More Democrats More United
The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article today by John Harwood and Jacob Schlesinger titled "Kerry Finds Himself in Enviable Position" with the subtitle "Democrat Begins Big Race with Party Unity, a Positive Image and Lead over Bush in the Polls". It's worth reading just to remind yourself how exceptionally well the primary process has worked out for the Democrats.
In the article, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin remarks about the shape Kerry is in at this point:
I don't think there's ever been anyone healthier.
Democratic pollster Geoff Garin adds:
You probably have to go back more than 50 years to find a nominating process less divisive. There is no meaningful group of disaffected Democrats coming out of this process.
And conservative, but always fair-minded, opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman summarizes:
It is rare that a primary campaign strengthens the nominee. This campaign has clearly done that.
The article also provides some useful data on where recent presidential races were at similar times in the election year. The most striking datum is from 1992, when Clinton was trailing Bush 50 percent to 44 percent in an early March Gallup poll and losing about one-quarter of Democratic voters to George H.W. Bush. In contrast, Kerry is ahead of the current George Bush 51 percent to 46 percent and is losing only 7 percent of Democratic voters to his Republican opponent.
Party unity. It's a wonderful thing.
But it's not just that Democrats are more united than many thought they'd be--there's also more of 'em. This is the trend I've written about quite a bit: the return of the Democratic advantage on party ID. Significant numbers of voters are rethinking the wisdom of being Republicans and switching (or switching back) to being Democrats. Of course, most of us were Democrats before it was cool, but we certainly welcome the newcomers (or returnees, as the case may be).
Here are some recent data that confirm the emergence of this trend. According to the Harris Poll, the Democrats averaged a 5 point lead on party ID over the course of last year, a 2 point gain over 2002. And a just-released Kaiser Family Foundation poll gives the Democrats an 8 point lead in party ID, before leaners are factored in. With leaners factored in the Democrats have a nice 10 point lead in party ID, 47 percent to 37 percent.
And here's a related shocker: in the same poll, 28 percent say they're liberals, compared to 35 percent who say they're conservatives. Pretty close! Now this result probably has something to do with the way Kaiser asks the ideology question:
Would you say your views in most political matters are very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative or very conservative?
Possibly what's going on here is that being able to say you're "somewhat liberal" instead of just "liberal" leads a number of moderates who actually are fairly liberal, but are normally afraid liberal really means "very liberal", to accept the liberal label. Interesting, if true.
Which leads me to say: Closet liberals, we don't care if you're only "somewhat" liberal! We'll take everyone we can get.