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January 21, 2008

Republicans Closing The Congressional Gap

After a disastrous 2006 election, Republicans lost control of Congress for the first time in twelve years. After a disastrous 2007 session, Democrats may have given Republicans a window of opportunity to take it back. Rasmussen reports that the GOP has closed the gap on the generic Congressional ballot question to five points, their best showing since November 2006:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that, if the Congressional Election were held today, 43% of American voters say they would vote for the Democrat in their district and 38% would opt for the Republican (see crosstabs). That’s the closest Republicans have been on this measure since losing control of Congress in Election 2006. It’s also the first time in six months that the Democrat’s advantage has been in single digits. A month ago, the Democrats enjoyed a ten-point edge over the GOP.

Democrats lead by eleven among women while Republicans lead by three among men. A separate survey found that voters have fairly low expectations for Congress during this election year.

It remains to be seen whether this survey reflects lasting change or is merely a statistical aberration. However, it is worth noting that Republicans have also recently reduced the gap in partisan identification. This may be partly due to increased confidence in the War on Terror and the situation in Iraq.

One of the more worrying indicators for Democrats comes from the behavior of independents. Unaffiliated voters gave Democrats a 20-point edge in December. Now that number has fallen to six points, a dramatic shift in a demographic that the Republicans desperately need to recapture.

Democrats tried to sell 2007 as a winning year at the end of the first session, but this shows that no one bought it. They failed to budge the White House on the war, and they spent so much time on fruitless investigations that they failed to push the rest of their agenda. Their leadership now faces the daunting task of pushing an agenda during a presidential election cycle, a near-impossibility even under the best of circumstances with the most talented of leadership.

Under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, it will turn from tragedy to farce, and in fairly short order.

Republicans appear to have picked up momentum, but it's largely based on recognition that the Democrats turned out worse than previous voter analysis of Republicans. If the GOP wants to give voters a real reason to continue flocking back to the Republican banner, they need to demonstrate their seriousness about ending corruption and pork-barrel politics and their commitment to limited government. Appointing Jeff Flake to Appropriations would be a good start, and an executive order defunding the airdropped earmarks in the latest omnibus spending bill would amplify that good start.


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