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New poll shows Republicans lead on key issues

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As President Obama takes a hit on his handling of the crisis in Syria, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows the GOP is gaining an edge on several key issues ahead of the 2014 elections.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Republicans are now rated higher than Democrats on handling the economy and foreign policy, and the GOP has bolstered leads on dealing with the federal deficit and ensuring a strong national defense.

Even more troubling, Democrats have seen their long-standing advantage on topics such as health care drop to lows not seen in years, the Journal reported.

Poll results show Americans continue to feel uneasy about the economy, with just 27 percent thinking the economy will improve over the next year. Two-thirds of those surveyed think the country is on the wrong track.

Overall, the GOP remains widely unpopular, as the poll shows just 28 percent of Americans said they hold positive views of the Republican Party, compared with 40 percent who view the Democrats positively.

And much of this disfavor comes from the right, as the results show less than half of conservatives see the GOP favorably. A number that only gets worse with independents — 13 percent.

The poll of 1,000 Americans shows Democrats have their share of challenges as they try to maintain their Senate majority and work to gain House seats next year, as documented by the report.

In addition to just an eight-percentage-point advantage on dealing with health care, Democrats get less credit as stewards in other traditional areas, holding the lowest advantage in decades of Journal polling in looking after the middle class — just 17-percentage-points.

The Journal noted that Obama also faces rising discontent among his political base. His approval among all Democrats fell to 78 percent from a high this year of 88 percent in January, and among African-Americans it dipped to 85 percent, from a 2013 high of 93 percent in April.

As the report pointed out, when President George W. Bush saw his approval among his base drop below 80 percent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was seen as a turning point in his presidency.

“When a president’s approval drops below 80% of his political base, it’s a cautionary note,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey with Democratic pollsters Fred Yang and Peter Hart. “It suggests he will face difficulty rallying his own base going into an election year.”

While the 2014 mid-term election is still a long way off, these results suggest Republicans have some reason to feel optimistic about the future. For now.

Tom Tillison

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