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New poll senses historic tremors among U.S. voters unhappy with Obama and Democrats

February 10, 2010 |  5:18 am

Oh-oh, Obama.

A new Washington Post-ABC News Poll less than nine months before midterm election day finds the same proportion of Americans pondering a change in their congressional representation as were thinking the same thing back in 2006 and 1994, the last two times that control on Capitol Hill changed parties dramatically.

Storm clouds over the U.S. Capitol

Only a few months ago, experts predicted the usual historical pattern in the first midterm elections of a new Democratic president, with some decline among his party's members, who currently control the White House and both the House and Senate.

But no one foresaw anything so dramatic as could be developing this early in 2010.

The new survey finds seven out of 10 Americans disapproving of the job Congress is doing under the leaderships of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Asked how they would vote come November, 46% said Democratic and 46% said Republican; just 120 days ago, Democrats lead 51%-39%.

A GOP gain of 40 House seats would force Pelosi to turn the gavel over to Republican Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, putting him second in line to the presidency after VP Joe Biden.

Obama is holding at 51% approval and 46% disapproval. But bare majorities disapprove of his handling of the economy, jobs, the federal deficit and healthcare, while 56% approve of his handling of terrorism, except a majority oppose the president's current plan to try terrorists in federal courts.

"A year ago," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen note, "Democrats held a 26-point advantage on dealing with the big issues; that lead is now 6 points. At the one-month mark [of his administration] Obama's lead over the Republicans on dealing with the economy was 35 points; it's now 5 points."

Two-thirds of independents report they're inclined to shop around for candidates, the most to say that since October of 1994, the month before the so-called Republican Revolution of Bill Clinton's first midterms that turned both houses over to the GOP for 12 years.

But it's not all good news for the GOP. Just about half of the poll respondents characterized their mood as "anti-incumbent."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Jim Young / Reuters

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