Gallup has new post-election numbers about how Americans view the two major parties. There are no surprises here:
According to Gallup’s first post-election poll, conducted Nov. 8-10, less than half of Americans view Democrats favorably or believe that the Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate would move the country in the right direction. More Americans are now dissatisfied with the Democrats’ political ideology than agree with it, and less than one-third say the party has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems. On the important issue of terrorism, a majority of Americans believe the Democrats are not tough enough.
This kind of shift is to be expected. And, for the Democrats, it’s probably not a bad thing. The mid-term losses were not as awful as many commentators–left or right–have portrayed. The constant chatter about “devastating” losses and a party in “decline” do nothing more than set the Republicans up for a fall–unless they perform well and moderately. Lack of performance, or an extreme shift to the right, will change the political tide. How the Republicans talk about their expectations, and how they characterize their successes, will largely determine how this poll will change a year from now as we gear up for the presidential primaries. Gallup reminds us of a possible future:
Still, it is quite possible that some of the current contrast between the Republicans and Democrats could be short- lived if public opinion follows the pattern observed after 1994. Immediately after the 1994 midterm elections (in which the Republicans took control of the U.S. House for the first time in decades), Gallup recorded a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans, and found large numbers expressing support for Republican leadership and ideology. By November of the following year, the Republican advantage in these areas had fallen considerably.
If I were advising a Republican, I would suggest moderation in expectations and speech. Demonstrate quiet confidence and steady initiative. If I were advising a Democrat, I would suggest acting more like John Edwards and less like Richard Gephardt.