There's going to be a lot of debate about whether Kathy Hochul's victory tonight means anything moving forward or not. I think it does. I think it is the first step toward the very real possibility that Democrats take the House back next year. Our national polling has been suggested that for almost three months now and this is the first tangible on the ground evidence backing that up.
Congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular and voters think they're doing an even worse job than the Democrats they put out of office six months ago. That was true in NY-26 and that's true nationally. Last month we found nationally that 43% of voters thought House Republicans were doing a worse job than the Democrats did while in the majority to only 36% who felt they were an improvement. Even in NY-26, which voted 13 points more Republican than the country as a whole in 2008, 38% of voters think the Republicans are doing a worse job than the Democrats to only 34% who think they're an improvement. You can talk about Jack Davis all you want but the reality is that if voters thought House Republicans were bringing the improvement they hoped for when they went to vote last November Jane Corwin would have won tonight
Another potential lesson learned from tonight- House Democratic candidates may be able to run against John Boehner next year in the same vein that House Republicans ran against Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi last year. Boehner's approval rating nationally is a 25/42 spread and even in this traditionally Republican district it's a 28/45 spread. Barack Obama's not popular in this district either, don't get me wrong- his approval is a 42/51 breakdown. But it's remarkable that his net approval is 8 points better than Boehner's in a district that John McCain won by 6 points in 2008. Again you can talk about Jack Davis all day but if John Boehner was more popular than Barack Obama in this district, as you would certainly have expected the case to be, then Jane Corwin would have won tonight.
So you may say all that's fine but it's just one district. But NY-26's results are not occurring in a vacuum. Democrats had a 7 point lead at 47-40 on our last look at the national generic Congressional ballot. And Democrats have led the generic Congressional ballot on 7 consecutive national polls we've asked about it on going back to mid-February. Voters shifted sharply back toward the Democrats after just a couple months of Republican control of the House.
It is just one district and tonight's victory doesn't mean Democrats will take back the House next year. But if voters didn't get so disappointed in the Republicans so quickly, if they didn't dislike John Boehner so much, and if they hadn't started moving back toward the Democrats so fast after January then tonight's election would not have turned out the way it did. Don't read too much into it- but don't call it meaningless either.