Examiner Editorial: Don’t get too cocky, GOP — support can be misleading 

There is much to inspire Republican political operatives in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News national survey.

Among those most interested in the 2010 congressional election, the GOP holds a commanding 20-point margin over the Democrats, who have controlled Congress since 2007. There’s also a massive swing among independents back to the GOP.

When independents swung to Democrats in similar fashion in 2006, it helped the party regain control of the Senate and House for the first time in a dozen years. As the Journal reported Thursday, the survey indicates that “Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters — all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections. ... Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.”

The results are consistent with other recent public opinion surveys that have found high levels of disgust with Congress, trust in government nearing rock-bottom, intense skepticism about federal spending initiatives such as President Barack Obama’s $862 billion economic stimulus, and the likelihood that Republican gains in November will exceed those normally enjoyed by the out-party midway through a president’s first term in office.

But Republicans had better not get too confident. Their voter coalition that controlled Congress between 1995 and 2006 and twice elected George W. Bush president was exhausted and splintered by the time Democrats promised a new day in the nation’s capitol. Dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq had much to do with it, but the main ingredient in the GOP’s losses in 2006 and 2008 was the party’s wasted credibility with voters, owing to earmarks, then-record levels of federal spending and repeatedly broken promises to restrain the growth of government.

The Journal-NBC results demonstrate that the GOP still has a severe credibility problem, with 64 percent of those saying they favor a Republican Congress saying so because they oppose Obama and Democratic candidates. Only 31 percent says it’s because they support the GOP and its candidates. In 1994, those numbers were very nearly reversed.

The Journal-NBC survey makes clear that, after only two years of Obama and a Democratic majority controlling Congress, Americans by a two-to-one margin now want divided government. In other words, most Americans still desire that government and public officials be kept on a tight leash. That’s far from an unqualified endorsement of the GOP.

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