President Barack Obama jogs down the steps as he disembarks Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., 6 Sep 2010
As U.S. voters prepare to go to the polls in eight weeks to elect a new Congress, two new public opinion surveys contain encouraging news for opposition Republicans and warning signs for Democrats and President Barack Obama.
The new opinion surveys paint a challenging picture for Democrats trying to hold their majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 39 percent of respondents approved of President Obama's handling of the economy. Sixty-one percent said they believe the country is on the wrong track and 49 percent of likely voters preferred Republican control of Congress compared with 40 percent who favored the Democrats.
Similar results came in a Washington Post/ABC News poll where Mr. Obama's public approval rating dropped to 46 percent - a new low for that survey.
Republicans have almost pulled even with Democrats in the Post/ABC poll on the question of which party Americans trust to handle the country's biggest problems. Republicans have not done that well on that question in more than four years.
The uncertain state of the national economy is driving the dismal poll results for the president and Democrats in Congress, despite Mr. Obama's efforts to convince voters that there are signs of recovery.
Presidential Spokesman Robert Gibbs talked about the issue with reporters at the White House. "There is and continues to be great frustration with where we are in this economy. Among those frustrated is the President of the United States. I will be honest with you, I think the American people are not concerned with the president's poll numbers. I think the American people are concerned about whether or not they have a job."
Political experts said the Republicans are on track to make significant gains in Congress in November, especially in the House, where Democrats hold a 39-seat advantage. A growing number of analysts expect the Republicans to win enough seats to retake control of the House, and that they might have a chance of winning the 10 additional seats they need to reclaim a majority in the Senate.
Some top Republicans, though, are being cautious, aware of surveys that show voters disapproving of Democrats, but not necessarily embracing Republicans.
Arizona Senator John McCain, who is running for re-election this year, spoke on the Fox News Sunday television program. "When you look at the approval ratings of Republicans, they are just as bad as Democrats. We have got to give them a reason to vote for us."
The latest survey results give Republicans a huge advantage among likely voters - the latest indication that conservatives are enthusiastic about the November elections.
Gerard Alexander is a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "And many things can happen between now and November," said Alexander. "But it is true that there is a sense of broad energy among Republicans generally, and conservatives in particular, and a broad mood of apathy and reduced engagement among many progressives and liberals."
President Obama and Democrats are focused on generating enthusiasm among their core voters during the next several weeks in the hope of blunting the Republican wave that appears to be building.