When the GOP lost control of Congress in 2006 it was because the American voter no longer trusted them to lead. Having grown complacent as “the party in power,” they gave every indication they had forgotten why the voters sent them to Washington in the first place.
Pledging to reform the way Congress did its business, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats rode into power on a wave that augured the election of Barack Obama as president just two years later.
Now, says pollster Scott Rasmussen, the shoe is on the other foot. According to data Rasmussen released Thursday, the American electorate now “trust the Republicans more than Democrats on all 10 of the important issues” he regularly tracks.
It’s a stunning reversal of fortune for the GOP, whose demise was readily predicted after the November 2008 election. Moreover, it’s a sign that dramatic, even radical changes are in the offing.
On the economy, which voters continue to identify as the issue most important to them, they trust the Republicans over the Democrats 47 percent to 39 percent, expanding on the lead the GOP has held since May of this year.
For the first time in months, Rasmussen says, the GOP also has “a slight edge”--40 percent to 38 percent--on the issues of ethics and government corruption, likely driven by the scandals surrounding Democratic Reps. Charlie Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California as well as former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Republicans have a big lead--52 percent to 36 percent--on taxes, suggesting that the GOP is achieving success in branding the coming tax changes as “Obama’s tax hikes” while continuing to outperform the Democrats in the voters estimation of which party--by 49 percent to 37 percent--will better handle the war on terror and national security.
Iraq continues to be a close call, with 43 percent of likely voters trusting the GOP against 40 percent who trust the Democrats to handle the issue but they give the Republicans a decided 43 percent to 36 percent edge on Afghanistan.
Republicans are more trusted on immigration--44 percent to 35 percent--and health care--48 percent to 40 percent, with 56 percent of voters continuing to favor repeal of Obamacare.
On education the GOP holds a 41 percent to 40 percent lead which, while statistically insignificant, shows the Republicans have gained considerable ground on what, for Democrats, is historically a signature issue. On Social Security, the last of the 10 issues Rasmussen regularly polls on, voters give the GOP a 44 percent to 38 percent lead.
The GOP still has some work to do, however, in order to close the deal. Despite the predictions of veteran election forecaster Charlie Cook, who in an interview with the Wall Street Journal said it was “more likely than not that the House is going to tip over and go Republican,” Rasmussen finds most voters “unconvinced” that swapping the Democratic majority for one led by the GOP “will make a noticeable difference.”
The task ahead for the Republicans, therefore, is to process what the electorate has been telling them during the congressional primaries--tossing out several longtime incumbent U.S. Senators and opting on enough occasions that it matters to choose the outsider candidate over the alleged “party favorite”--and come up with clear alternatives to President Obama’s vision for America. Not opposition for opposition’s sake but to develop contrasting plans for dealing with the economic mess, with the tax code, with the education system and the other problems America faces--like the public pensions crisis many believe is just over the horizon.
A clear and concise message may allow the GOP to run the table in the fall, leaving them in good position to win all the marbles in November 2012.