For a few weeks now, public polls have shown the gap narrowing between the GOP and the Democrats on the critical question of which party the American people like to see control Congress after the next election.
Having led consistently for most of the year, sometimes by as much as double digits, GOP consultants pronounce themselves largely unconcerned. The new polls, they say, are a measure of the views of all adults, not likely voters. As such, they believe, the pollsters conducting those surveys probably oversampled Democrats and soft Republicans by so much as to account for the shift.
They might want to consider revising their analysis. Yes, President Joe Biden’s job approval is below 40 percent. Yes, he’s underwater in 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Yes, the Republican Party is showing surprising strength on issues that have been difficult for it in the past. One recent survey showed the GOP leading the Democrats by 4 points among voters asked which party was better equipped on the issue of education.
None of that may matter. The surfeit of economic bad news may not be enough to allow the GOP to seize control of Congress without having to fight for it. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll of 2,500 likely voters conducted from the end of July through the beginning of August showed the GOP lead on the generic ballot test had been cut to three points.
The firm, while reputable, has a reputation – rightly or not – for producing results that skew to the right. Therefore, its pronouncement that “If the elections for Congress were held today, 46% of Likely U.S. Voters would vote for the Republican candidate, while 43% would vote for the Democrat” with a plus/minus 2 percent margin of error should have the Republican consultant class rewriting its strategy for the summer and fall.
The generic ballot test does not predict outcomes, but it is a good gauge of how the electorate is trending. On Election Day in 1994, the GOP – which was about to make its biggest single election gains in the U.S. House in nearly 70 years – lagged the Democrats by a few points. What should have conservatives worried is not the margin, but the trend – which suggests that intensity among Democrats in the electorate is rising to a point that it is close to matching that of the Republicans.
One would think, and we’re still waiting for the poll to be released, that the successful package of a multi-trillion-dollar spending bill that includes tax hikes, tax breaks for people buying luxury cars and enough money for the IRS that is can more than double the number of auditors in its employ would drive support for the Democrats down.
It still might but something has happened to energize a demoralize left who’s seen its political aspirations dashed on the rocks by the Biden administration’s ineptitude. What it may be is the general inability, perhaps even unwillingness of national Republican leaders to articulate what the party’s next moves will be following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs, which turned the authority for regulating abortion back to the states. According to Rasmussen Reports, “The so-called ‘gender gap’” has widened in the latest findings, with men (50%) now eight points more likely than women voters (42%) to prefer Republican congressional candidates. The gap was six points last week.”
That’s easy to explain given the amount of time the supporters of abortion rights have spent mischaracterizing the Dobbs decision, especially to younger and suburban women likely to vote in the next election. Telling them the court’s ruling will lead to a ban on abortions everywhere, even when an unplanned pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, is a powerful motivator despite it not being true.
“In response to this, Republican leadership has come up with their own brilliant strategy to counter the left’s argument. They plan to say absolutely nothing. Instead, when cornered, federal Republicans will vaguely gesture towards the state legislatures and then reflexively pivot to a diatribe about gas prices and inflation,” Frank Cannon, the founding president of American Principles Project recently wrote in The American Conservative.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So does politics. The failure to craft a response to Dobbs is creating the perfect storm for abortion rights supporters to gain the upper hand and keep it. The Rasmussen Reports analysis says what remains of the GOP’s lead “is mainly due to greater partisan intensity.”
According to the poll, “87 percent of Republican voters say they would vote for their own party’s congressional candidate, while 82% of Democrats would vote for the Democratic candidate. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 39% would vote Republican and 36% would vote Democrat, while 8% would vote for some other candidate and 18% are undecided.”
Playing into the scenario in which the failure to come up with any vision of what life in America will be like after Dobbs, “Voters under 40 favor Democrats by a 13-point margin, 49% to 36%, but 50% of voters 40 and older would vote Republican if the election were held today.” Younger voters are already primed to vote against GOP interests but need a reason. The GOP’s silence in response to a barrage of misinformation may be enough.
The survey of 2,500 U.S. Likely Voters was conducted on July 31-August 4, 2022, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/-2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.