A majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, with the war in Iraq the most frequently cited cause for concern. But that discontent has not translated into gains for the Democratic Party - something that worries many within the party.
"The country is just in a foul mood," says Democratic strategist James Carville. He cites a new poll from Democracy Corps in which 56 percent of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. Democracy Corps provides public opinion polling and strategic advice to Democrats. It was cofounded by Mr. Carville and Stanley Greenberg, who served as President Clinton's pollster.
The latest Democracy Corps survey, conducted June 20-26, found that Democrats are "not doing very well," Mr. Greenberg said at a Monitor breakfast.
Some 43 percent of voters said they had warm feelings about the Republican Party, while only 38 percent had positive feelings about Democrats. "Republicans weakened in this poll ... but it shows Democrats weakening more," Greenberg said. He attributes the decline to voters' perceptions that Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view."
Washington's preoccupation with a possible Supreme Court vacancy may hold political dangers for both parties. "This Supreme Court thing could really set the country off against Washington, because this is something that we care about in Washington a whole lot more than [voters] care about out there," said Carville. That would be especially true "if you are looking at $3 a gallon gas and ... a three-month Supreme Court fight that dominates" the news.
Greenberg concurred. A Supreme Court fight "reinforces a sense that Washington is out of touch ," he said. "You've got a lot of economic discontent out there that neither party is championing." Ominously for both parties, they believe economic conditions could trigger a third party bid in 2008. Greenberg said it could be helped by a "rural revolt against Washington" rooted in concerns about healthcare costs.