Even before the Democratic victory in PA-12, I was beginning to wonder if this fall would be the banner year that some Republicans and pundits forecast. While more people are inclined to support the GOP than were in the final days of the 2008 campaign and the early weeks of the Obama Administration, Republican party identification remains relatively stagnant.
They support the GOP because they’re not happy with the direction in which Obama’s Democrats are taking the nation. They’re still not convinced that the opposition party will reverse that direction. They could still move back into the Democratic column.
Perhaps, if we see a much stronger economy with real job growth, Democrats can help swing swing voters back to their side. Or maybe just an effective campaign. (Don’t think bashing Bush is going to do it. People know he’s gone back to Texas where he maintains a low profile.)
They may not even need do that to prevent large Republican gains. As Jim Geraghty observed yesterday on Campaign Spot:
. . . Obama’s approval is still even with or slightly above his disapproval in most polls, the generic ballot is still bouncing around and averaging close to a tie, and there are still incumbent Democratsin economically depressed parts of the country who are polling pretty healthily. (I can’t believe Californians are taking Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial bid seriously.) Massachusetts voters really want to endure another four years of Deval Patrick? Ohio’s willing to hope that Ted Strickland does better in a second term?
Americans are clearly dissatisfied with where they are, and a chunk blame the (mostly Democrat) incumbent governing class. But not quite enough of them are ready to see the 1994-on-steroids scenarios some have discussed. Of course, there’s five months to go. But I think the wilder visions of GOP gains aren’t in the cards yet.
Looking at polls in individual races, Michael Barone is more optimistic about Republican prospects:
Back in 1994, I wrote a column for U.S. News arguing that Republicans had a serious chance to capture a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The article appeared on the newsstands on July 11, and was the first article I’m aware of that suggested that Democrats might lose the majority they had held for 40 years. My argument was based on a number of polls showing Democratic incumbents trailing Republican challengers. Usually House incumbents don’t trail challengers in polls at any point in the campaign, because they almost always start off better known. For an incumbent to trail in a poll is a sign of serious danger.
Such signs abound for Democrats these days.
Read the whole thing where he details some of those polls.
While I’m not yet convinced 2010 will be a banner year for the GOP, the one thing which does brighten my prospects is those polls. In my (adopted) home state where the Democratic presidential nominee won over 60% of the vote fewer than two years ago, the apparent Democratic nominee for the Senate (AKA incumbent Barbara Boxer) consistently polls under 50%, running only 3 points ahead of her most likely Republican opponent, a novice candidate, in the latest survey.
Other surveys have shown Republicans enjoying a significant advantage in enthusiasm. And Democratic claims not withstanding, Americans still oppose the Administration’s signature legislative initiative once they, to paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, have found out what’s in it. Indeed, far more people strongly oppose Obamacare than those who strongly support it. And those most passionate about the issue are the folks most likely to vote on the issue.
I still think Republicans are poised to make large gains, but they’re not yet in the bag.