In the first week of January 2010, Rasmussen Reports showed Republicans with a nine-point lead on the generic congressional ballot. Scott Brown delivered a stunning upset in the Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election a couple of weeks later.
In the last week of October 2010, Rasmussen Reports again showed Republicans with a nine-point lead on the generic ballot. And tomorrow Republicans will send more Republicans to Congress than at any time in the past 80 years.
This isn’t a wave, it’s a tidal shift—and we’ve seen it coming for a long time. Remarkably, there have been plenty of warning signs over the past two years, but Democratic leaders ignored them. At least the captain of the Titanic tried to miss the iceberg. Congressional Democrats aimed right for it.
While most voters now believe that cutting government spending is good for the economy, congressional Democrats have convinced them that they want to increase government spending. After the president proposed a $50 billion infrastructure plan in September, for example, Rasmussen Reports polling found that 61% of voters believed cutting spending would create more jobs than the president’s plan.
Central to the Democrats’ electoral woes was the debate on health-care reform. From the moment in May 2009 when the Congressional Budget Office announced that the president’s plan would cost a trillion dollars, most voters opposed it. Today 53% want to repeal it. Opposition was always more intense than support, and opposition was especially high among senior citizens, who vote in high numbers in midterm elections.
Rather than acknowledging the public concern by passing a smaller and more popular plan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama insisted on passing the proposed legislation by any means possible.
As a result, Democrats face massive losses in tomorrow’s midterm election. Based upon our generic ballot polling and an analysis of individual races, we project that Nancy Pelosi’s party will likely lose 55 or more seats in the House, putting the GOP firmly in the majority. Republicans will also win at least 25 of the 37 Senate elections. While the most likely outcome is that Republicans end up with 48 or 49 Senate seats, Democrats will need to win close races in West Virginia, Washington and California to protect their majority.
There will also be a lot more Republican governors in office come January. It looks like six heartland states stretching from Pennsylvania to Iowa will trade a Democratic governor for a Republican one. A common theme in all the races is that white, working-class Democrats who tended to vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008 are prepared to vote for Republicans.
But none of this means that Republicans are winning. The reality is that voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.
This is the continuation of a trend that began nearly 20 years ago. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president and his party had control of Congress. Before he left office, his party lost control. Then, in 2000, George W. Bush came to power, and his party controlled Congress. But like Mr. Clinton before him, Mr. Bush saw his party lose control.
That’s never happened before in back-to-back administrations. The Obama administration appears poised to make it three in a row. This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties.
More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that’s lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.
Voters today want hope and change every bit as much as in 2008. But most have come to recognize that if we have to rely on politicians for the change, there is no hope. At the same time, Americans instinctively understand that if we can unleash the collective wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.
In this environment, it would be wise for all Republicans to remember that their team didn’t win, the other team lost. Heading into 2012, voters will remain ready to vote against the party in power unless they are given a reason not to do so.
Elected politicians also should leave their ideological baggage behind because voters don’t want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves.
Mr. Rasmussen is president of Rasmussen Reports and co-author of “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System” (HarperCollins, 2010).