After a brutal August recess, there’s more bad news for Congress today from the Pew Research Center, who finds Congress’ favorability rating at 37%, which is the worst it’s had in 24 years. In addition, Democrats are clinging to a 1% margin of people who would vote for them over a Republican in generic balloting, compared to a 12-point advantage four years ago.
It’s not all suns and peach trees for the GOP, though. Though the Democrats have had their lead dramatically lessened, they’re still better trusted to handle the economy and health care reform, and viewed as caring more for people and as more honest and ethical. With characters like Charlie Rangel, John Murtha, Timothy Geithner, and a whole host of others, it’s tough to see how much longer that last perception will last. It is interesting to note that the poll respondents’ faith in the Democrats to handle the budget deficit has fallen by 19 points since September 2006, and that they have only a 4-point advantage in the party that can better manage government.
Though you get a general sense of the feeling of the voting populace, it’s hard to take anything concrete away from Congressional favorability polls and generic ballot match-ups. It’s usually the case that voters hate Congress but love their Congressmen, but clearly the Democrats have taken major hits, which spells trouble for Democrats in borderline districts.
It’s clear that the GOP has to do a better job of getting its message across. Throughout the entire August recess, Republicans have essentially relied on the common citizenry to make their point at town halls, with the occasional isolated comment on health care from the few Representatives and Senators who make time to do so. There’s been no concerted push from the RNC on health care, which make the drop in approval that much more amazing and more illustrative that opposition to the current health care bill is clearly more organic than astroturfed.
As tempting as it might be, Republicans can’t simply stand back and watch the Democrats implode. They need to do a better job at highlighting their own health care bill, HR 2520, and at articulating a unified agenda of positive action items. Attacking the myriad deficiencies of the Democratic agenda may be cathartic and satisfying, but it’s not enough to win back the trust of the electorate. Michael Steele, you can’t afford to be out to lunch on this one. Get on it, and get it right.