Michael Barone writes:
Astonishing news on the generic ballot question. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that Democrats are currently ahead of Republicans by only 40 percent to 39 percent. Given that this generic ballot question over the years has tended to understate Republicans’ performances in actual elections, one gathers that if the 2010 election for House seats were held today, Republicans would win or come close to winning a majority of seats—which is to say, they would gain about 40 seats. By way of comparison, they gained 52 seats when they won their majority in 1994.
While warning that this may be a temporary blip, Barone’s analysis suggests that the combination of a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress may not be good news for the latter. By unleashing their most extreme liberal impulses, they may be in danger of missing the center of the electorate — by a mile.
Some other factors are potential problems for congressional Democrats. First, Obama has banked his presidency on the stimulus “working.” (People aren’t going to be tricked, I suspect, by phantom job “savings.” If the economy isn’t growing briskly again and unemployment isn’t way down, very few will think the stimulus worked.) The economy will eventually recover in due course, related or not to the stimulus bill, but perhaps not in time to save the congressmen who voted for it. The Democrats may claim George W. Bush “broke” the economy, but they are almost the sole owners of the stimulus and what is to follow.
Second, there is a growing, endemic ethics problem among Democrats, which is at least as troublesome as the problems bedeviling the Republicans in 2006. The list of suspects is growing — Dodd, Rangel, Moran, and Murtha, to name just a few. Add in the Obama administration’s tax cheats and Blago and it does not add up to a pretty picture.
Finally, according to Rasmussen, Republicans are making progress on the issues. On which party was best able to handle the economy Republicans trailed Democrats by fifteen points, then twelve and then nine (last month). This month the gap is only five. Last month, Republican’s trailed Democrats on taxes by two points, but now are up three.
The combination of a major policy issue (in 2006 it was the Iraq war; in 2010 it will be the economy) coupled with a sense that the party in power is making out like bandits, usually doesn’t bode well for incumbents. Twenty months is a lifetime in politics, and things may actually get worse for the Democrats before they get better.