The evidence that the Republican Party is in a public opinion freefall is getting so thick you can't stir it with a stick. The USA Today/Gallup poll, which had the two parties tied in the generic ballot as recently as September 17, now shows Dems with a staggering 23 point advantage (59-36). According to the poll analysis:
Government corruption, Iraq and terrorism were the three most important issues to poll respondents. They said Democrats would do a better job on all three. The party had a 21-point advantage on handling corruption and a 17-point advantage on Iraq. A longstanding GOP advantage on terrorism vanished; Democrats had a 5-point edge.
A new WaPo/ABC poll didn't have quite that dramatic a gap in the generic ballot (Dems lead 54-41), but showed the same sort of broad trends:
When asked which party they trust to handle various issues, Democrats lead on every subject, with margins ranging from 33 percentage points on health care, 19 points for ethics, 17 points for the economy, 13 points each for Iraq and immigration.
Even on terrorism, which Republicans hoped to turn into a powerful issue this fall, Democrats are trusted by six percentage points, reversing an seven-point deficit in the September poll.
Obviously, national polls can't be translated into a partisan advantage in midterm elections fought in specific states and districts, but there, too, there's big movement. As TPMCafe's Election Central site has reported, the two most respected nonpartisan analysts, Cook Political Report and CQPolitics, have both published new ratings over the last few days showing a major shift of House and/or Senate races in the direction of Democrats.
The most exciting news for Democrats is that control of the Senate is no longer a long shot, though it is still a reach. Of the eight toss-up races (according to Cook's Jennifer Duffy), seven are in Republican-held seats. If Bob Menendez can hold onto New Jersey, Dems would need five of the seven to retake the Senate, and they've held consistent recent leads in four of them (RI, PA, OH and MT). Put some national wind behind the Donkey's back, and it starts looking very doable.
While the Foley scandal has obviously contributed to the GOP free fall, the broad-based antipathy to the governing party evident in every poll indicates that this is just a clincher for many voters; I doubt the GOP is going to spring back absent some positive development in its favor. In fact, as Bush's sagging approval ratings (dropping back into the 30s in all the big national polls) indicate, it's the September numbers, fed by the GOP Terror Offensive, that look like outliers today.
It ain't over til it's over, but given the GOP's record, it's a bit hard to see where they're going to find a net, much less a trampoline, between now and election day. Expect some serious nastiness as Republicans begin to panic.
UPDATE: Two other national polls just out, showing the same trends as those noted above. CNN's poll has Bush's approval rating at 39, and Dems lead the generic balloting by 54-38 among registered voters. And the NYTimes/CBS poll has Bush at 34, and Dems leading in the generic ballot 49-35. The latter poll has one question that's particularly interesting given GOP efforts to "remind" voters that a Democratic Congress will allegedly tax and spend them into oblivion: "Which party will make the right decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money?" The answer: Dems 52, Republicans 29. --