Friday, September 12, 2008

Changing election dynamics in race for Congress -- Will Republicans regain control of US House? Gallup says it's a possibility.

Going into this election, the conventional wisdom held it would be a wipe out for conservatives. Bush's unpopularity, a war, and a struggling economy all pointed to liberals picking up the White House and expanding majorities in Congress.

But things have begun to change in the last few weeks. Sarah Palin's pick as McCain's VP pick has energized conservatives. The inherent weaknesses of Obama, e.g. style over substance, lack of experience and extreme liberalness. Aggressive campaigning by a 72 year old man who makes his much younger, liberal opponent look indecisive and uncertain. All of these things have changed the dynamics of the presidential race.

Now the dynamics are changing in the race for control of Congress. Congress' approval numbers are in the tank. Over 4o percent worse than George Bush's. A liberal controlled Congress has very little to show after 2 years of majority control. In voter preference for Congress, Democrats have held double digit leads over Republicans over the past two years.
According to a Gallup poll, in February of 2008, they held a 15 point lead over Republicans among registered voters . Today it's down to 3 points. Among likely voters, Republicans actually have a lead of 5 points.

If this trend holds up, analysis from the Gallup polling people say Republicans will regain control of Congress.

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.

As Gallup's long-term "generic ballot" trend shows, the Democrats held a sizable lead on this measure from the time they won back control of Congress in the fall of 2006 through last month. If the current closer positioning of the parties holds, the structure of congressional preferences will be similar to most of the period from 1994 through 2005, when Republicans won and maintained control of Congress.

This would be a remarkable, stunning turn of events if it holds up. Of course, there is a long time between now and Election Day. I think things will remain very fluid between now and November 4th. There's no guarantee this generic numbers will hold up for conservatives. The timing of the most recent polling was right after the Republican convention so they could be viewed in part as a convention bounce. But the trend over the past couple months has been towards narrowing the gap. This is shaping up to be a very interesting, unpredictable election year.

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