Our Florida and Ohio polls over the last couple weeks were good news for Democrats in the sense that they showed the party with a chance of picking up the Senate seats in those states this year despite the tough national political climate. But they also suggested potential trouble for the party looking toward 2012 when its incumbent Senators will be up for reelection in those states.
Bill Nelson in Florida and Sherrod Brown in Ohio both won by overwhelming margins in the strong Democratic year of 2006. But now both have approval ratings in the 30s and more voters who disapprove than approve of the job they're doing.
32% of voters give Brown good marks to 39% who disapprove. Nelson gets support from 37% of his constituents to 40% giving him bad reviews.
Given the large margins Brown and Nelson won by the last time around these seats really should not be on the front line of things Democrats have to defend in 2012. You would expect those to be folks who either barely won in 2006 or are in pretty red states- the Claire McCaskills, Jon Testers, Jim Webbs, and Ben Nelsons of the world.
Of course the country is in a very anti-Democratic and anti-politician mood right now and these numbers could be a whole lot different when things really start to get going a couple years from now. But these kinds of approval ratings are a reminder that simply holding onto the Senate this year may not be victory enough for Democrats because Republicans will have a much wider playing field in 2012 and a good opportunity to 'finish the job' if they come up just short this time around. Holding onto 52 or 53 seats this time around could simply be delaying the inevitable.