Tuesday, March 17, 2009


OK, I'm being facetious -- but I see warning signs in the latest NPR poll (reported here and here):

In NPR's first survey since the election, a bipartisan team of pollsters -- Republican Glen Bolger and Democrat Stan Greenberg -- found that a lot has changed. Despite a major economic crisis, far fewer voters think the country is on the wrong track: 63 percent, down from 80 percent in the previous NPR national poll.

That means that -- relatively -- people are happier with their leaders in Washington. But when asked whether they'd vote for the Republican or Democratic congressional candidate if the 2010 elections were held today, the result was a tie: 42-42.

"There's concern about the spending plans and other paths that Obama and Democrats in Congress are taking, so I think you're seeing a little bit more move toward a balance," Bolger said. "People still want the president to succeed. He's got a 59 percent approval rating. He has a lot of intensity, particularly from his base. But that doesn't mean that people want one side to have a blank check."

We're at parity in Congressional races? Already? That's not good.

Ah, but -- in addition to the president's high ratings -- this is supposed to be a sign of the Democrats' strength:

Historically, the party that holds the White House and Congress loses seats in midterm elections. But Greenberg points to other findings in the survey, which was conducted March 10-14.

"Everything else in this poll points toward much more dramatic shifts toward the Democrats," he said. "On all of the arguments we've looked at in this survey, on virtually every single question, Democrats enjoy about a 10- to 12-point advantage."

But don't Democrats always enjoy an advantage on the issues? Didn't they enjoy an advantage on the issues (or at least on most domestic issues) for much of the Reagan era and the Poppy Bush era and the Gingrich era and the W era?

And yet Democrats haven't come close to dominating national politics in the past 28 years except for three brief periods: the micro-honeymoon of Bill Clinton, the period of backlash against Monicagate, and the few weeks of the Obama era. Those were the only times Democrats had anyone America saw as Daddy (late-period Clinton was a dirty Daddy who cheated on Mom but took care of business otherwise); at all other moments throughout a period that's lasted nearly three decades, Republicans ruled because they were seen as the Daddy Party.

Don't think that can't happen again. Yes, the would-be leaders of the GOP are a sorry lot these days, but Gingrich and the two Bushes weren't particularly impressive or likable either, and they beat Democrats who should have won in 1988, 1994, and 2000.

Right now, the only thing keeping Democrats in a dominant position is the goodwill Barack Obama inspires. It would be tough to take him down -- but he's really all that's standing between the GOP and its usual dominance. That leads me to believe that this could turn around a lot faster than most people think.

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