Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Democrats, after 11 years as the minority party in Congress, still can’t get it right with their own voters, a poll shows.

By objecting to virtually every initiative and proposal of the Bush administration and congressional Republican majority, Democrats are undermining their party’s chances of regaining the majority this fall, the John Zogby poll of 1,039 likely voters suggests.

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other visible Democrats in Washington pick fights with Republicans, the poll shows that 58 percent of rank-and-file Democratic voters say their leaders should “accept their lower position in Congress and work together with Republicans to craft the best legislation possible.”

Only 6 percent of Democratic respondents say the No. 1 goal for their party’s lawmakers in Congress should be to bury Republican bills.

The poll suggests that many Democratic voters accept their party’s minority status. Nearly a quarter of Democrats — 23 percent — say Republicans do a better job running Congress.

“Democrats nationwide now seem to be adopting this minority-status mind-set,” says Fritz Wenzel, Zogby International spokesman. “Democrats are tired of the warring and bitter partisanship that goes on inside the Washington Beltway.”

The Democratic National Committee disputes that interpretation.

“The poll reconfirms what Americans have been saying for months: Under Republican leadership, America is headed in the wrong direction,” said DNC communications director Karen Finney. “The truth is, a lot of Democrats know that Republicans aren’t doing a good job running Congress, and a strong majority have faith in Democratic leadership and ideas.”

The Zogby survey also finds that 29 percent of Republican voters deem their party’s leadership in Congress a “failure because it has passed legislation that has caused massive increases in federal spending and has not made meaningful progress on issues important to the rank-and-file Republicans.”

“Republicans have lost a third of their support in their own ranks,” Mr. Wenzel said. “Respondents who identify themselves as ‘conservative’ or ‘very conservative’ are leading the way in unhappiness over the growth in government since 2001 and the ballooning federal spending and budget deficits.”

Republicans in competitive races who are looking to hold on to their elected offices can take comfort in the poll’s finding that 61 percent of Republican voters think the Republican-led Congress “has passed much legislation during the past 11 years that has reflected Republican values.”

The Zogby poll indicates that Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about their party’s representation of their interests and values in Washington. About 55 percent said congressional Democrats did a good job on that score, and 43 percent said they did not.

The poll’s margin error was 5.1 percentage points for the Democratic and Republican subgroups sampled.

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