Whoa — What’s This? A Compelling GOP Message? Finally!

Back in the good old days (pre-2005), Republicans used to have messages that resonated with voters.  In the 2006 cycle, the illegal immigration message tested well, but it did not end up moving swing voters who were more focused on Iraq and the economy.  In 2008, we finally started getting traction with the need for a well-rounded energy plan that included BOTH domestic drilling AND alternative energy, but then the economy crashed and gas prices tumbled.

Now that the GOP has fallen back to where we were after the 1992 elections, Republicans are casting about for messages that resonate.  While our current survey provides only a glimmer of insight into the policy areas that might provide the GOP with a direction, it shines a clear spotlight on voters’ desire to place a few speed bumps directly in the path of the Obama Administration’s policies.

Our latest national survey provides strong evidence that voters are concerned that they have given too much power to one political party, and that Republicans can provide a check and balance.

We asked two questions directly related to the “check and balance” question, and both worked extremely well:

Now, thinking some about the election for US Congress, for whom would you vote between:

34% A Congressional candidate who will help Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress pass their agenda.

…or…

56% A Congressional candidate who can be a check and balance to Barack Obama and the  Democrats in Congress.

And. . .

And, do you agree or disagree with the following statement…

Since Democrats have complete control of Congress and the Presidency, it would be good to have more checks and balances in Washington by electing more Republicans to Congress.

37% STRONGLY AGREE

16% SOMEWHAT AGREE

19% SOMEWHAT DISAGREE

26% STRONGLY DISAGREE

54%     TOTAL AGREE

45%     TOTAL DISAGREE

In the past few years, there have been very few messages that have gotten close to half support when tied explicitly with the Republican party, much less majority support.

Obviously, the message works with Republicans (89% agree), but also with Independents (55% agree).  It also works well with other groups GOPers have found challenging B women (51% agree), younger voters (52% agree), Northeastern voters (52%), suburban voters (57%), and even moderates (45%) and unmarried women (46%).  (The latter two groups aren’t majority support, but they’ve killed GOPers in the last few elections, so anything close is helpful.)  Even 30% of conservative Dems agree (and they give Obama a 90% approval rating).

Keep in mind the context of these questions – Obama is above 60% approval, Democrats hold a seven-point national partisan advantage, and recent image scores of the national GOP are in the toilet.

Why then do voters so overwhelmingly opt for these checks and balances?  Voters have been  traditionally uncomfortable with the idea of too much power concentrated in the hands of one party.  They believe it leads to too much spending and to corruption (sound familiar?).  My theory of why the generic ballot has tightened despite a lack of movement on the party ID deficit is that voters are worried they overcorrected in 2008.  Giving this kind of unchecked control to one political party in Washington is the equivalent of giving whiskey and car keys to a teenage boy.

“Checks and balances” is no substitute for policy alternatives, but it does provide an opening for the GOP to be heard on the issues and to put a few speed bumps in the way of the liberal rush to spend as though there is no tomorrow – and no need to pay it back.

There is no question that Republicans ought to use this message, and it ought to be tied to the area where Democrats are most vulnerable B too much spending.  While this may not end up being a campaign’s main message, driving the point that “A vote for me is a vote to send a watchdog to Congress who will fight to make sure the Democrats don’t go out of control in spending.  We need a check and balance in Washington to rein in the wasteful spending and the corruption that comes with one party control.”

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