Saturday, May 15, 2010

Democrats Staunch the Flow

The public, especially independents, increasingly believes Mr. Obama's policies threaten America's economic future. . . this [could be] a memorable, perhaps even epic, election for the GOP. Obama Democrats should beware.

--Karl Rove

Asking in the Wall Street Journal “How Badly will the Democrats Do?” this November, Republican guru Karl Rove starts out with two metrics—Obama’s job approval, and voter preference for Republicans over Democrats to run Congress. “RealClearPolitics”, the political junkie website, charts these two poll averages every day. Politicos watch these two averages the way stock brokers follow the Dow, the S&P 500, and Nasdaq.

Rove tries to make a case for the numbers continuing to run against Democrats. The reality (see chart) is different. The president’s job approval fell to a 48.6% average last December 13, as his health care bill, with its “Louisiana Purchase,” its “Florida Gatoraide,” and its Nebraska “Cornhusker Kickback” cleared the Senate. Since then, Obama's job approval numbers have remained fairly flat, i.e., they stopped getting worse.

The latest generic congressional vote trend is even more favorable to Democrats. The congressional vote average was +2.4% Republican in mid-December to the end of January. Now it’s down to just +0.2%, a virtual tie. Nobody’s really talking about it, but over the past five months, Democrats have stopped their blood letting; a possible big deal.

What’s going on? While the economy hasn’t turned into a positive, it’s no longer generating the uniformly negative headlines that helped drive Democrats’ numbers downward. But I think the biggest factor in stabilizing Democratic (un)popularity is Democrats' passage of health care. Two reasons:

1) Before passage, some Democrats were registering their unhappiness with the Democratic leadership for failing to pass health care by rejecting Obama and congressional Democrats. Now they are happier, and helping shore up the Democrats’ numbers.

2) The plodding heath care crawl through Congress was a negative for Democrats every day it hit the headlines. Just the absence of that sad story, even though little positive has replaced it, is enough to halt Democrats’ sliding numbers.

The November outlook for Democrats is still bad. But contrary to what Rove suggests, it’s no longer getting worse.

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