I think we can safely say that the war on Rasmussen is over, and the Democrats lost.  That bastion of conservative thought — NPR — polled 800 likely voters and found that the Republicans had taken a solid five-point lead on the generic Congressional ballot.  And that was actually the good news for Democrats (emphasis mine):

The president has said he’ll talk about economic growth — the top priority for voters, according to a new survey conducted by Republican Glen Bolger and Democrat Stan Greenberg. The poll of 800 likely voters also finds that opinion has soured on Obama’s No. 1 legislative priority this year: an overhaul of the country’s health care system.

The poll holds plenty of danger signs for the Democrats. In one indicator studied closely by both parties ahead of midterm elections, likely voters chose an unnamed Republican candidate by 5 percentage points over the Democrat on a hypothetical congressional ballot.

And, Bolger points out, that edge is more pronounced among people whose interest in the midterms is high.

“So while it’s a 5-point lead overall, among the most interested voters, that lead doubles,” Bolger says. “And we saw that take effect in Virginia; we saw it took effect in [the] New Jersey gubernatorial race; and we saw it take effect in the Massachusetts Senate race as well.”

In other words, the upside for Democrats is to tamp down voter enthusiasm in order to get back to … a five-point deficit.  If anyone wants to know how the Democrats lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts, that’s all they need to know.

Unfortunately for them, they have stoked voter enthusiasm by pushing a bill for seven months that even NPR now shows as wildly unpopular, 39/55. Only 13% of the voters polled put health care as a top priority anyway, with 46% — more than three times as many — citing the economy and unemployment as their first concern.  Voters watched and waited for months for Congress to address the real emergency in the economy and instead saw Democrats attempting to ride one of their hoary hobby horses across a finish line no one wanted.

How did Obama do in the poll?  He’s barely above water on job approval, 49/48, corroborating other pollsters’ results.  Voters are still blaming Bush for the economy, and a slight majority (50/46) think Obama is pursuing the “right changes” for the country.  However, almost a majority (49%) believe Obama has made “no progress” on the nation’s problems, compared to 29% who give him credit for “minor progress.”  Only 20% believe he’s made the kind of “major progress” Obama is likely to claim tonight in his State of the Union speech.

If Obama got elected on a cloud of irrational exuberance, America has woken up with a massive hangover.  Obama may turn on the charm tonight, but he’s been constantly talking since taking office, and people are beginning to see through him.  Even an expert SOTU address won’t change that. (via Geoff A)