Democrats desperate for good news on jobs 

A new low in President Obama's job approval rating and a suddenly tough Massachusetts Senate race have Democrats hoping the White House can deliver soon on job creation.

Without a serious turnaround in the nation's economy and jobless rate, Democrats could be at a major disadvantage in November's midterm elections.

"I think the news may get better soon for Obama -- on jobs, health care and Afghanistan," said Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas. "Not because he is doing great things, but how could it get any worse?"

The party's fear factor is playing out in the Jan. 19 Massachusetts special election to fill the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat.

With the race looking tighter than expected, the national Democratic Party has committed more than $1 million to the fight and is sending more staff to help shore up Democrat Martha Coakley's race against Republican Scott Brown.

Former President Clinton will campaign for Coakley this week, following a Public Policy Polling survey that found the race a tossup in the historically deep blue state.

While Coakley is favored to win, Democrats hadn't expected the extra effort and expense to help her.

"If she is in trouble, it does suggest that the real concern for November is not about incumbents, but Democrats," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. "If it's close, it should strike fear into the timid hearts of Democrats."

To help the party's midterm prospects, Obama has to show job growth by early spring and keep trending that way through late summer, Jillson said. Political scientists believe an electorate needs at least three months for good news to sink in before the results can be measured in elections.

A new CBS News poll found Obama's job approval rating at 46 percent, down from 50 percent last month -- bad news if the midterms shape up as a referendum on Obama.

Also worrisome for Democrats is a 10-point drop in support for Obama among independent voters in recent months. Just 42 percent in the CBS poll said they approved of the job the president was doing.

Domestic concerns, notably the economy, have Americans most worried. Just 41 percent said they approved of Obama's handling of the economy. The findings track a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll that found 48 percent judge Obama's presidency a failure so far.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said public uneasiness reflected the fact that Obama had to make a series of policy moves he felt were necessary -- but not popular.

"The president has taken actions to deal with a whole set of crises that he had when he came in," Gibbs said. "He had to make a lot of tough decisions that may or may not be politically popular because that was what he was faced with."

Factors working in the Democrats' favor include a general disarray among Republicans and a leadership void in the GOP's upper reaches.

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