Ill.-10, is held by a Republican. So if all this week’s results hold true, nine open seats polled will flip, with eight going to the Republican and one to the Democrat.
The 10th Week 2 district, Hawaii-1, shows Rep. Charles Djou (R), who came to Capitol Hill in May, holding a four-point lead in his first general-election campaign.
Another striking finding is that a majority (54 percent) of the 4,000 likely voters in the Week 2 poll are disaffected with the two-party system and would like to see a viable third party established. This was particularly true among independents, of whom two out of every three (67 percent) wanted a viable third party. Even among those voters who identify with one of the two existing parties, a plurality favor a third party — Democrats by 49 points to 40, and Republicans by 46 points to 44.
It is reasonable to suppose that this finding flows from widespread and deep discontent with the parties now on offer. And this dissatisfaction is evident in voter views about Congress. As in Week 1, vast majorities held Congress in low esteem. The Week 2 poll found that 72 percent of those surveyed gave Congress a negative rating, while only 25 percent were positive.
Finally, the Week 2 polling offered the fist clear hint that the GOP will take some trophy seats. They are strongly ahead in the seat held by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) for the past 40 years. The Hill’s polling will move to districts held by long-term Democratic incumbents in Week 4, and if it shows these old bulls in trouble, then this cycle’s Republican wave may prove to be of historic proportions.