This’ll be one of the last major polls taken before the fateful vote so I was hoping for a bombshell. No dice. Voters don’t like O-Care but the numbers (36/48 between good idea/bad idea) are at about the same levels that they’ve been at all along. What the public hates is Congress — approval is 17/77, the lowest in two years, and 50 percent said they’d be happy if every single member was replaced in November.

Even so, the talking point tomorrow will be the enthusiasm gap. Behold:

The survey found a 21-point enthusiasm gap between the parties — with 67% of Republicans saying they are very interested in the November elections, compared to just 46% of Democrats.

“If the Democrats are going to close that gap, they’ve got to get their people excited. And I don’t see how you get those people if you vote no” on the party’s health legislation, said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff…

The Journal/NBC survey shows that the majority of African-Americans and majority of liberal Democrats, as well as a plurality of Latinos, would be less likely to vote for their representative in Congress if he or she voted against the health-care plan.

This has always been the left’s chief argument to wavering Democrats to vote for the bill, but I’ve never understood it. I understand the perfectly logical fear that enthusiasm will drop among the base if they fail to pass something, but why enthusiasm should soar if they do pass something eludes me. If we elect a Republican Congress and they cut my taxes, that’s great; I’ll happily vote GOP again, but I’m in no rush to get to the polls to do it. They’ve done what I’ve asked them to do and now I’m complacent. If we elect a Democratic Congress and they raise my taxes, I’m eager to get to the polls; and if they raise them a second time, I’m practically ready to sleep on the sidewalk outside the polling place on election eve. Which is to say, stopping the opposing party from doing you more harm is usually a greater motivator than keeping your own party in power. It may be that Democrats will see, say, an eight-point spike in enthusiasm among their base if they pass this thing, but I have yet to hear why Republicans won’t see a 10-point spike in their own base as a result — especially if the Slaughter strategy is used. That is to say, enthusiasm doesn’t matter, the gap in enthusiasm does. Why should I believe that passing this lackluster bill, which plenty of liberals dislike, is going to close the gap? (An added factor: The split between those who prefer one party to control the White House and Congress and those who prefer divided government is now 30/61. In October 1994, one month before the Republican tidal wave, it was 36/55.)

More importantly, why should I believe that it’s going to close the gap in swing districts, which are the only ones that really matter? This data, while interesting, is almost useless:

repvote

In other words, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t if you happen to be a House Democrat who represents a nationwide sample of voters. Which … no one does. Do these numbers look the same in reddish districts represented by Blue Dog Democrats? Why, no they don’t. “There is no easy place right now in the health care debate,” says McInturff of the results, which is true — but for centrist Dems, it’s a bit easier than he’s making it sound.

Obama’s approval on health-care is now a sparkling 41/57, almost but not quite as dismal as the GOP’s 35/59. Can he go any lower? Maybe:

recon

Some of his bad HCR numbers may be bleeding over from the Democratic decline across the board. The GOP is now equally trusted with the Dems on handling the economy(!), and they currently enjoy a six-point advantage on handling the deficit — a 28-point swing in just two years. Kudos to liberals for taking the opportunity Bush handed them to recast themselves as the party of comparative fiscal responsibility and tossing it straight into the toilet. That’s some feat.

Exit question: Remember what I said yesterday about how the GOP should announce that health care will be their second priority next year if the Blue Dogs do the right thing and kill O-Care now? What do you think of this?

hcrsoon