Nationally-recognized pollster Scott Rasmussen last night predicted that Republicans would gain 55 seats in races for the U.S. House of Representatives November 2-much more than the 39 needed for a Republican majority in the House for the first time since 2006.
But the man whose Rasmussen Reports polling is watched carefully by politicians and frequently quoted by the punditocracy said that whether Republicans gain the ten seats they need to take control of the Senate is in question.
“Republicans should have 48 seats [after the elections next month], Democrats 47, and five seats could slide either way,” said Rasmussen in his banquet address at the Western Conservative Political Action Conference. He was referring to seats in five states in which the Senate race this year he considers too close to call: California, Illinois, Washington, West Virginia, and Nevada (or “that mudwrestling contest,” as Rasmussen described the race between Republican Sharron Angle and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid).
In recent years, Rasmussen has gained widespread attention for being the first to forecast Scott Brown’s dramatic win in the special Massachusetts Senate race in January (the major networks never knew it was a competitive race until the weekend before the election) and the political vulnerability among Pennsylvania Republicans of Sen. Arlen Specter (who later switched to Democrat and lost his new party’s primary in May of this year).
Rasmussen also brought out some intriguing survey figures regarding the economy for the Western CPAC crowd at the Radisson Hotel here in Newport Beach.
Noting that the top three issues this election year are “one-the economy, two-the economy, and three-the economy,” Rasmussen said his polls show overwhelming support among voters nationwide for cutting spending, taxes, and the deficit.
“And by two-to-one, voters say they prefer a congressman who will reduce overall spending to one who promises to bring a ‘fair share’ of government spending to their congressional district,” the veteran pollster said, adding that a plurality of Texas voters backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent decision to turn down federal dollars a program because federal strings were attached to it.
The Republicans’ strong position three weeks before midterm elections began, Rasmussen recalled, “when every Republican [in the House] said they would oppose the stimulus package. That’s when the generic ballot [showing support for Republican and Democrat candidates nationwide] started to go up.” He also noted that support fell dramatically for the Democratic healthcare reform bill “when the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] figures showed it would cost more than a trillion dollars.
And support for it never recovered.”
Voter nervousness about the economy, Rasmussen noted, is clear in the declining number of people he finds who feel their own finances are “in good order.” Two years ago, he recalled, 43% of Americans felt their finances were in good order, 38% felt this way the day Barack Obama was elected, and 35% felt that way on the day he took office as President.
“At the beginning of the year, that figure dropped to 32%,” he added, “and today, it is down to 30%.” Rasmussen also said that more than half of homeowners are “unsure if their home is worth more than their mortgage.”
Noting how he periodically polls about different terms-conservative and liberal, for example-Rasmussen said that the term packing the most response is “tea party.”
“It generates the strongest reaction, both positive and negative, among voters,” he concluded, “It’s a defining force.”