Too early to tell on Congress polling

I’ve seen a lot of e-mail traffic about Rasmussen’s latest Congressional polling, and apparently so has Michael Barone.  He detects danger for Democrats in the recent slide, but do they really need to worry about polling this early in the 111th Session?  They have 21 months to go before the midterms, after all:

Astonishing news on the generic ballot question. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that Democrats are currently ahead of Republicans by only 40 percent to 39 percent. Given that this generic ballot question over the years has tended to understate Republicans’ performances in actual elections, one gathers that if the 2010 election for House seats were held today, Republicans would win or come close to winning a majority of seats—which is to say, they would gain about 40 seats. By way of comparison, they gained 52 seats when they won their majority in 1994.

Barone does caution that we’re a long way away from the midterm elections, and that a lot can change between then and now.  However, he also says that the Democrats have to worry about a massive shift in the House, perhaps losing most of the Blue Dog gains from 2006 and 2008.  Marginal districts could easily flip back, creating a difficult second half of the Obama presidency.

Rasmussen also detects a lot of slippage on economic leadership for Democrats.  On Election Night, they enjoyed a 17-point lead, which has dropped to only five points now.  Sixty-seven percent of voters think they themselves could do a better job of financial management than Congress, and 58% believe that Congress won’t even know Porkulus before voting for it.  These polls show a sharp decline in confidence.

But what does that matter now?  It’s still only February 2009, and Congress has almost 21 months to go before the midterms.  Unless the Democrats really foul up the economy and push us into a depression, the recession should bottom out this year and start recovering in 2010.  Democrats will take the credit for the success, and the worst aspects of Porkulus won’t actually be felt until years later.  We may see a jobless recovery, thanks to the capital seizure in Porkulus, but any improvement and stabilization will be greeted with relief by 2010.

Let’s see whether voters remain rational about the disastrous Porkulus and Treasury moves by summer 2010.  That’s when these polls will really mean something.  Right now, they’re just reflecting a deeply pessimistic mood in the electorate, with the Democrats feeling the brunt of it because of their position in Washington.  If the voters haven’t been fooled by mid-2010, the Democrats will be looking at an electoral collapse that will really meet all of their doom-and-gloom talk now about the economy.