‘Stable condition’

‘STABLE CONDITION’…. As the debate over health care reform dragged on, many on the right believed the process and the underlying policy would wreak havoc on the Democratic Party’s public standing. If Dems actually passed the controversial package, some conservatives claimed, the majority party would likely face a massive public backlash.

It’s early, and much of the public may still be shaping its perceptions about last week’s breakthroughs, but so far there is no such backlash. The Washington Post noted its new poll results today, emphasizing the fact that the reform process has left Democrats “in stable condition.” The governing party hasn’t seen a big boost, but it hasn’t seen its fortunes decline, either.

After steering the landmark health-care reform bill through Congress, the Democratic Party’s leaders have emerged mostly unscathed, according to a new Washington Post poll, but they have not received a notable boost in approval ratings.

Shifts among core constituencies suggest that President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) may have reaped some benefit from the legislation’s passage, but the public’s take on the Democratic Party has not budged, and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) appears to be losing popularity.

President Obama’s approval rating is up a few points, to 53%, and his numbers got a boost on questions pertaining to his handling of health care reform and bringing needed change to Washington.

Looking through the internals (pdf), Democrats still enjoy an edge over Republicans on which party voters trust to do a better job on the economy, health care, immigration, Afghanistan, the budget deficit, taxes, and energy policy. Republicans, meanwhile, have an edge on handling counter-terrorism.

In nearly every category in which the Democrats are ahead, the party’s margin over the GOP has slipped since last year, but if Dems are right, and the worst is behind them, they’ve weathered the storm fairly well.

Indeed, on the generic congressional ballot, Republicans led Democrats among registered voters in February, 48% to 45%. Now those numbers are nearly reversed in Dems’ favor, 48% to 44%.

Of particular interest, the enthusiasm gap between the parties’ rank-and-file voters appears to be quite small at this point. Among Dems, 74% consider themselves enthusiastic about voting this year, while 25% are no. For Republicans, 76% are enthusiastic, and 23% are not.

To be sure, these are not exactly impressive numbers for Dems, but given where they feared they’d be at the end of the reform process, many in the party are likely satisfied with results like these.