Fresh off major Election Day victories in Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans got another boost Wednesday with a new Gallup poll that shows registered voters would favor the GOP over Democrats if the 2010 congressional election were held today.
The Gallup survey, conducted Nov. 5-8, found that 48 percent of respondents said they would vote for a Republican candidate for Congress, while 44 percent said they would back a Democrat.
Independent voters were decidedly stronger in their preference for a Republican candidate, choosing the GOP by a 22 percent margin -- 52 to 30 percent -- according to the survey.
"The number one reason for the poll results is the economy," said Larry Sabato, director of the center for politics at the University of Virginia.
"People are generally concerned that we haven’t seen more economic recovery, particularly in unemployment," he said, though he stressed that numbers can change substantially within the next year.
"The wind is going to be at the backs of the Republicans" going into the 2010 midterm elections, but "it could be anything from a breeze to hurricane force," Sabato added.
The Gallup trend mirrors results of Fox News polls, which last April found Democrats enjoying a 13-point lead over Republicans for the House congressional races. But a Fox News survey conducted Oct. 27-28 found Republicans had surged to a one-point lead over Democrats.
Combined with Republican gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia, the trend line could spell trouble for the Democrats legislative agenda in Congress, which includes pulling a comprehensive health care overhaul across the finish line, enacting new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and a bevy of financial regulations.
In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie defeated Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, in spite of President Obama campaigning heavily for the incumbent in the closing days of the race, and the state not electing a Republican governor since 1993.
In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by a wide margin, ending eight years of Democratic control of the governor’s office.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News on Sunday that the Democrats risk facing an electoral backlash over their support for $1.06 trillion health care reform bill that narrowly passed the House over the weekend.
"I think the American people are deeply frustrated with a liberal establishment in Washington, D.C. that is ignoring their will," Pence said on "Fox News Sunday."
"If Democrats keep ignoring the American people, their party's going to be history in about a year," he said. Pence warned that Democrats could lose the 2010 elections for the very same reason Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008: over-spending.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, has played down the impact of Republican gubernatorial wins in the New Jersey and Virginias. White House adviser David Axelrod told Fox News in a recent interview that the New York contest for the 23rd Congressional District -- won by the Democrats -- was "the one race that was really a microcosm of the national debate." Axelrod, who hailed Democrat Bill Owens' victory over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, said the administration's goal in the 2010 midterm election will be to re-energize independent voters who backed Obama during the 2008 presidential election.
"The goal looking forward to 2010 -- when we will in fact have a broad national election for Congress -- is to motivate those independent voters who voted for us last time, but stayed home this time," Axelrod said.