Is it possible that the health care issue has gotten Republicans/conservatives so fired up that they're going to be more energized to go and try to vote out Democrats next year whether a substantive bill actually passes or not?
We put that theory to the test in New Jersey and Virginia last week and it seems that the answer might be yes.
First we asked in general whether people would vote Democratic or Republican for Congress next year. In Virginia they said they'd go for the GOP by a 49-37 margin and in New Jersey they said they would be a 46-41 spread (keep in mind these polls were of the 2009 electorate.)
Second we asked how they would vote for Congress next year if no health care bill passed. In Virginia that increased the GOP lead to 49-35 and in New Jersey it expanded it to 45-38. In other words the failure to pass health care did not put any dent into the percentage of people saying they'll vote Republican next year. They're voting for the GOP whether health care passes or not. But it did create a small decline in Democratic support from voters who seem to be saying that if a Democratic Congress can't create meaningful health care reform what's the point in going out to vote Democratic anyway.
Third we asked how people would vote if Congress passed a health care bill with a public option. In Virginia the GOP led 51-39 under that scenario and in New Jersey it was a 47-40 advantage. So in Virginia Democrats poll slightly better with a comprehensive health care bill than without one and in New Jersey there's no difference.
Here's my take aways:
-The mere specter of a health care bill has gotten Republicans fired up to go vote next year and they're going to do it whether one passes or not. But Democrats might stay at home, like they did this year, without one. Democratic voters need to see that getting control of Washington accomplished something for them to be motivated to get out there next year and keep control of Washington.
-At this point the political fallout for Democrats from not passing a health care bill is worse than the fallout from passing one. The damage is done with Republicans, is it going to get done with Democrats as well?
The full numbers from these questions here