Until now, that is, inexplicably enough. Fresh from Gallup in Princeton:
The generic Congressional ballot, in which the Democrats held an 11-point advantage (51-40) just a month ago and a 15-point advantage (55-40) in February, has collapsed since the conventions to a statistically insignificant 3-point Democratic advantage (48-45) today.
This measurement, furthermore, is based on a poll of “registered voters,” not the stricter standard of “likely voters.” The looser RV standard tends to skew more Democratic than the LV standard, which tends to reflect the eventual election results more reliably. Indeed, when you scroll down the post at Gallup.com, the LV numbers are provided: among LVs, the GOP has taken the lead by five points, 50-45.
Gallup goes on to comment:
If these numbers are sustained through Election Day — a big if — Republicans could be expected to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Well, no, that’s not a big if, that’s a gi-freakin’-normous if.
Gallup is right that these numbers reflect the prevailing trends during the period of 1994 and 2005 when the GOP did control both houses of Congress. However, at just about any given point during that time they also enjoyed the benefits of a seriously damaged Democratic brand, and later, of enhanced national unity and credibility on national security due to successful wars against terrorist states (at some points, of both simultaneously). This year, it’s the Republicans who are fighting to rehabilitate their junked party image, and while the Iraq War isn’t the ballot-box poison it was two years ago, I still can’t imagine anyone actually running on it.
That said, the fact that this race is competitive at all, considering the gale-force wind at Barack Obama’s back which no doubt is (or at least should be) lending some lift to down-ticket candidates in his row as well, is enough to render me gobsmacked.