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Poll Watch - Hope for the Dems?
Both the Real Clear Politics Congressional Generic average and the new Gallup track show similar national trend lines - Dems gaining ground, GOP dropping. Similarly, the Gallup track has Obama's approval rating improving by 10 net percentage points in the past month, from 42/51 to 47/46 (RCP has shown movement despite 2 clear outlier Rasmussen and AP polls).
If these trend lines are true, no one should be suprised. The underlining favorability of the Republican Party is still far below that of the Dems and Obama. This election has never been like 1994 where at this point there had been both a fall of the Dems and a rise in the GOP. The memory of the disasterous GOP reign in the last decade is still too fresh, their leaders still to unreformed, their candidates far too wacky, and their ideas still to reckless for the current GOP to have fully taken advantage of the Democratic underpeformance this past cycle. This election, like all elections, is not like any other election. It has its own contours, its own set of dynamics. Like all elections it is sui generis.
As NDN has been arguing for most of 2010, the real questions in the election were 1) could the Democrats get their huge base to come home and vote 2) could the Dems do a better job at engaging on the main issue of the election, the economy, and better define the GOP as a reckless party? The late movement in this election, despite the truly silly "baked in the cake" arguments we've heard on TV of late, was always likely to be towards the Democrats. This current Congress had done too much right for the summer perceptions of Democratic performance to continue to be as bad as it was. And the underlying strength of the Democratic and Obama brands were just too great for their standing not to improve with some focused recalibration, which has happened now. We dont really now exactly why these things have happened, but I for one believe its because the President has begun to make the choice on the economy much more clear.
Remember that in the last two elections, the Democrats garnered 52 and 53 percent of the national vote. The last time they received such numbers two elections in a row was in the 1930s, meaning that for those covering politics there had not been an environment so Democratic since prior to Reagan's rehabilitation of the GOP, and maybe even all the way back to the 1960s or 1930s. The Democrats started this cycle in a position where if got those who already voted from them in the last two elections to vote for them again they could win a smashing 1934 like victory, bucking historical mid-term trends of parties in historically weaker shape than the 2010 Democrats.
I hope given these polls that the comparisons to 1994 will come to an end. For the GOP this polls should be very worrying. They are now dropping as a national political party 6 weeks before an election. They have no argument where they want to take the country. They have unattractive leaders and far too many fringe candidates. Led by a re-energized President, the Democrats have begun to find their voice, and their numbers are improving.
Underneath all the noise the political terrain of 2010 is changing, and so far this new terrain is far more favorable to the Dems than the Rs. My sense is that Democrats have reclaimed ground they never should have lost in the first place. The real question now is what happens next, how does this election close? If I were a Republican I would not like the charts on Gallup and RCP showing sharp downward movement this close to an election, as they have very few tools now to reverse what could be a significant drop in their standing. For Democrats there is muted but renewed hope.
Update - A new poll by John Zogby released today shows similar movement in both Obama's approval and the Congressional generic. More evidence that these trends are real.