Two recent polls show the GOP catching up with Democrats in terms of party identification. More importantly, Republicans have taken a sizable lead among independents as the party of choice:
In the new National Public Radio poll conducted by the Democratic polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and its Republican counterpart, Public Opinion Strategies, 42 percent of the 800 likely voters surveyed March 10 to 14 said that if the next congressional election were held today they would vote for the Republican candidate; an identical percentage of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic one. For several years, Democrats held a substantial lead on this question.
Democrats still outnumbered Republicans in terms of party identification in this poll by 6 points, 45 percent to 39 percent. Democrats also favored their own party's congressional candidates 83 percent to 7 percent. But voters who call themselves independents gave GOP candidates the edge by 14 points, 38 percent to 24 percent. And self-identified Republicans supported their own party's candidates 85 percent to 3 percent.
Republican pollster Glen Bolger, who worked on the survey for Public Opinion Strategies, says that this is the first time since 2004 that he has seen independents favoring Republicans on the generic ballot test. Although he concedes that poll participants agreed -- by margins of 6 to 11 points -- with Democrats more than Republicans on each of the issues tested, he contends that the generic question's results are "evidence that voters, particularly independents, are worried that they overcorrected in the 2006/2008 elections combined, and now have more of a liberal slant to government than they want. They want change but with checks and balances."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Republicans - nor should there be. The GOP has done little to earn back the support of independents. The reaction is to Obama's far left policies and the tremendous worry people are experiencing as a result of the president's spending plans.
Is it enough that Republicans are simply there, waiting in the wings, for the Democrats to continue to stumblebum their way to economic catastrophe? Perhaps in 2010, that might be true. But if the GOP is going to regain its former luster, they are going to have to come up with solid plans on what they would do if they are voted back into power.
It will be very difficult to realize the dream of a return of Republicans to majority status. Incumbency has a huge edge and the Democrats hold a sizable majority in both the House and Senate. But if Obama continues to screw up, it is just possible to foresee the GOP in a position by 2012 or more likely, 2014, to regain majority status.