New Poll: Public Option Up … GOP Down

But does that really improve odds that public option will survive the legislative process?

That's my bottom line question after reviewing our new ABC-Washington Post poll.

The new numbers will certainly encourage Democrats pushing hard to have the president side with them over Olympia Snowe and centrist Dems opposed to a full-blown public health insurance plan:

57% of Americans support the public option. That number climbs to 76% if the public plan is limited to those who can't afford private insurance on their own. And a bare majority -- 51-37 -- supports having Democrats go-it-alone if that's what it takes to get a public option.

It's likely, however, that those numbers aren't strong enough -- at least not yet -- to shake enough swing Senators off their opposition to the public option. Especially when the public is still divided -- 45-48 -- on the overall merits of reform.

One area where public opinion likely to count more? That tax on "Cadillac" health insurance plans. 61% opposed to the tax. Add that to 178 House Democrats and organized labor's united front, and it's hard to see how that tax survives in anything like its current form.

Obama and the GOP

Even though President Obama is still below the average job approval rating for presidents at this point in their term, the White House is pleased with the slight tic up in Obama's job rating -- from 54% in our last poll to 57% now (the first time the number's moved up since April).

Interestingly, the President gets his best ratings for handling his responsibilities as Commander-in Chief and America's Chief Diplomat -- with a majority (54%) pleased with how he handled the surprise Nobel Peace Prize. (How will those Foreign policy numbers change if the president sends 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan?)

Biggest worry? The economy by far. For the first time, Obama does not have majority support for how he's handling the issue that matters most.

But the president's problems pale in comparison to those of his political opponents. Only 20% of Americans call themselves Republicans -- the lowest in 26 years. Only 19% trust Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country's future -- compared to 49% trust in Obama. In addition, President Obama outpaces his fellow Democrats on the Hill -- by 15 points -- in this measure, providing some ammunition to the perpetual White House argument to Democratic members that their political success is inextricably linked to the president’s. And unlike other recent polls, ABC-Post give Democrats a 51-39 edge in the generic Congressional ballot

Of course, November 2010 is more than a year away. GOP fundraising is going well, and with unemployment likely to be bumping around 10%, Democrats have to expect a pretty tough election night next year. But for today, at least, more good news than bad for the White House and its allies in Congress.

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