Rasmussen has a warning shot across the bow of Republicans who may be feeling smug about the recent lead taken by the GOP in the generic Congressional ballot. Most people presumed that the sudden reversal had more to do with Democrats than Republicans. However, when offered a chance at a third party comprised of Tea Party protesters, Republicans fare worse than the alternative — and Democrats win:
Running under the Tea Party brand may be better in congressional races than being a Republican.
In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.
Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.
Fortunately, there is no such thing as a Tea Party, er, Party, which Rasmussen asked respondents to assume when answering this survey. It would take too long to form such a party, and as the results above show, it would be a self-defeating process, especially in 2010. A split on the Right would produce another Democratic victory at a moment when Congress desperately needs a course correction from its radical, statist path.
The news here is not good at all for Republicans, however. Even registered GOP voters split 39/33 on whether to vote for a generic candidate from their own party. This reflects the damage done to the GOP during 2001-6, when voters thought they were electing small-government, fiscal-restraint politicians, and wound up instead with porkers who spent hand over fist. Democrats don’t have that same kind of problem; they have 71% of their voters locked in to the party, with only 7% favoring the Tea Party brand. Independents, as noted above, are even less enamored of the GOP, favoring the Tea Party 33/12, with 25% going Democrat.
The key in 2010 is to have the GOP represent the Tea Party brand, and the only way to do that is to firmly insist on fiscal restrain and reduction of government as the platform for the election. The Right needs to put aside all of its usual hobby horses and focus on the message from the Tea Party movement. If they need an excuse, call it a moment of national crisis as the Democrats attempt a takeover of the health-care and energy industries. The next election has to be fought on those narrow terms in order to bring the GOP into line with the tea-party momentum and unite against what is clearly a fringe progressive movement to massively expand an already-broke government.
If the Republican Party can do that, these generic numbers will become formidable. If not, expect another cycle of loss and frustration.
Update: Tom Maguire gets the zinger of the day: “Tea baggers on top in a three way.”