Here’s more evidence that independents will be the voting bloc to watch ahead of next year’s 2010 midterms: for the first time in seven years—and more important, this election cycle—a new Gallup poll finds Republicans narrowly leading Democrats in the so-called generic congressional ballot. According to Gallup, if the election were held today, 48 percent of registered voters would choose the GOP candidate, compared with 44 percent who would vote Dem. That’s an eight-point gain for Republicans over the last year. Just a month ago, the GOP trailed Democrats 44 percent to 46 percent. The reason for the slight GOP edge: Republicans now have a 22-point lead over Democrats among so-called independent voters. According to Gallup, indies favor Republicans 52 percent to 30 percent—numbers that were literally reversed a year ago. It’s a trend that hasn’t exactly been gradual: In July, Republicans led Dems by 1 percent among independents. Last month, there was a nine-point difference in favor of Republicans. Now, a month later, the GOP’s advantage has doubled. All of this comes a week after a surge of independents helped Republicans clinch governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey.
Last week, I wrote about the GOP’s hope that 2010 would be a repeat of 1994, when the party surged among voters and regained control of Congress. As I noted, there are many differences—not least the GOP’s baggage among voters. Their approval rating is just as low, if not lower, than Democrats' in Congress. Yet this poll would seem to bolster the GOP’s argument that 2010 won’t be about Republicans as much as it will be a referendum on President Obama. What your Gaggler would like to see is a poll showing exactly what is prompting independents to move toward the GOP. No doubt, the economy is a big issue. But are they also worried about the scope of the Democrats’ health-care plan? Is it spending? Whatever it is, here’s the big worry for Obama and Democratic leadership in Congress: polls like this are bound to make Dems who were already jittery about 2010 even more nervous and perhaps less likely to sign on to Obama’s ambitious legislative agenda. That's bad news as Obama pushes to get health care finished before the end of the year. While the House passed health care over the weekend and the Senate, if Harry Reid gets his way, will take up its version soon, the tricky part comes when the two bills will be merged. Polls showing Republicans gaining traction—even if it is slight overall—is sure to make Obama's job at keeping his party united even more difficult.