Polls are news that aren't really news, these days. Take this poll from The Washington Post, for example.
Public confidence in GOP governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying by wide margins that they now trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and other issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that underscores the GOP's fragile grip on power six months before the midterm elections.
The news part is that the GOP has reached a new low in public confidence, the not-news part is that most americans think republicans suck at everything.
On no issue did republicans score over democrats in public opinion. Even on the issue of terrorism, an issue in which republicans have long enjoyed the appearance of expertise, they got 41% to democrats 46%. The real bad news for republicans is that people don't plan to vote for them.
Democrats hold an advantage of 52 percent to 40 percent when voters are asked whether they plan to vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in their House district, a margin that didn't narrow when the preferences of only those most likely to cast ballots were analyzed. That 12-point Democratic margin is slightly smaller than in several previous polls.
One thing I come up against in talking about polls with people on the right is the defense that 'control of congress' questions don't mean that voters plan on voting out their republican congress critter. All it means is that they don't like the rest of them. It's a reasonable argument. But this isn't a question about who voters think should control congress, it's a question about which party they plan to vote for. A 12 point lead may be very difficult for republicans to close.
So put on your hip waders - this campaign season is going to be especially slimy. Desperate GOP candidates sling mud by the bucketload. But it's not likely to help them any. In '04, the Swift Boat ads and other negative campaigning allowed Bush to maintain a lead so slim, the race was a statistical tie. That negative ad campaign didn't push him up an inch in the polls - all it did was to keep him from slipping down.