A new analysis by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report concludes that anxiety over the government's expanding role in the economy could prove devastating for Democrats next year. The analysis, with a headline that suggests 2010 could be the "year of the angry white senior," warns that Obama faces a growing "gulf" between his still-strong support among young people and his dwindling numbers among people 65 and older.

The result, according to analyst David Wasserman, could be a loss by Democrats of up to 25 House seats. Democrats currently hold a 78-seat majority in the House.

Obama won a narrow majority of independents in last year's election, and the Pew numbers show that his approval rating among that group rose to 57% in April--including half of white independents.

More than half of whites older than 50 approved of Obama's job performance in April. But now, after weeks of Republican accusations that the Democrats would seek to cut Medicare benefits as part of their health care overhaul, that number is just 43%.

"The back-breaker," said Wasserman, "is the independents and the seniors who are distrustful of Democrats' promises and assurances that Medicare won't be touched."

Some Democrats are hopeful that Republican opposition to Obama may be firing up core conservatives but failing to win over even skeptical centrists and independents to the GOP cause.

Dan Parker, Democratic Party chairman in Indiana, home to three competitive congressional districts and an upset win last year by Obama, said that the Republicans have yet to field strong challengers in those House races this year.

And, he added, in a state that has been hit hard by economic troubles, voters are willing to give Obama credit for his economic stimulus package and for bailing out the auto industry.

"Once he gets the credit for passing health care reform, then he'll see the political benefit," Parker said.

But the conservative rebellion against Obama has even hit Parker close to home. Last week, he received an email from the principal at his kids' school with the news that Obama's Tuesday back-to-school address would not be shown to most students, due to complaints from parents.

peter.wallsten@latimes.com