Cantor Poll Suggests GOP Emphasis on Checks and Balances

Posted September 17, 2009 at 7:03am

The key to retaking the majority in the House could be in a message of checks and balances, according to a Republican survey presented to members of the House GOP whip team on Tuesday night.

Republican pollster John McLaughlin conducted the national survey of 1,000 likely voters Sept. 1-2, in which 50 percent of respondents said they would prefer a Republican Representative who would be “a check and a balance— to President Barack Obama, while 39 percent said they would rather have a Democrat who would “help Obama pass his agenda.— That’s an 18-point gain since his January poll, McLaughlin noted.

Independents, by a margin of 53 percent to 26 percent, favored a Republican who could check and balance Obama over a Democratic Member of Congress.

The poll, paid for by Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) campaign fund, is the latest in a series of GOP surveys that show promising signs for the Republican Party.

Last week, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele presented a poll conducted by OnMessage Inc. that also showed Republican fortunes improving in 2009.

Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the McLaughlin polling data showed that Republicans were making inroads with independent voters.

“One of the largest factors that is playing in there is the number of independents who have left the Democrats because of their agenda, and that to me is very positive,— he said.

However, the generic vote for Congress question showed only a 4-point increase for Republicans since January. Similarly the percentage of respondents who believe the country was on the “right track— versus the “wrong track— is statistically unchanged, according to McLaughlin’s findings.

In January, McLaughlin found 32 percent believed the country was headed in the right direction while 52 percent believed at that time that it was headed down the wrong track.

In the September poll, those percentages were 35 to 53, respectively.

The data show respondents thought that health care and the economy were the most “important issues facing the United States today,— and that those feelings were shared across all ideological divides.

The breakdown on those two issues was a mixed bag for the GOP.

By 47 percent to 34 percent, respondents thought the health care legislation under consideration in Congress would make health care worse for most Americans. At the same time, the poll showed that economic issues still dominate voter attitudes toward Congressional races, by 53 to 32 percent.

The poll showed a three-way tie among those believing the economy is getting better, getting worse or remaining about the same.

But no voter attitudes were registered for which party is better navigating the economic recession.

“In January, [voters] were willing to give Democrats the opportunity to help Obama pass his agenda,— McLaughlin told Roll Call. “Now they want Republicans to be a check and balance. … They want to reign in the spending.—

McLaughlin predicted voters will start to gravitate back to the Republican Party as long as Republicans stick to their core principles of smaller government and fiscal responsibility.

“If they veer from them, then they are making a mistake,— he said.