It wasn’t that long ago that being within 5 points of Democrats on the Congressional ballot was considered a competitive position for Republicans. Now, Rasmussen reports that the GOP has opened a double-digit lead over the majority party for the first time in the pollster’s weekly survey.  If anything, the internals are even more discouraging for Democrats than the top line:

Republican candidates have now stretched their lead over Democrats to 10 points in the Generic Congressional Ballot, their biggest lead ever in nearly three years of weekly tracking. The GOP has been leading on the ballot for months.

The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 45% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 35% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Voter support for GOP congressional candidates increased slightly from last week, while support for Democrats fell two points.

Republicans started 2010 ahead by nine points, while support for Democrats fell to its lowest level over the same period. Towards the end of 2009, GOP candidates enjoyed a more modest lead over Democrats, with the gap between the two down to four points in early December. Since the beginning of the year, however, the Republican lead hasn’t dipped below seven points.

It isn’t all good news for the GOP.  Rasmussen also surveys the impact of a generic Tea Party candidate on the Congressional ballot, and it gives Democrats a 34/27 edge over Republicans, with 21% going to the Tea Party.  That should be a lesson to Republicans on the need to embrace the Tea Party rather than run from it.  Note that Democrats barely lose any votes at all in that split.

Otherwise, though, the news is all bad for Democrats.  The internals show that Democrats have lost women in this election cycle, with a 43/38 split in favor of the GOP.  Every age group except the youngest voters have pluralities or majorities supporting Republicans, and the 18-29YO voters split 44/40 for Democrats, almost within the margin of error.  Independents go almost 2-1 for Republicans, 41/22, a remarkably poor showing for the majority party among unaffiliated voters.

How did the Democrats stumble so badly?  The same survey shows that 43% of respondents pick economic issues as their most important issue, with another 16% choosing fiscal issues.  Instead of responding to that obvious trend, the Democrats have spent almost a year on health-care reform, apparently pandering to the 17% that chose “domestic issues” as their highest priority.  Two-thirds of the country believe that the country is on the wrong track, a problem that lands directly on the Democrats’ shoulders as they control all of the elective branches of government.  That two-thirds split appears in almost all demographic categories; even amomg Democrats, 44% believe that the nation is headed in the wrong direction, while only 48% think otherwise.

Barack Obama’s approval ratings don’t help.  The weekly survey shows a 45/54 upside down approval rating, with only 26% strongly approving of his performance.  Majorities of both men (58%) and women (51%) disapprove, as do most age and income demos.  Independents actually disapprove at a higher rate than the overall population, at 39/60.  Going into the midterm cycle, those numbers look nothing short of catastrophic for Democrats.

Update: Yid with Lid has the historical results charted:

Be sure to read the rest of his post.