THE ‘SMALLEST GAP BETWEEN PARTIES IN ROUGHLY A YEAR’…. When campaign watchers talk about the latest survey data, they tend to have two questions: (1) “What do the latest polls say?” and (2) “What do they say after you exclude Rasmussen?”

The Republican-friendly pollster may be Fox News’ favorite, but many have come to just stop paying attention to the Rasmussen polls altogether. Last week, for example, Andrew Sullivan was concerned about moving to Huffington, making the filtering tools less user-friendly. “Bummer,” Sullivan said. “I need to control for Rasmussen!”

That said, folks have been buzzing all afternoon about the latest generic ballot survey from the controversial pollster, and for a change, the buzz hasn’t been coming from the right.

Republican candidates now hold a three-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 3, 2010. This is the smallest gap between parties in roughly a year.

Forty-five percent (45%) of respondents say they would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, while 42% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. This is the first time during 2010 that the GOP edge has fallen below five points.

Casually skimming the last several months, Rasmussen has generally shown Republicans with a generic-ballot lead of around 8 to 10 points — true to form, the GOP leads with Rasmussen have been greater than with other major pollsters.

But that’s what makes the new report so interesting. Even if you’re inclined to be dismissive of this pollster’s results, it’s noteworthy that Dems are closing the gap with less than a month to go when comparing Rasmussen data against other Rasmussen data.

This could just be a blip or an outlier. Indeed, it’s worth noting that this same pollster on the same generic ballot showed Republicans with a 10-point lead just two weeks ago.

But for today, I can’t remember the last time I saw so many Democrats getting a morale boost from a Rasmussen poll.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.