Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Washington Post: Morning Fix: A premature celebration for the GOP

Republicans in Washington can barely contain their glee at the turn of President Obama's political fortunes in the first nine months of the year but a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests the GOP still faces serious perception problems in the eyes of the American public.

Less than one in five voters (19 percent) expressed confidence in Republicans' ability to make the right decisions for America's future while a whopping 79 percent lacked that confidence.

Among independent voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008 and congressional Democrats in 2006, the numbers for Republicans on the confidence questions were even more worse. Just 17 percent of independents expressed confidence in Republicans' ability to make the right decision while 83 percent said they did not have that confidence.

(While Obama's numbers on the confidence question weren't amazing -- 49 percent confident/50 percent not confident -- they were far stronger than those for Republicans.)

On the generic ballot question, 51 percent of the sample said they would cast a vote for a Democratic candidate in their congressional district next fall while just 39 percent said they would opt for a GOP candidate. (As late as this summer, Republicans had seemingly narrowed the wide generic ballot lead Democrats enjoyed for much of the last two election cycles.)

These numbers, coming roughly one year before the 2010 midterm elections, show that any celebration on the GOP's behalf is premature as the party has yet to convince most voters that it can be a viable alternative to Democratic control in Washington today.

As former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) told the Post's Dan Balz recently, voters are "more skeptical of Republicans than they were in '93 and '94" when the GOP took back the House majority for the first time in four decades.

The party that was left for dead in January slowly but surely -- thanks to a growing sense of frustration and fear about the growth of government under the Obama administration -- has crawled its way back to relevance.

But, relevance is not all it takes to reclaim the majority mantle in Congress. While Republicans are outgunned by the bully pulpit of President Obama, they need to find ways over the next year (or so) to make sure the American people know what they would do if they were placed in charge after the 2010 election.

In short: Republicans are still a long way from the sort of standing they held with the American people earlier this decade when they controlled the White House, the Senate and the House. That doesn't mean they won't find their way there between now and 2010 -- or, more realistically, 2012 -- but they aren't there yet.

Chris Cillizza of The Fix wrote this article.

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