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Ron Nehring

GOP Pulls into Lead in Key Test

The fallout from Obamacare continues to take a toll on the President’s party and its candidates according to the latest round of polling released before the Christmas holidays.   The collapse of Democrat support represents a total reversal from the days during and after the October federal government shutdown when Republican support slid dramatically and sentiment about Democrats surged across the board.

A top level number of concern to national strategists is the “generic ballot test,” which gauges general voter sentiment by asking whether someone would support a Republican or Democrat candidate for Congress.  It’s a good barometer because it factors out individual candidate or district characteristics, and thus is a gauge of general sentiment toward each party.

Today, Republicans lead in the generic ballot test, 41% to 38% in the latest Quinnipiac survey.  It is the first time Republicans have led in this critical indicator all year.

Digging deeper, we see Democrats and Republicans are roughly equally loyal to their party, with 87% of self-identified Republicans supporting a Republican in the generic ballot question, and 88% of Democrats doing the same.  The reason for the big tilt toward Republicans: independents now favor the GOP by a serious 13 points.

Less concerned with political philosophy or partisan loyalties, independents appear influenced by what can generally be described as “practicality.”  They want government to meet their general expectations and to work.  Independents expect the federal government to get up and go to work as they do every morning, hence their opposition to shutdowns, regardless of the rationale.  And they expect government to not harm them or make their lives more difficult.  The Obamacare fiasco hits both: the flailing website, like the federal shutdown, is a sign of the government not working as it should, while the premium increases and people having their policies cancelled are seen as needlessly making their lives more difficult.  Independents lean Republican in the generic ballot test by 13 points, 41% to 28%.

There are more signs that the challenges facing Democrats are less about philosophy, the role of government and ideology than they are about basic management of government.

Asked whether the Obama Administration “has been competent in running the government,” 56% of Americans say no.  Among independents, it’s even higher at 60%.  Even 20% of Democrats say the President’s administration has not been competent in its management.

The 2014 election is still 11 months away — plenty of time for things to change.  But will they?  The President and his party show little interest in making any serious changes to Obamacare.  To the contrary, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says House Democrats will “proudly” run on Obamacare.  This claim strains credibility given the number of Democrat Senators who face the voters next year who are breaking with the party line.  Further, there are more negative Obamacare consequences that have not yet kicked in.  What happens when the nation’s volunteer fire departments are thrown into disarray because the Obama Labor Department and the Obama IRS have conflicting rules, with the IRS rules calling *volunteer* firefighters employees if they volunteer more than 30 hours per week?  And if 80 million more Americans have their plans cancelled because their employer-provided plans don’t meet with the Obama Administration’s approval?

Democrats are in a tough spot.

Ron Nehring served as Chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 to 2011.