Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Democrats on Roll since Health Care Reform vote

This year, the GOP has been affixing itself ever more closely to the Tea Party movement, even as that movement’s public appeal weakens. Meanwhile, the position of the Democratic Party has actually strengthened since the passage of health care reform in late March. Democrats have a lead in the generic Congressional ballot for the first time in 2010; the “enthusiasm gap” between Democratic and Republican voters is narrowing; and Obama leads all potential 2012 Republican opponents by about the margin of his 2008 victory.
A mid-April CNN Opinion Research poll ) indicated that favorable evaluations of President Barack Obama continue to hold steady at 57 percent and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have risen in popularity by eight and six percentage points respectively from what they had been about two months previously. By contrast, favorable ratings of Sarah Palin, the Republican perhaps most strongly identified with the Tea Party movement, dropped from 46 percent in December 2009 and 43 percent in January 2010 to 39 percent in April. Her unfavorable evaluations rose by nine points (from 46% to 55%) over the same period. In addition, while positive opinions of the Tea Party movement increased by five points (from 33% to 38%) since January, negative attitudes rose by 10 points (from 26% to 36%).
Also, according to the CNN survey, President Obama holds a clear lead among registered voters over four potential Republican challengers to his 2012 reelection bid—Mitt Romney (53% vs. 45%); Mike Huckabee (54% vs. 45%); Sarah Palin (55% vs. 42%); and, Newt Gingrich (55% vs. 43%). His margin against each Republican actually slightly exceeds his 2008 popular vote lead over John McCain (53% vs. 46%), indicating that in spite of all the turmoil and rancor of the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama retains as strong a position with the electorate as when he won the White House.
But, the president’s reelection campaign is still more than two years away. Of more immediate relevance, the Democratic Party leads among registered voters on the 2010 CNN/Opinion Research generic congressional ballot for the first time this year.

April 9-1150%46%4%1%
March 25-2845%49%4%2%
March 19-2145%48%5%2%
February 12-1545%47%6%2%
January 8-1045%48%6%1%

Even more important, after languishing for months,
the political enthusiasm and intensity of Democratic identifiers and the groups that together comprise the emerging 21st Century Democratic coalition rose sharply in the wake of the enactment of health care and student loan reform legislation.

Likely to vote
March 8-11
Likely to vote
April 5-8
Democratic identifiers40%61%21%
18-29 year olds34%46%12%
Residents of Northeast41%60%19%
Residents of West42%62%20%

In early March, Republican identifiers were far more likely to vote than Democrats (51% vs. 40%). One month later, what had been an 11-percentage point “enthusiasm gap” separating Republican from Democratic identifiers had narrowed to four points (63% vs. 59%). In the most recent Daily Kos poll it widened again to eight points (69% vs. 61%). Still, the increased intensity of Democratic voters coupled with the Democratic Party’s party identification advantage over the Republicans (47% vs. 34% in the NDN survey) puts the Democrats in better position to compete effectively this November than they were just a month ago.
The lesson from this is clear. Like any majority political party, the Democratic Party will be rewarded by those who identify with and vote for it when it governs like the majority party that it is. The next step for congressional Democrats is to adopt financial regulatory reform over the persistent opposition of the GOP leadership and its Tea Party base. By so doing, the Democrats will prove that, “If you use it, you won’t lose it.”

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