Gallup's party identification figures now show that a lower percentage of Americans consider themselves to be Democrats (28 percent) than at any point over the whole span (early 2004 to early 2011) for which Gallup shows results. Republicans are also only at 28 percent, but being tied with the Democrats certainly represents an improvement over where they've been. Across Gallup's 116 polls from early February 2006 to mid-September 2010, Republicans never bettered this result.
Perhaps more important, however, is what the poll suggests about the leanings of independents. In the last poll before President Obama was elected, the parties were more or less even in party affiliation (with Democrats enjoying a 1 point advantage), but Democrats enjoyed a 3 point edge (48 to 45 percent) over Republicans when the poll included "leaners" (independents who lean toward one party or the other). Now Republicans enjoy a 4 point edge (47 to 43 percent) when including "leaners," a swing of 7 points since the eve of the last presidential election, which President Obama won by 7 points.
Prospective GOP presidential candidates who remain on the sidelines might want to take this into account, as well as Sean Trende's more thorough analysis. At this point, the conclusion must be as follows: President Obama is very beatable, but he will have to be beaten; he won't merely hand over the White House to the GOP. And this means that, to win, Republicans must run someone who can win a race on an even playing field – which will require that their best and brightest enter the fray. The political fate of Obamacare depends upon it.