And despite it all, the GOP appears primed to win six seats and take back the Senate -- if not more. The reason: Party approval ratings are ... well ... overrated.
Yes, the GOP's brand definitely hurts it. But when voters head to the polls, are they really thinking about the practical impact of sending another Republican to empower the other Republicans who are already in Washington?
As it turns out, not really. The same WaPo-ABC poll shows strikingly few people are scared off by the idea of a GOP-controlled Senate. While 72 percent of Americans disapprove of the GOP, just 25 percent say it would be a "bad thing" if the GOP controlled the Senate. Significantly more (32 percent) say it would be a "good thing," while half (51 percent) say it would make no difference.
Independents say 28-19 that a GOP majority would be good thing more than a bad thing. Even among Democrats, just 48 percent say a GOP-controlled Senate would be a bad thing.
In addition, it's always important to note that the GOP brand is worse than the Democratic brand in large part because of members of their own party. While 63 percent of Democrats approve of their party's congressional members, just 34 percent of Republicans say the same. Among independents and members of the opposite party, it's almost exactly even. And those other Republicans, we'll bet you, will still vote GOP in 2014. So, again, the practical effect of the GOP's poorer brand is probably more negligible than people think.
And it's too bad for Democrats, because opposition to a GOP Senate is a very good motivator. Among those who say they support Democrats and also say that a GOP Senate would be a bad thing, 78 percent say they are absolutely certain to vote. Among Democratic supporters who don't fear a GOP Senate, that number drops to 58 percent.
The GOP certainly has its problems, but in a lot of ways, disgust with the GOP is like disgust with Congress. While people hate Congress, they are much more likely to hold a favorable view of their own member of it. And if a Republican candidate can run a good campaign and avoid being too closely associated with the less-savory elements of his or her national party, that "R" next to his or her name isn't really much of a burden.