The conventional wisdom holds that the parties in Congress are not locked in a zero-sum game where the loss of one triggers the gain of the other. Instead, it appears that the parties are embracing one another in a downward death spiral, losing public favor with each passing month as their bickering continues. But, outside the Beltway, Gallup reports, there is a decided national shift in favor of the Republican Party and against the Democrats.
While both parties have negative images, each showing unfavorables in the mid-50s, there has been a decided shift in voter opinions on which party will do the best job of fixing the economy and of focusing on our major problems.
Gallup has asked which party would do the best job of handling the nation’s leading issue. In 2008, Democrats won this crucial measurement by a whopping 47-30. By 2010, their edge was down to 43-35. Now the Republican Party has taken the lead by seven points: Democrats: 37, Republicans: 44
Asked which party would do the better job of promoting prosperity in the United States, Republicans have again gained the lead. Democrats led in Gallup’s measurement from 2003 to 2009. In 2008, they held a 54-34 lead. By 2010, the parties were tied. Now the Republicans have a lead of nine points — Democrats: 39, Republicans: 48.
There’s a lot swing or independent voters don’t like about each party. They see the Republicans as too beholden to the wealthy and too rigid in their opposition to taxes, abortion and gay marriage. And they see Democrats as too prone to class warfare, reckless big spending and excessive government regulation.
In the more profound indications of party loyalty, Americans remain agnostic. Voter identification with one or the other party still remains about even, and neither party gets much public approval.
But when measured in the real world — as alternatives — the Republican advantage will be telling in 2012.
It is one thing to enter a general election with an unpopular president at the top of the ticket. It is quite another to be an unpopular party — top to bottom.
Obama’s negatives have seeped into the fabric of the Democratic Party. His incompetent handling of the economy, his weakness in getting his policies adopted and his addiction to government spending have all left an indelible stain on the party’s image.
This stain is bound to affect not just President Obama, but all the party’s candidates for Congress and the Senate. Will 2012 be more of a rout than even 2010? The answer is in the Gallup data. In 2010, the parties were about even on the issue of prosperity. Now the Republicans have a lopsided advantage. As bad as the Democratic debacle of 2010 was — a “shellacking,” Obama called it — the data indicate that 2012 may be even worse.
And Obama’s not finished making negatives for his party. The economy is likely to enter yet another recession, and job data look to get worse rather than better. And the Solyndra scandal may be the portent of things to come. As details of influence-peddling and conflicts of interest involved in making the loan emerge, the Obama patronage operation could look more and more like typical Chicago politics. There is also a good chance that more green jobs loans will go bad and that other companies will go belly-up, costing taxpayers even more money.
The weakness of capitalism is greed. The weakness of socialism is corruption. The lure of a stimulus package filled with money and the rush to spend it may have been invitations to self-dealing that were too much for this administration to pass up. It is entirely possible that corruption will emerge as a key issue against Obama in the 2012 election, further besmirching his undeserved image of integrity.