A vigorous post-Labor Day Democratic offensive has failed to diminish the resurgent Republicans' lead among likely voters, leaving the GOP poised for major gains in congressional elections two weeks away, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Among likely voters, Republicans hold a 50 percent to 43 percent edge, up from a three-percentage-point lead a month ago.
In the broader category of registered voters, 46 percent favor a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 44 percent who want Republican control. But in the 92 House districts considered most competitive, the GOP's lead among registered voters is 14 points, underscoring the Democrats' challenge in maintaining their hold on the House. The poll of 1,000 registered voters was taken Oct. 14-18.
"It's hard to say Democrats are facing anything less than a category four hurricane," said Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster who conducts the Journal poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. "And it's unlikely the Democratic House will be left standing."
The heightened energy among Republican-leaning voters has been a feature of public opinion for months, with many voters anxious about the economy and unhappy with the Democratic-led Congress.
Some Democrats say the numbers may overstate the GOP's potential gains. Democratic leaders accept that the "enthusiasm gap" between the parties is real, but are trying to counter it with tens of millions of dollars aimed at getting out the vote, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster working on a number of House races.
"Generic Republicans in these broad polls are more popular than individual Republicans,'' Lake said, citing policy positions of some GOP candidates, such as modifying Social Security by adding private accounts, which she said are unpopular.