Commentary Magazine


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RE: Into the Danger Zone

Pete, there’s more bad news for the Democrats from Gallup:

Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years. . . .
The images of the two major parties have particular significance in a midterm election year. For example, the favorable rating of the Democratic Party exceeded that of the Republican Party by 52% to 37% just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, in which the Democrats gained 31 House seats.

Americans’ current 41% favorable rating of the Democratic Party is five points lower than the party’s previous low, recorded twice in 2005.

By contrast, the Republican Party’s image reached its all-time low of 31% in December 1998 — just after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. The Republicans’ current rating is improved from a pair of 34% ratings Gallup measured in late 2008 and in May 2009.

The Democratic Party’s favorability has declined among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Among Independents, 36 percent have a postive view of the GOP, only 30 have a positive view of the Democratic Party.

Well, this is certainly going to burst the bubble of many Democrats who kept insisting that their party was in no real peril because the GOP was toxic, still smarting from the end of the Bush term. No matter how low Congress polled, Democrats consoled themselves that the Republicans were not a threat. The Democrats would simply paint them as a bunch of wackos, obstructionists, and pawns to talk-show hosts. Ooops. Didn’t work.

As is often the case, the opposition party’s first task is to make the case that the governing party is on the wrong track and is unworthy of trust; then they go about the task of articulating an effective alternative and presenting themselves as a party capable of governing better than those currently in power. It seems as though the Republicans — with great assistance from Democrats who disregarded public opinion and governed from the far Left — have done a solid job on the first half of the equation. The Democrats have blown their lead and frittered away an opportunity to cement their electoral advantage. Now the question remains whether Republicans can present themselves as better than the current crowd. Control of the House and possibly the Senate will depend on how successfully they do that.