Scott Rasmussen, the best political pollster in the country in my opinion, had a stunner yesterday in his latest generic Congressional ballot: the Republicans have a nine point lead, 44% to 35%.
The latest generic ballot numbers highlight a remarkable change in the political environment during 2009. When President Obama was inaugurated, the Democrats enjoyed a seven-point advantage on the Generic Ballot. That means the GOP has made a net gain of 16 percentage points over the course of the year. Support for Democrats has declined eight points since Obama’s inauguration while Republican support is up nine points.
The Republican gains began in February when Republicans in the House unanimously opposed the $787-billion economic stimulus plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats. At that time, Republican gains came almost entirely from the GOP base. Currently, just 30% of voters believe the stimulus plan helped the economy while 38% believe it hurt.
The two parties were very close on the Generic Ballot throughout the spring, but Republicans pulled ahead for good in late June. Those GOP gains took place after the health care debate began and unaffiliated voters began to shift away from the Democrats. Only 40% of voters currently favor the health care plan, while 55% are opposed.
A little historical perspective is needed to understand what this could mean. In 1994 when the Republicans took 54 Democrat seats in the House and took control of the House, they were dead even with the Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot in the last poll done by Gallup just before the November election. It is bad for the Democrats when the Republicans are within a point or two on the generic ballot, since Republicans tend to vote at a higher percentage than Democrats do. A nine point gap, or anything close to nine points, indicates an electoral disaster of truly epic proportions for the Democrats.