President Joe Biden speaks inside the Roosevelt Room on national deficit reduction at the White House in Washington, on Friday, October 21, 2022.
CNN  — 

We’re now two weeks from Election Day 2022, and there are still a lot of questions to be answered. But perhaps the biggest of them comes down to a simple fact: President Joe Biden’s approval rating is below his disapproval rating by a significant amount nationally and in all the key swing states.

The most important question therefore is whether Democratic candidates for the House and Senate can outrun Biden by a wide enough margin to win. The answer may very well be different for the House and the Senate.

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  • Take a look at recent polling from Monmouth University. They have been asking the generic congressional ballot the last few months as well as Biden’s approval rating.

    The Democrats’ position on the generic ballot has worsened in each successive poll. They were up 3 points in early August, down 2 points in late-September and down 6 points in mid-October. The trendline tends to match up with what we’re seeing nationally with Republicans now reaching their generic ballot apex since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.

    What’s interesting about the poll is that Biden’s net approval rating (approval - disapproval) has not changed much during that period. It’s been between -16 and -18 points. In other words, the Democrats’ fortunes don’t seem to be tracking with Biden’s popularity rating.

    A look underneath the hood of the polls shows, however, just how big a role Biden is playing in people’s decisions.

    In early August, Democrats were down by 59 points on the generic ballot among those who disapproved of Biden’s performance. This may seem like a wide margin, but it would be a remarkable performance for Democrats.

    They lost those who disapproved of Barack Obama’s job performance by 73 points in 2010 (the last time a Democratic president was facing his first midterm). Republicans lost among those who disapproved of Donald Trump’s performance in 2018 by 82 points.

    The last few Monmouth polls have trended in the wrong direction for Democrats. Their deficit on the generic ballot jumped to 70 points in September and 77 points in October among those who disapprove of Biden’s job performance.

    That 77 point margin was quite close to the 84 point margin Democrats had with the smaller group who approved of Biden’s job. This is just a 7 point difference.

    Given how much higher Biden’s disapproval rating is than his approval rating, those are the types of margins Republicans would be more than happy to take.

    Democrats are hoping for something that is closer to what was seen in new CNN polling on key Senate races conducted by SSRS that was released Monday. Democratic state Lt. Gov. John Fetterman led by 6 points over Republican Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. In the Wisconsin Senate race, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson was up by a point over his Democratic challenger, state Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. (Both races were within the polls’ margin of error.)

    Fetterman led among those who approved of Biden’s job by a 95-point margin. He was losing among those who disapproved by a 67-point margin. That’s a 28 point difference, or four times what we saw in the national Monmouth polls.

    In the Wisconsin poll, Barnes was up 97 points among Biden approvers and down 76 points among Biden disapprovers. This is a 21 point gap, or three times what we saw nationally from Monmouth.

    We saw a similar pattern in CNN polling from Senate races in Arizona and Nevada.

    Perhaps, it shouldn’t be too surprising that named Democrats in Senate races are outrunning Biden more than the generic Democrat. There has historically been less of a correlation between feelings toward a president and Senate races than House races.

    Additionally, many Republican candidates for Senate are not well-liked. This allows Democrats to localize the race more.

    Whatever the cause, the question is whether Democrats can keep it up in the final two weeks of this campaign. If voters base their Senate votes on feelings toward Biden, the small leads Democrats have in places like Arizona and Pennsylvania may not last through Election Day.