Republicans Hampered by Low Approval Ratings

Republicans are hanging their midterm election prospects on voters' frustration with the Democratic Party, but a poll released by National Journal Tuesday indicates people are just as unhappy with Republicans.

Six in 10 Americans polled have a negative view of GOP leadership. Perhaps that's why Republicans have tried to efforts to frame Election Day as a referendum on the Democratic Party, not the GOP.

National Journal editorial director Ron Brownstein discussed the situation with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on Tuesday's "Washington Unplugged."

"What is striking, Bob, is that the level of dissatisfaction with Republican leaders in Congress is even higher now in this poll than among Democratic leaders in Congress. Only 24 percent said they approve of how Republican leaders in Congress are handling their job," Brownstein said.

Democratic leaders did only slightly better, with a 30/53 approval/disapproval split -- though it is significant to note that their numbers are unchanged since National Journal's polling in July. Republican disapproval figures have climbed seven points in the same amount of time, and they have the lowest performance rating in the poll's history.

"When you see this level of discontent [overall], historically voters tend to take it out on the party in power," Brownstein said. The unpopularity of Republicans, however, could complicate matters this year.

Despite enduring Tea Party and Republican enthusiasm, Democrats have lately had some reason for optimism, though the landscape still looks difficult.

"Democrats have seen some movement among partisan Democrats," Brownstein said. "In some cases Democratic incumbents are strengthening themselves, but more often they are still facing a turn out gap and an enthusiasm gap and also a lean against them among independents."

New York Times chief political correspondent Jeff Zeleny also joined Schieffer and Brownstein on "Washington Unplugged" to offer his take.

"The races that are on the margins, Democrats are still breathing out there," Zeleny said. "If an incumbent is locked in at 42 percent, say Governor Tom Strickland from Ohio, he is really fighting for his life. It is going to be harder for him to get five points more than his opponent."

National Journal also asked if voters would be more or less likely to support a candidate with an endorsement by President Obama or other leaders like Sarah Palin.

"If Barack Obama endorsed them - less likely - if Sarah Palin endorsed them - less likely - the Tea Party - less likely. There is no institution linked to the political system [that helps]," Brownstein said.

The poll, the Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Poll, was conducted with the Pew Research Center and has a four percent margin of error.

Politico's Kiki Ryan was also a guest on Tuesday's "Washington Unplugged." Watch the full show above.

"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 2 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.


Christine Delargy is an associate producer for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. For more of Washington Unplugged, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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