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October 31, 2006

Will Women Ride Blue Wave to Power?

There are no polls that specifically address which party is ahead in all races in the 50 state legislatures. But it seems reasonable to assume that Democratic candidates for state legislature will benefit if there is a big blue wave in congressional elections. The balance of power in the state legs may be closer now than it has ever been, as Kirk Johnson explains in "Democrats Are Seen to Gain in Statehouse Races" in today's New York Times:

Republicans control both chambers in 20 states, Democrats in 19. One state, Nebraska, has a nonpartisan legislature, while the parties split control in the remaining 10 states...What makes the races even more suspenseful is that the parties have not been so even in decades, if ever. Of the 7,382 statehouse legislative seats across the country, Democrats hold 21 more than the Republicans, a margin of less than half a percent.

In 17 of the 46 states that will elect some or all of their state senators, a shift of only three seats would alter party control in the senate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 12 state houses, a shift of five or fewer seats would tip the balance.

Prospects for Democratic candidates are very good, with one caveat. The Republicans are outspending them in state legislative races 2-1. Those who want to see more women in government have a singular opportunity to make a difference by making a contribution to Democratic campaigns, since Democratic women in the state legislatures outnumber Republican women nearly 2-1. If the blue wave rolls over the state houses, more women will advance to leadership positions --- and later to congress.

October 30, 2006

Net Gains on TV as Political News Source

A new Associated Press/America Online poll indicates that 43 percent of likely voters "check the Internet for political updates about campaigns and candidates." According to Will Lester's AP report on the poll:

The most popular destinations are the news sites, such as those run by newspapers, networks and newsmagazines, with nine of 10 in the online political audience saying they go there. Just over one-third go to candidate's sites and almost half check out political sites.

According to Lester, the poll also found that the political web-surfers tended to be more male (40 percent of males vs. 30 percent of females); younger (40 percent of those under age 50, vs. less than 20 percent of those over 65); and more educated (over half of those with college degrees, vs. one-third of those with some college and one out of six with a h.s. education.)

Despite the growing influence of the internet as a source for political information, TV still gets the overwhelming share of political ad dollars, and likely has more influence with working class voters. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted April 7-9 found that 45 percent of respondents watched TV news every day, and another 19 percent said they watched news program several times a week.

October 29, 2006

Ad-Buyers' Chess Game Key to Home Stretch Campaigns

Few considerations generate more concern in the final days of political campaigns than decisions made about buying TV ads. And if you thought ad-buys were largely determined by poll-margins in particular races, you would be wrong.

For example, the cost of ads is a major factor in ad-buys. In their WaPo article "As Elections Near, Dueling With Dollars," reporters Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, explain the calculations DCCC ad-buyer John Lapp has to make in allocating his $60 million budget:

In Washington's 5th District, Lapp is running ads hitting freshman Rep. Cathy McMorris despite the strong Republican tilt of the district. That's because ad time in the Spokane media market, which covers almost the entire district, is relatively inexpensive, allowing the DCCC to fund a week of ads for just over $300,000. It is a cheap bet, even for a long shot.

But Lapp is not running ads against Rep. Jean Schmidt (Ohio) who, despite woeful reelection numbers, benefits from the high price of television time in the Cincinnati market. This decision could save Schmidt's job, strategists in both parties say.

That's a shame. other considerations include the intensity of local issues and the opportunity to run an especially powerful message. Then there is the obligation the DCCC has to fund ads for candidates they encouraged to run, regardless of their poll numbers. Democratic ad-buy decisions are made even more difficult in a growing playing field. Says Lapp "Republicans are playing a game of whack-a-mole while we are expanding the number of races in play by the day."

In such an environment, some bad ad-buy decisions are inevitable. Fortunately, rank-and-file Democrats can help keep them to a minimum by making contributions to the following links, so we don't have to leave potential winners out on a limb:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

If there was ever a time for true blue Democrats to take action to make Congress more responsive, that would be today.

October 28, 2006

Dems Surge in Poll of Rural Voters

A new poll by the Center for Rural Strategies, conducted 10/22-24, reports big gains for Democrats among rural voters. According to the CRS press release:

The poll of rural voters in 41 contested congressional districts found that likely voters preferred Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 13 points, 52 percent to 39 percent. In mid-September, the same population of voters was evenly split between the two parties at 45 percent each.

In contested Senate races in states with significant rural populations, rural voters preferred Democrats by 4 points, 47 to 43 percent, reversing the 4-point lead Republican Senate candidates held among rural voters in mid-September. But those results fall within the poll's margin of error.

Bill Greener, a Republican strategist and consultant on the poll, had this to say about the poll:

The numbers in this poll have to be disturbing to any Republican involved in the upcoming election...Republican success has relied on strong support from rural voters, and this survey indicates we don't have that support today.

Another consultant to the poll, Democrat Anna Greenberg, cited a "perfect storm" of issues benefitting Democrats, including the Iraq war, economic problems in rural communities and a "muddling of moral values" resulting from the Foley scandal/cover-up.

October 27, 2006

Ford Shines Light on Purple South

Harold Ford has already won. Even if he loses the TN Senate race by a small margin, he has accomplished something important in demonstrating that African American Democrats can be highly competitive in state-wide races in the south. The critical lesson for Dems is that there is a lot to be gained from putting more resources into developing Black candidates in the south.

There are a lot of good articles about the Ford phenomenon out there, and one of the best is Salon's "How Would Jesus Vote?" by Michael Scherer, illuminating Ford's brilliance in mining the vote of religious conservatives in the state that has "the most white evangelicals in the nation." Also read the Wall St. Journal's "Republicans' Hold On the South Gets Test in Tennessee" by Corey Dade and Nikhil Deogun, which explains Ford's success in terms of the Volunteer State's demographic transformation. Here's just one interesting graph from the WSJ piece:

By one demographic factor, Mr. Ford should be far behind in the polls. Tennessee has one of the lowest African-American populations in the South -- about 16%. Logically, that should put African-American candidates at a disadvantage for statewide office because they can't count on a massive bloc of votes to give them a head start in a statewide election. But political scientists say the reverse may be true: In states with smaller black populations, whites don't feel as threatened and the state isn't as polarized. For instance, African-Americans make up a very high percentage of Mississippi and Alabama -- 36.5% and 26%, respectively -- and black voters tend to vote Democrat while white voters go for Republicans. The "blacker" the state, the larger President Bush's margin of victory in 2004.
For more on the purple south emergence, check out Chris Kromm's "Future of Congress to Be Decided in the South?" in Facing South. On a related issue, Ian Urbina reports on concerns about Black turnout in today's New York Times -- an important but much overlooked topic in midterm coverage thus far.

October 25, 2006

Friends in VA?

by Scott Winship

If they're from Alexandria or Falls Church (outside DC) or Charlottesville (home of UVA), forward them this link: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/10/24/111047/27 and tell 'em to call their local elections board.

I'm more optimistic about chance to regain the Senate than Chris Bowers is -- Webb is within the margin of error of most polls, and this race could be key to control of the Senate. It's really important....

Bowers: Senate Takeover a 'Longshot'

Lest we get carried away with irrational exuberance in the wake of the GOP meltdown, Chris Bowers takes a sobering look at Dem chances of winning a Senate Majority on November 7 in today's MyDD. Bowers averages the five most recent polls for key Senate races in his article "Control Of The Senate Still a Longshot" and sees tough odds against a Democratic takeover. According to Bowers averages, Dems are ahead 5.8 in R.I.; 5.4 in MT and 3.6 in NJ, but lag by 1.4 in MO, 1.6 in VA and 2.8 in TN.

Other than that, he sees the Democratic prospects as bright:

I do still hope for a pickup of four or five seats in the Senate, taking control of the House, winning the majority of Governors, and doing some real damage in state legislatures.

Obviously Dems still have a fighting chance, and winning five of six key races is not impossible if the big blue wave materializes. Plus, the polls could improve over the next 13 days. Otherwise, winning majorities of the House, governorships and state legislatures is not a bad consolation prize.

October 24, 2006

Black, Hispanic Conservatives Bailing Out of GOP

In his L.A. Times article "Latino and Black Voters Reassessing Ties to GOP," Peter Wallsten reports on the exodus of African American and Hispanic conservative voters from the G.O.P. According to Wallsten, a growing number of leaders in both constituencies have articulated a sense of being taken for granted by Republican leaders. With respect to African American conservatives:

Complaints among black pastors who had been courted by the White House — while less pronounced than those of Latino leaders — have been fueled by a tell-all book by former White House aide David Kuo. The new book says that Bush, referring to pastors from one major African American denomination, once griped: "Money. All these guys care about is money. They want money."

...The Rev. Eugene Rivers, a Boston Pentecostal minister and one of about two dozen black clergy invited to a series of White House meetings with Bush, said Friday that black leaders had been wooed with assurances that their social service groups would receive money from the president's faith-based initiative. But, Rivers said, the bulk of the money had gone to white organizations, leaving black churches on the sidelines.

The GOP's rift is also widening with Latino conservatives, who are disturbed by the Republicans' mixed messages on immigration and who share the Black conservatives' concern about the GOP's ethics problems and the Foley cover-up:

A survey released this month by the Latino Coalition found Latino registered voters supporting Democrats over Republicans 56% to 19% in congressional elections. "If Republicans nationally get 25% of the Hispanic vote, it would be a miracle," said Robert de Posada, the coalition president...

The Latino backlash has grown so intense that one prominent, typically pro-Republican organization, the Latino Coalition, has endorsed Democrats in competitive races this year in Tennessee, Nebraska and New Jersey....The Latino Coalition, for example, has endorsed the presumed Democratic presidential front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), in her reelection bid this year.

The aforementioned Kuo book, "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction," has alienated white conservatives as well, with its depiction of top White House aides "embracing religious conservatives in public while calling them "nuts" behind their backs."

Survivor! by Jim McTague

by Alan Abramowitz

The new issue of Barron's Magazine, always a model of objective journalism, has a cover story by Jim McTague that argues that reports of a coming Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections are greatly exaggerated.

A lot of McTague's "analysis" appears to consist of little more than wishful thinking. For example, he predicts that Rick Santorum, who has been trailing Bob Casey, Jr. in every poll in the last six months, will win reelection in Pennsylvania thanks to a late surge in support from the western part of the state and that Mark Kennedy will defy polls showing him trailing by double-digits to defeat Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota.

Beyond wishful thinking, McTague's argument that Republicans will keep control of the House and Senate rests almost exclusively on the fact that most endangered Republican incumbents have raised more money than their Democratic challengers and, in both 2002 and 2004, the candidate who spent the most money in a House and Senate race almost always won.

But there is a fundamental flaw in this argument: 2002 and 2004 were not wave elections--elections in which there is a strong national tide. In wave elections lots of incumbents lose even though they outspend their challengers. This is what happened in 1974, 1980, 1982, and 1994. In 1994, for example, 26 of the 34 Democratic incumbents who lost their seats outspent their Republican challengers. On average, losing Democratic incumbents outspent their Republican challengers by a margin of $969,000 to $663,000. Republicans also won 14 of 25 open seat races in which the Republican candidate spent less than the Democratic candidate.

Using the the relative size of the candidates' campaign warchests to predict election results in a wave election can yield highly misleading result. If a strong Democratic wave hits the House and Senate on November 7th, as now appears likely, many Republican incumbents will lose despite outspending their Democratic challengers.

October 22, 2006

State of the Race Update II

by Ruy Teixeira

cross-posted at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/showdown06/)

It's been awhile since I've had a chance to post an update on how the campaign's unfolding. I'm tempted to say: it's just like I said before....only more so! But what fun would that be? So here's a round-up of where things stand.

First, the macro-indicators......

Presidential Approval. Bush's approval rating continues to go down. Charles Franklin's latest trend-based estimate now stands at 36 percent, a substantial decline since late August/early September.

Congressional Approval. Congressional approval continues to run very, very low. In the latest Gallup poll, approval of Congress was only 23 percent. And in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Congressional approval was a stunningly low 16 percent.

Generic Congressional Contest. Charles Franklin's latest trend-based estimate has the Democrats' advantage at 13 points. Knock 5 points off that to compensate for the typical overstatement of the Democratic advantage in this question and you still have a substantial 8 point Democratic lead in the Congressional vote. If that lead holds on election day, that would obviously be good for the Democrats, though how good in terms of actual seat gains is a matter of considerable debate. Or, to put it more bluntly: we just don't know.

Voter Enthusiasm. Pew has just released an extensive study that documents what many other polls have shown: Democrats are much more enthusiastic about voting this year than Republicans are. In that study, 51 percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year, compared to just 33 percent of Republicans.

That's a bit on the macro situation. But how are things playing on the micro, race by race situation where, of course, the election will be played out and actual political gains accrued?

The House. Analysts universally agree that more and more seats are coming into play. Charlie Cook, for example, now has 43 GOP seats classified as competitive (6 more than he had last week), including 25 he rates as toss-ups and three as leaning Democratic.

Democracy Corps recently surveyed voters in roughly the same set of GOP-held districts that Cook classifies as competitive (they included a few more not on Cook's list) and found signs of what they call a "Republican meltdown" in those districts. They found:

Democrats are ahead by 4 points overall in the named Congressional vote (49 to 45 percent) [named vote means the actual candidate names are given to respondents; in the generic vote the Democratic lead was actually 10 points--RT]; indeed, they are ahead by 2 points (48 to 46 percent) in the bottom tier of presumably safest seats.

This vote represents a dramatic change in the state of the race over the last two weeks. The end of the Congress — with the increased pessimism and anger about Iraq and the Foley scandal and subsequent partisan brawl — has moved voters to shift their assessments of the parties and their votes. The 1994 election broke at the end; this one just broke. The shift is evident on every indicator — party, Bush, war, intensity and morale.

A project of RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics called "Majority Watch" has been polling 54 competitive House districts--49 of which are currently held by Republicans--and currently characterizes 24 of these districts as strong Democratic, 8 as leaning Democratic and 5 ties. Leaving out the ties, that translates into a Democratic gain of 19-27 seats, depending on whether you choose to include the leaning Democratic seats or not--that is, into a Democratic House majority of 222-230 seats.

Note, however, that some of the Majority Watch polls are a bit old and go back to the beginning of the fall. On the other hand, the sitaution in most of these districts has likely only worsened for the Republicans since that time.

Over at Pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin look over all the available public polling on competitive House races and assess it as follows:

Looking at the survey averages in districts with two or more polls available, we see Democrats leading beyond the margin of error in ten districts currently held by Republicans....

In addition, we see statistically significant Democratic leads in four more districts held by Republicans surveyed only once by non-partisans since the summer (all four were polled by the Majority Watch project)....

Perhaps more troubling for Republicans is that we see no Republican leading in any district currently held by a Democrat. Moreover, of the 23 Republican held seats currently rated as "toss-ups" by the Cook Political Report, Democrats lead by significant margins in 9, Republicans leading in none. The remaining 13 Republican "toss-up" seats look too close to call based on available data. And that says nothing of the 31 Republican seats that Cook rates at "lean" or "likely" Republican, where public polling is scarcer still.

They also provide a compendium of all the available public polling on these races, a very useful resource. Chris Bowers, over at MyDD, compiles much of the same information on his House forecast page and assesses the overall data as indicating a Democratic gain of 21-28 seats, for a Democratic majority of 224-231 seats.

To summarize, the available micro, race by race data indicate that, based on reasonable assumptions about the relationship between these data and election outcomes, the Democrats will probably retake the House this November--though nothing is certain and the size of a new Democratic majority could range anywhere from a few seats (e.g., 219-216) to thirty or more (e.g., 233-202). Perhaps the safest guess would be in the middle range between these two possibilities.

The Senate. Turning to the Senate, Democratic chances also look good--though not as good as in the House and it is much easier to see them falling short here. Here are the Pollster.com last 5 poll averages for the seven most competitve Republican and one competitive Democratic race: Missouri, 46D-45R; Montana, 48D-41R; New Jersey, 46D-41R; Ohio, 51D-42R; Pennsylvania, 52D-41R; Rhode Island, 46D-40R; Tennessee, 45D-45R; and Virginia, 44D-49R.

At this point, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Montana look particularly solid for the Democrats and they are breathing a sigh of relief for the widening lead Menendez is taking over Kean in New Jersey (see Tom Edsall's very good article on why this is happening). If we also allocate Rhode Island and Missouri to the Democrats, based on their current leads in those states, that would give the Democrats a gain of 5 seats, with a possible sixth and control of the Senate (assuming Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats) depending on whether Ford can beat Corker in Tennessee in the currently-tied race.

That may well be how it all turns out. One more reason to count on a very exciting election night.

October 21, 2006

The Fat Lady Ain't Singin', But...

by Scott Winship

I checked back in to Majority Watch today and they are forecasting a Democratic majority in the House of 222 to 230 seats -- even if they lose 5 "tied" races. In other words, Republicans will have to win all the ties and at least 5 Dem-leaning districts to retain their majority. It's difficult to see how that scenario could happen.

October 20, 2006

Greenberg: Dems Can Create 'Historic Election'

Stan Greenberg has an important TPM Cafe article, "For Democrats, Time To Seize The Moment" that should be a huge wake-up call for Party leaders. Greenberg argues that there is an historic opportunity for Dems to win not just a majority, but a working majority --- if adequate funding is provided for a larger list of winnable campaigns. Read the whole article and discussion thread. Here's an excerpt:

These moments come once or twice in a political life time. When the Republican built a 26 seat majority, they used their incumbency and their social networks to hold on to Congress for over a decade. We have the chance to build a comparable majority, which will impact politics for the next decade.

The risk is that our activists and donors and party leaders are satisfied with winning when there is an opportunity for a real majority. The difference between governing with a 5-seat majority and a 25-seat majority is night and day. In one scenario you spend your life trying to keep the 5 moderate Democrats from voting with the Republicans; in the other, you are able to achieve a unity that can really enact progressive things.

The last thing we want to see the day after the election are 10 seats where the Republicans were able to hold on by a 100 votes.

I don’t spare anybody in this call for change. The big donors from 2004 haven’t stepped up; the DNC is hardly a player; activist on-line groups are doing impressive things but operating in fewer states and districts. The two party committees have raised historic amounts of money and now have to make choices about how much debt and how broad a playing field.

The key is for all involved to look at this as an historic election and make choices now that reflect the moment.

This is also a moment for Democrats to let voters know what they stand for and what they want to do for the country. There are a lot of voters ready to vote for change who would be relieved to discover that Democrats want to rise above the partisan polarization to do the people’s business. That means Medicare, negotiating lower drug and health care costs, raising the minimum wage instead of congressional salaries, a new direction in Iraq and working for energy independence.

That is the missing piece for voters who want change.

October 19, 2006

Battle for Senate Majority: The Four Closest Races

If the polls are correct this time, and let us be clear that they are not always on target, it appears that the battle to win a Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate may come down to the four closest races, as Democratic candidates are pulling ahead in other key Senate contests. The two closest in the polls as of today are in Virginia and Tennessee, where the polls are showing a dead heat. Next are Missouri and New Jersey, where Democrats hold a very slight lead.

One of the simplest ways to help Democrats win a majority of the Senate is to make a contribution to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Or, support the four Democratic candidates locked in the closest races:

Harold Ford for U.S. Senate

Jim Webb for U.S. Senate

Bob Menendez United States Senator

Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate

Between now and November 7th any of the four races could become less competitive. Or other races could suddenly become toss-ups. But it is likely that these races will stay pretty close. Time is short, so a quick contribution to any of the aforementioned links would be a much-needed investment in winning a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.

October 18, 2006

Dem Campaigns Way Short on Cash

The good news is that Democrats have expanded the number of congressional seats they can pick up on Nov. 7 beyond what most insiders thought possible six months ago -- as many as 41 in the House, according to DCorps strategist Stan Greenberg, and 7 in the senate. The bad news is that they are far short of the cash needed to run competitive campaigns. According to Jim VandeHei's WaPo article "Funding Constrains Democrats: Party Chiefs See Chance to Take 40-Plus Seats With TV Push," Dems face some painful choices over the next two+ weeks:

Some Democratic officials and donors want their money concentrated to maximize the chances that the party captures the minimum number of seats necessary to gain majorities in the House and the Senate, rather than having resources spread too thin by spending on second-tier targets....It would be virtually impossible to expand the number of House seats with fully competitive races without taking some money away from efforts to win back the Senate.

...The DCCC is likely to go deep into debt, perhaps topping the $11 million deficit it racked up in 2004. The committee can borrow as much as a bank is willing to lend. The other option is to take money out of Republican districts that the party is confident it is almost certain to win.

This approach carries a big risk, however. If the party pulls ads in districts such as the Indiana base of Rep. Chris Chocola, who is trailing by double digits in private Democratic polling, it might allow an established GOP incumbent to creep back up in the race.

VandeHei points out that big donors, including George Soros, are not giving as much to congressional campaigns as in 2004, prefering to invest in long-term growth. DCorps strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville and are now calling on Dem campaigns to borrow as much as they can to close the cash shortfall. As James Carville puts it:

I am saying this is a twice-in-a-lifetime environment... You try to maximize it.

For both parties, it's all about saturating districts with TV ads over the next two plus weeks, and the GOP has a strong advantage at present. Smaller contributors will probably decide how large the Dems' margin of victory will be in the House and whether or not Dems win the Senate. Everyone who wants to see a Democratic majority in Congress should make a contribution now.

October 17, 2006

South Sours on Iraq Quagmire

Southerners are often characterized as "my country, right or wrong" patriots who provide uncritical support for U.S. military intervention anywhere. But this perception may be simplistic and outdated, according to a recent poll now generating considerable buzz around the blogs. Among other findings, Facing South reports that the poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks for the Institute for Southern Studies/School of Public and International Affairs at N. C. State University 9/19-26 (PDF summary here) indicates:

57% of Southerners believe the U.S. "should have stayed out of Iraq," compared to 44% who think the U.S. "did the right thing" by taking military action. Nationally, 58% of the public believes the U.S. should have stayed out and 43% now agree with military action.

...30% of those polled in Southern states say the U.S. should "withdraw completely" from Iraq. Those in non-Southern states were less likely to call for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops (26%), but more likely to think U.S. troop levels should be decreased "some" or "a lot" – 34% in non-Southern states, compared to 26% in the South. Put together, 56% of Southerners and 59% in other regions support a decrease or withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The poll suggests that a political earthquake is beginning to rumble, not just in the blue and purple states, but nation-wide. This should be very good news for Democratic candidates. The poll also raises interesting questions for '08, nicely put in Devon's Blog at TPM Cafe:

Is winning without the south possible? Maybe. Is it necessary? Maybe not

October 16, 2006

Environmental Issues May Sway Some Elections

As usual, protecting the environment does not show up as a top five voter concern in the polls. But certainly there are voters for whom it is a pivotal issue, and in close elections they could make the difference between victory and defeat. To get up to speed on environmental issues at stake in the mid-terms, check out Amanda Griscom Little's Alternet article "November's Most Crucial Enviro Elections." Turns out there is a lot happening at the state level, as Little notes:

Examples of ambitious state-level environmental initiatives are legion: Twenty-two states have implemented a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandating that a certain percentage of electricity come from clean sources such as solar and wind. Ten states have followed California's lead in adopting clean-car legislation requiring new automobiles to have lower greenhouse-gas emissions starting in the 2009 model year. Seven states in the Northeast have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative committing to carbon dioxide reductions of 10 percent by 2019. And California has, of course, outdone all the rest by becoming the first state in the nation to impose mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions.

With virtually all of the cutting-edge environmental reforms taking place at the state level, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are investing heavily in gubernatorial races. Little also provides an insightful run-down of key Gov races and what's at stake in NY, PA, MA, MD and FL. As always, Dems are in the best position to benefit from environmental concerns, since few Republicans support substantive environmental reforms.

October 15, 2006

GOP Losing Security Cred With White Workers

David D. Kirkpatrick's New York Times article "Voters’ Allegiances, Ripe for the Picking" includes some very good news for Democrats' prospects regarding one of the most pivotal constituencies. As Kirkpatrick explains:

...the white working class has voted overwhelmingly for Republicans since Reagan. President Bush widened the Republican advantage among such voters from a margin of 17 percentage points in 2000 to 23 percentage points in 2004, according to exit poll data compiled by Mr. Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

...Now, that security edge has all but disappeared. Among white voters with no college education, approval of the president’s handling of the war on terrorism had plummeted from a margin of 22 percentage points the summer of 2004 to just 7 percentage points last week, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

The reason is that the Iraq quagmire has obliterated the GOP's cred as the 'national security party' and set off a kind of chain reaction. As Teixeira notes:

“Iraq is the squandering of the national security premium the Republicans have been living on,” Mr. Teixeira said. The Republicans’ failure at “standing up” to foreign threats, he argued, had diminished their credibility on a whole cluster of “values” issues like “standing up for what is right” as well.

That, he contended, is vindicating his argument for a Democratic ascendance: if the Democrats can cut their margin of defeat among white workers, they can build a durable national majority from their coalition of professionals, women, African-Americans and the fast-growing Hispanic population. Although Mr. Bush’s popularity with Hispanics at one time threatened to dislodge them from the Democratic bloc, the Republican moves this year to build a wall along the Mexican border has effectively pushed them back.

“That is fatal,” Mr. Teixeira said.

And the effects may reverberate for years, ventures DCCC chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel:

Iraq has the potential to be to the Republican Party on national security what the Depression was to the Republican Party on economics.

The return of the white working class to the Democratic fold would insure Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. For now the trend line for this key constituency suggests a bright blue election.

October 13, 2006

Energy Independence: The Roux in the Stew

Thomas Friedman's column in today's New York Times addresses the centrality of energy independence as a priority for both national security and winning elections. Friedman interviewed Democracy Corps' James Carville on the topic, and got this savory spoonful of political wisdom:

It should “not be part of an expanding litany, but rather a contracting narrative,” explained Mr. Carville. “It can’t just be that we are for a woman’s right to choose, and education and energy independence. This is the thing we need to get done above and beyond everything else.” People should associate “energy security” with Democrats the way they associate “tax cuts” with Republicans, he argued. “This is not something to add to the stew — this is the stock.”

Carville and DCorps' Stanley Greenberg have more to say in the column about energy independence as critical for our national security and a leading priority with voters. All of which adds up to a huge advantage for Dems, especially given the GOP's shameful track record on auto mileage standards, alternative energy and energy conservation.

October 12, 2006

Solid GOP South Cracking?

Facing South's Chris Kromm blogs on an article in Hastings Wyman's 's Southern Political Report predicting a net pick-up of seven southern House seats for Dems. Wyman, identified by Kromm as a "former Republican operative," says Dems will pick up FL 13, 16 and 22; Ky 4; NC 11; TX 22; and Va 2. He rates FL 8 and NC 8 as toss-ups.

If Wyman is right, the south may contribute a healthy portion of the Democrats' expected margin of victory. And with Harold Ford and James Webb running highly competitive campaigns in TN and VA respectively, it's possible the South could also make a significant contribution to winning back the Senate.

Kromm quotes the subtitle of Thomas Schaller's forthcoming In These Times article "Where the Seats Are," making a very different prediction: "The Democrats are going to gain seats in the 2006 midterms, and those gains will come from outside the South." Schaller's view gets a little boost from an article in yesterday's New York Times "Georgia Home to Two of a Rare Breed — the At-risk Democrat" about the possibility of Dems losing two House seats, GA 8 and 12.

October 11, 2006

State of the Race Update

by Ruy Teixeira
cross-posted at the Washington Monthly's Showdown '06 blog

Over the weekend, I put up a lengthy post on "State of the Race: The Macro and the Micro", which provided my basic take on how the campaign currently looks, based both on macro (national) and micro (race-specific) indicators. There isn't much new micro data, but the release of four new national polls (CNN, USA Today/Gallup, CBS/New York Times and ABC/Washington Post) yesterday allows for some updating of the macro indictors--updating that is all bad, bad, bad for the GOP.

Generic Congressional Vote. In these four polls, Democrats averaged a 17 point lead over the Republicans. That pulls Charles Franklin's trend-based estimate of the Democratic advantage up to 13 points.

Bush Approval. These four polls averaged 37 percent approval for president Bush. Charles Franklin's trend estimate has consequentially been pulled down to 38 percent.

Congressional approval. These four polls averaged 28 percent Congressional approval.

Party Favorability and Preferences. In the Gallup poll, Democrats in Congress are favored over Repubicans in Congress on health care (+37), gas prices (+26), corruption in government (+21), the economy (+21), the situation in Iraq (+17), immigration (+13) and even moral standards in the country (+7) and terrorism (+5). In the ABC/Washington Post poll, the Democratic party is favored over the Republican party on health care (+33), ethics in government (+19), the economy (+17), immigration (+13), the situation in Iraq (+13) and even the US campaign against terrorism (+6).

Believe me, this just scratches the surface of all the bad news in these polls for the GOP. If these macro sentiments are driving the micro situation farther toward the Democrats--which they likely are--the GOP is indeed in very big trouble. No wonder Charlie Cook observed in his latest column: "Four weeks is a lifetime in politics and the tide still could shift. But for Republicans to salvage their majorities in the House and Senate, quite a bit would have to change."

Stay tuned. We shall see if the GOP gets those changes...or whether these polls foreshadow a disastrous election day for the Republicans.

Hispanic Turnout Critical in Many Races

June Kronholz article "Uphill Climb: Registering Hispanics to Vote" in today's Wall St. Journal provides a discouraging update on efforts to register Latino voters. If Kronholz is right, and we need to hear from other sources on this, Hispanic registration and turnout will fall well short of optimistic goals bandied about in the wake of this year's massive demonstrations in support of immigrant rights. The stakes are high, and the immigration issue could be pivotal in specific races, as Kronholz notes:

Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and account for more than half of all foreign-born immigrants. But historically, most of them can't or don't file for citizenship, and most of those who do file don't vote. For example, during a recent week, 28,000 immigrants became citizens. If past patterns hold, 6,160 are Hispanic, and just 3,572 of them will register to vote.

The untapped potential means both political parties have much at stake in the immigration debate. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an advocacy group, estimates there are 9.4 million immigrants -- both Hispanic and non-Hispanic -- who are eligible to become citizens and vote. That is almost three times the popular-vote margin for President Bush in the 2004 election.

In a half-dozen swing states, the immigrant vote this year could be decisive for the party that can harness it. The Illinois Coalition says that in Florida, there are 870,000 potential votes among immigrants eligible to naturalize and their voting-age U.S.-born children. An additional 77,000 U.S.-born children of immigrants will be old enough to cast ballots in Florida in the 2008 election, it adds.

The WSJ article has an interesting chart noting that, while Hispanics are the largest demographic minority, they remain a distant third in eligible voters and voter turnout. There are 148.2 million white citizens over the age of 18, compared to 23.3 million African Americans, 16.1 million Latinos and 3.3 million Asians nationwide. But the 2004 voter turnout percentages show an even greater gap that cries out for a more aggressive voter registration program by Democrats: white 67; Black 60; Hispanic 47 and Asian 44.

Voter registration deadlines for '06 have passed in most states, but it's not too late to put more resources into increasing turnout. And on the morning after the election, Dems should begin planning for a stronger registration program for '08.

October 9, 2006

State of the Race: The Macro and the Micro

by Ruy Teixeira
(cross-posted at www.washingtonmonthly.com)

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to looking at the outlook for this year’s Congressional elections. One is the “macro” approach, where one looks at a variety of national indicators to gauge the mood of the electorate and how that’s likely to affect the incumbent and challenging parties. The other approach is the “micro” approach, which assesses how each individual House and Senate race is likely to turn out, and aggregates up from that level to assess the likely gains and losses of the two parties.

The two methods can tell different stories and, indeed, this spring that’s just what they did. The macro story suggested that the GOP was in terrible shape and likely to get swamped by the Democrats in November. Indeed, by these macro-indicators, as Charlie Cook pointed out at the time, the GOP was at least as badly off as the Democrats were at that point in the 1994 election cycle.

The micro story was different, however. Looking at individual races, it was hard to see where the Democrats could pick up enough seats to take back the House, while the Senate looked almost impossible.

But that was then. This is now and now the macro and micro data are aligning and pointing in the same direction: big trouble for the Republicans and a good chance that they could lose not only the House—which looks better than 50-50 at this point—but also the Senate.

Let’s review the relevant data, starting with the macro indicators.

Right Direction/Wrong Track

Right before 1994 election, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal (NBC/WSJ) poll had this critical indicator of the public mood at 55 percent wrong track/27 percent right direction. Today, the same poll has this indicator at 58 percent wrong track/29 percent right direction.

Generic Congressional Contest

In polls concluded this week, Democrats averaged a 14 point lead among registered voters in the generic congressional contest. Charles Franklin’s model-based trend estimate looks to be about a 12 point lead for the Democrats, judging from the chart on his site. Even assuming the generic question overestimates Democratic support by 5 points (Charlie Cook’s rule of thumb and the average difference between Gallup’s final poll among registered voters and the actual election result), that still gives the Democrats an average lead of 7-9 points.

The Democrats are also running even larger leads among independents in the generic Congressional ballot–typically 6-7 points higher than their overall lead. Thus, if the Democrats’ “true” overall lead is now about 8 points, then their true lead among independents is probably 14 or 15 points.

With that in mind, consider the following. As far back as I can get data (1982), the Democrats have never had a lead among independents larger than 4 points in an actual election, a level they managed to achieve in both 1986 and 1990. Indeed, since 1990, they’ve lost independents in every congressional election: by 14 points in 1994; by 4 points in 1998; and by 2 points in 2002. So, even leaving questions of relative partisan turnout aside (and I suspect the Democrats will do better, not worse, in this respect in 2006), the implications of a strong Democratic lead among independents in this year’s election, if it holds, are huge.

Generic congressional data also tend to show substantial shifts away from the GOP among a wide range of Republican-leaning groups, including some of their strongest base groups. For relevant data, see the October 3 Democracy Corps memo “Key Targets for November” and Friday’s Washington Post article, “GOP’s hold on Evangelicals Weakening”.

Presidential Job Approval

According to the Hotline, the average approval rating for Bush in this week’s polls is 38 percent approval/56 percent disapproval (Charles Franklin’s trend-based estimate has his current rating a couple of points higher). By comparison, Clinton’s average approval rating right before the 1994 election was 46 percent/45 percent.

Congressional Job Approval

The Hotline’s weekly poll average for Congressional job approval is now 28 percent, with 65 percent disapproval. Right before the 1994 election, Congress’ job approval stood at 24 percent (according to the NBC/WSJ poll). This indicator is not just bad for the incumbent GOP in general, but there are reasons to believe this is a key indicator of potentially large seat swings. As a Gallup report on Congressional job approval and the election notes:

During recent midterm election years, low congressional approval ratings have been associated with greater shifts in the partisan composition of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the five elections since 1974 in which Congress' approval rating was below 40%, the average net change in U.S. House seats from one party to the other was 29. In the three midterm elections in which congressional approval ratings were above 40%, the average change was five seats....

The fact that both congressional and presidential approval ratings are low does not bode well for the Republican Party. The current situation is similar to the political environment in 1978 and 1994, when Democrats controlled both the legislative and executive branches -- which were both unpopular. Those elections resulted in net losses for the Democratic Party of 11 and 53 seats, respectively.

Party Favorability and Preferences

According to a Gallup report based on data collected before the Foley scandal, Republicans are now running a considerable favorability deficit. The public rates them 42 percent favorable/53 percent unfavorable, compared to a 54 percent favorable/40 unfavorable rating for Democrats.

The latest Pew poll finds the Democrats preferred 55-27 on “more concerned with people like me”, 48-28 on “can bring about changes the country needs”, 44-34 on better managing the federal government and 41-27 on governing in a more honest and ethical way. And the public believes, by 41-27, that the GOP is more influenced by lobbyists and special interests.

On issues, the latest Ipsos-AP poll reports the following. Registered voters prefer Democrats over Republicans by 58-27 on health care, 53-31 on Social Security, 52-27 on gas prices, 51-36 on the economy, 50-37 on taxes, 48-38 on Iraq, 44-35 on same-sex marriage, 44-36 on immigration and 41-25 on political corruption. Most amazingly, Democrats are even preferred by 43-41 on terrorism and by 43-41 on protecting the US. (Note: the just-released Newsweek poll also finds the Democrats ahead—this time by 44 percent to 37 percent-- on which party is trusted more to fight the war on terror.)

The Micro Situation

As these data suggest, there is precious little in the macro indicators that suggest anything other than a bad election for the GOP. But macro indicators don’t determine elections, voters in individual races do. And it is here that the big changes have taken place. In the spring, one could look race by race and it would be hard to see where the Democrats could make the necessary pickups to translate macro sentiment into a victorious election. But now you can.

While there is a lot of data available in a lot of different places on House races, Chris Bowers of MyDD provides a useful summary of competitive races tiered by likelihood of going Democratic and including the latest polling data, where available. This provides the raw material for thinking about how races might fall and lead to the net gain of 15 seats Democrats need to take back the House. The key thing to keep in mind is that the races near the top of Bowers’ chart appear highly likely to go Democratic (including, of course, a new entrant to this category, Mark Foley’s FL-16 seat). These races alone should take the Democrats within a handful of seats of retaking the House. After that, less probable races have to fall the Democrats’ way, but there are enough of these that average performance in these districts should put the Democrats over the top (i.e., if two races are 50-50 for the Democrats, those odds say that, on average, the Democrats should pick up one of these two seats). And historical experience suggests that in a “wave” election like this one, the party favored by the wave—the Democrats this year—may do far better than average in races that now appear 50-50.

Turning to the Senate, the math here is simpler. The Democrats must take all five of the most vulnerable GOP seats (Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) plus one of two other seats that have been considered less vulnerable but still competitive (Tennessee and Virginia) plus lose none of their own. Alternatively, they could lose one of their own (the obvious candidate here is New Jersey), but then they’d have to win all seven of the GOP seats just mentioned. This is a tall order and last spring it seemed virtually impossible; it was not clear how strong Democrats would be in the top five races and the Tennessee and Virginia races looked like real outside shots.

Now things look different. The Democrats must still run the table in the manner described but the outside shots now look quite plausible and chances in the top five look good to very good. Here are the last-five-poll averages from the very useful site, Pollster.com, run by Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin: Missouri (McCaskill-Talent), 44-45; Montana (Tester-Burns), 49-43; Ohio (Brown-DeWine), 45-42; Pennsylvania (Casey-Santorum), 49-39; Rhode Island (Whitehouse-Chafee), 44-40; Tennessee (Ford-Corker), 45-43; and Virginia (Webb-Allen), 42-48. In addition, in New Jersey (far and away the Republicans’ best chance for a seat pickup), Democrat Bob Menendez now leads Republican Tom Kean by 43-41. So, in a wave election, all the raw materials are there for these seats to all or almost all break in the Democrats’ direction-- an outcome with plenty of historical precedent—leading to a switch in control of the Senate. That doesn’t mean it will happen (chances still look poorer than in the House for a switch of control and are probably less than 50-50) but it easily could happen, something most observers would not have said earlier in the year.

What Lies Ahead

One month ‘til election day! What we would all like to know, of course, is whether this situation is liable to get better, get worse or stay the same for the GOP. On the stay the same or get worse side of the argument, start with the fact that this is a heavily nationalized election, which is a big disadvantage for an unpopular incumbent administration and Congress. To cite some representative data, the latest Pew poll found voters saying national issues, rather than local issues, were most important to their vote by a 51-23 margin. And 39 percent said they are thinking of their vote for Congress as a vote against President Bush. Analogous figures going back to 1982 show that this level of anti-president voting has never been surpassed—indeed, there are no figures before 2006 that are even close.

The Foley scandal should, if nothing else, keep the spotlight shining on the failures of the Bush administration and GOP Congress. Changing the subject back to local issues, already difficult, has just become even harder.

But it could be much worse than that. Two of my favorite political observers, Charlie Cook and Chuck Todd (editor of the Hotline), termed it respectively a possible “inflection point” or “tipping point” in the campaign, creating serious momentum toward the Democrats as we move toward election day. Already, we know that almost everybody (78 percent in the latest Time poll) has heard of the Foley scandal and that they strongly believe a GOP cover-up is going on (64-16 in the same poll).

But it could take awhile for these effects to be fully felt. In the Pew poll, which concluded on October 4, there was no difference in the Democratic lead (13 points) in the generic Congressional contest before and after the Foley news broke. A more extensive review of recent data by Mark Blumenthal also finds no recent change.

On the other hand, an October 7 story in The New York Times suggests that the Foley scandal is already tipping some races where corruption or related issues have been important in the Democrats’ direction. And the just-released Newsweek poll does have Bush’s approval rating down to 33 percent, a new low in that poll. So we shall see.

But the biggest problem for the GOP remains Iraq. Even before the Foley scandal broke, the string of Iraq-related bad news and revelations (the loss of Anbar province in Iraq, the NIE conclusion that the Iraq war has made the war on terrorism harder, the Woodward and Powell books and their documentation of Bush administration failures) had halted some modest momentum in the GOP’s direction. Now Iraq is increasing in importance to voters’ Congressional vote intentions—and is clearly the top voting issue—even as pessimism on Iraq deepens. In the new Newsweek poll, 64 percent believe the US is losing ground in Iraq and 66 percent say the war in Iraq has not made the country safer from terrorism.

On the get better for the GOP side of the argument, there are limited possibilities. One, of course, is some unforeseen event that allows the GOP to change the subject. Not much one can say about this other than it could possibly happen.

Then there is the vaunted GOP turnout machine (but polls have generally shown Democrats more enthusiastic about voting this year and the Foley scandal seems likely to have a further negative effect on GOP voting enthusiasm) and their ability to spend a lot of money in the last days of the campaign. This may be their last and only hope of avoiding a very bad election. The Democrats, however, will not be standing idly by while the GOP tries to muscle their way out of bad situation, so it should be a very interesting last several weeks.

Newsweek Poll: The Donkey Runs Strong

Newsweek/Princeton Survey Research Associates International has a new poll (conducted 10/5-6) out and for Democrats it's all good. Some highlights:

A plurality of Americans, 42 percent, now say they trust Democrats to do a better job of handling moral values; 36 percent say they trust Republicans more. This represents almost a complete reversal from an Aug. 2-Sept. 1, 2002 Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard/Washington Post poll in which 31 percent of Americans said they would trust Democrats to handle moral values better while 44 percent said they would trust Republicans more.

On which party is most capable of confronting terrorism:

On the subject of the war on terror at home and abroad, 44 percent of Americans trust the Democrats to handle it better-a five-point increase from the Aug. 10-11, 2006 Newsweek Poll. Thirty-seven percent trust the Republicans more-a seven-point drop from the same August Newsweek Poll.

Dealing with Iraq?

When it comes to the situation in Iraq, 47 percent of Americans say the Democrats would handle it better, versus 34 percent who say the Republicans would.

Your money?

Fifty-three percent say the Democrats would do a better job with the economy, while only 31 percent say Republicans would...Fifty-six percent say the Democrats would do a better job managing gas and oil prices and 53 percent say they would do a better job managing federal spending and the deficit.

And the kicker:

A majority of Americans, 53 percent, would like to see the Democrats take control of Congress in this year's elections, according to the Newsweek Poll. Only 35 percent say they would like the Republicans to keep control. And 51 percent of registered voters say that if the elections were held today they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their district, versus 38 percent who say they would vote Republican. Among likely voters, 51 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate and 39 percent for the Republican candidate.

With less than a month to go, it would be hard to improve on such numbers. The challenge for Democratic candidates is to hold the line and close the deal over the next 3+ weeks with strong critiques of their opponents, clearly-stated policy positions and an inspiring vision for the future. The challenge for their campaigns is a fierce GOTV program in every district.

October 8, 2006

Dems Building 'Blue Bridge' in Mountain West

We refer readers to the New York Times Sunday Magazine for the second Sunday in a row, this time because freelancer Mark Sundeen takes a perceptive look at the Mountain West as a lynchpin for Democratic victories, both soon and later. Sundeen's article "The Big-Sky Dem," is largely a profile of charismatic Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. But he shares some interesting insights about the rising importance of the Mountain West in politics:

The Interior West has long been seen by Democrats on election night as simply a disheartening wall of big red blocks. Idaho, Utah and Wyoming haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Montana, Colorado and Arizona have all gone Republican in 9 of the last 10 presidential elections. But below the surface, the map of the West is slowly becoming a little less red and a little more blue. In 2000, Democrats had not a single governor in the interior West states; now they have four. Democrats have gradually been picking up House seats, too. In 1996, they won 4 of 24 House seats in the region. But they’ve managed to pick up 1 or 2 seats in each of the last four elections and have now clawed their way up to 8 of 28. In 2004, the party’s only bright spot besides Montana was Colorado, where Ken Salazar won a Republican Senate seat; his brother, John, picked up a House seat; and the Democrats took control of both state chambers.

“The pan-Western states — in an arc from Ohio, west to Montana and south to Arizona — are where the low-hanging and most-ripe-for-the-plucking electoral fruit for Democrats is to be found,” writes Tom Schaller in “Whistling Past Dixie.” The midterm election outlook seems to support Schaller’s thesis. None of the region’s eight Democratic representatives — the so-called Coyote Caucus — are considered at serious risk in 2006. But 10 of the 20 Republican-held seats are included in the list of 56 potential Democratic pickups compiled by Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. The Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona is putting up a surprising fight against the Republican incumbent, and the race for Nevada governor, an open seat vacated by a Republican, is listed by the Cook Report, an influential Washington political newsletter, as a toss-up.

Not all Democratic strategists agree with the "write-off-the-south" strategy. Sundeen quotes Dave 'Mudcat' Saunders on the subject:

As fertile as the West may seem for Democrats, some in the party remain skeptical that it matters much. “The problem with the Democrats is that they can’t count,” Dave (Mudcat) Saunders, a Democratic campaign strategist, told me. Saunders’s book, “Foxes in the Henhouse,” argues that the party would be wrong to focus on the West and ignore the South. He notes that 30 percent of the country’s electoral votes come from the South, and that by 2025 that percentage will be 40. “Georgia and Florida have as many votes as all the West put together,” Saunders points out.

It seems likely that any strategy or national candidates that can win the Mountain West could also find support in the SW and even some support in the South, and perhaps vice-versa. What seems certain, however, is a clear trend favoring Democrats in the Mountain and Southwestern states. Meanwhile, Brian Schweitzer continues to build what he calls a “blue bridge from Alberta to Mexico” an unbroken chain of Democratic governors from Montana to Arizona, and that mission could be accomplished on November 7.

October 6, 2006

GOP Losing Evangelical Voters

WaPo's Alan Cooperman story in today's edition "GOP's Hold on Evangelicals Weakening: Party's Showing in Midterm Elections May Be Hurt as Polls Indicate Support Dropping in Base" should give Rove and Co. something new to worry about. According to Cooperman:

A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.

...In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican, according to exit polls.

...Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a "favorable" impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent...the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern "in a more honest and ethical way" than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.

The Pew Research Poll, which is not yet posted on their website, was conducted 9/21-10/4. The poll found that the GOP still has a hefty lead among those who attend church more than once a week, while Dems improved their standing with a larger sub-group:

The main shift is among weekly churchgoers, about a quarter of all voters. Two years ago, they favored the GOP by a double-digit margin. But in the new Pew survey, 44 percent leaned toward Republicans and 43 percent toward Democrats, a statistical dead heat.

Cooperman speculates that part of the shift may be attributable to a growing interest among evangelicals in humanitarian concerns, as reflected in the popularity of Rev. Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life," which urges Christians to embrace issues not often addressed by the most prominent evangelical preachers, including poverty, the environment and torture. He cites another poll by the Center for American Values indicating Republicans have lost 14 percent of their support among frequent churchgoers, but Dems have only added 4 percent.

October 5, 2006

DCORPS: Seniors Leaning Democratic

Democracy Corps has an important new report "Winning Seniors in the Final Month" which should be of interest to all Democratic campaigns. The report indicates that Dems now enjoy a lead of 4 percent among seniors in congressional races in a survey conducted 10/1-3, according to authors Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Ana Iparraguirre.

But the authors caution that the Dems' lead has slipped in recent months, and among white seniors, the race is even. The authors recommend Democratic campaigns focus more on key senior issues, such as long-term care, drug prices, retirement security and opposing privatization of social security.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of seniors are expected to cast ballots in the upcomming election. "Seniors are the Democrats' most important target" say the authors. They recommend "running an outsider campaign" with "a populist edge." They urge strongly criticising Republicans who voted themselves pay raises, but denied bonuses and health care for returning veterans. The report points out that an estimated 29 percent of seniors are veterans.

The report goes into a lot more detail, and should be required reading for all Democratic candidates and campaign workers.

Dems Advance As GOP Slouches Toward Reality

Granted, the prospect of three consecutive Republican House Speakers resigning in disgrace is a less than impressive legacy for coming generations of GOP leaders -- and a clue for swing voters in upcomming congressional elections. But the disgrace has already happened, and a growing chorus of conservatives is calling on Speaker Hastert to resign in connection with his ineffectual ‘leadership’ in the Foley mess.

First there was the Washington Times, not exactly the intellectual vanguard organ of the conservative movement. Now, however, the higher-browed conservative opinion leaders have begun to weigh in. Bloomberg.com quotes Tom Winter, editor-in-chief of the conservative weekly magazine Human Events:

We think the Republicans need new leaders, and I don't think Hastert will be there much longer...I think he has to do this for the team, he has to step down.

Maggie Gallagher can’t resist getting in a few licks against the Democrats en passant, but she gets to the point in her National Review Column “Hastert Must Resign,” as does NRO National Economics Editor Larry Kudlow in “Step Aside, Speaker Hastert: This goes way beyond Foley.” The NRO’s editorial can’t quite embrace the inevitable just yet, citing House Republican leaders’ “evasion of responsibility” but calling instead for the heads of Rep. John Shimkus and unnamed aides of the Speaker. Nor can the ostrich-heads at two other leading conservative rags, The Weekly Standard and Commentary, who don’t even mention the Foley mess on their web pages as of Thursday morning. Presumably, they will all be dragged, kicking and screaming into the chilly October reality in the days ahead.

To be fair, it's not just Hastert. NRCC Chair Thomas M. Reynolds has made a horrible mess of things, and may lose his own election, if he isn't forced to resign from his leadership post. Kos has a report on the latest poll in his district here.

Meanwhile, Democratic campaigns looking for guidance in dealing with the GOP leadership meltdown should check out McJoan's post at Daily Kos featuring quotes from eight Democratic "netroots" candidates for congress, addressing GOP leaders' accountability for this and other Republican failures.

All of this may give the Dems a bump on November 7, but it would be a mistake to count on it. Dem leaders should continue to insist on full accountability, but make sure to take every opportunity to articulate a clear vision and agenda that can move America forward.

October 3, 2006

Will GOP Meltdown Give Dems Senate Majority?

What seemed unlikely a couple of weeks ago is now a very strong possibility -- a Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate. As a result of the Foley cover-up, it is not hard to imagine droves of disgusted evangelicals staying home on November 7, and a healthy chunk of those who don't stay at home now deciding to vote Democratic. Indeed, the GOP leadership's internal rot is so redolent that many non-evangelical conservatives may do likewise.

You can read about it just about anywhere. But MyDD's Chris Bowers does a particularly good job of rolling out the GOP debacle in his recent posts "Democratic breeze Blowing in the Senate" and "Total Republican Collapse Imminent."

Dems can expect a desperate GOP counter-attack to deflect media attention any time now. Should be a wild ride.

Republican GOTV Machine: Fact or Myth?

by Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, Emory University

With only five weeks left until the 2006 midterm election, political analysts remain divided about the Democrats’ chances of regaining control of the House and Senate. While some indicators such as the generic ballot continue to show a strong Democratic advantage and the overwhelming majority of competitive races involve GOP seats, President Bush’s approval ratings have climbed a bit in recent weeks, giving Republican strategists and candidates renewed hope. In addition, many analysts believe that Republicans have an ace in the hole going into the final days of the campaign—their party’s well-oiled get-out-the-vote (GOTV) machine. Despite polls showing Democratic voters more energized than Republican voters, these analysts believe that the Republicans’ vaunted “72-hour program” will give the GOP a critical edge on Election Day.

But is the Republican GOTV machine really as good as it’s made out to be? Claims about the effectiveness of the GOP’s 72-hour program are based largely on the results of the 2004 presidential election, and especially on what happened in the large battleground states. And no state is cited more frequently to illustrate the effectiveness of the Republican 72-hour program than Ohio.

Does the evidence from Ohio actually support these claims about the effectiveness of the Republican 72-hour program? It is true that the number of Republican votes in Ohio increased dramatically between the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, going from 2.35 million in 2000 to 2.86 million in 2005. That’s an increase of more than 500,000 votes, or 21.7 percent. Sounds impressive. But wait a minute—the number of Democratic votes in Ohio rose from 2.19 million in 2000 to 2.74 million in 2004. That’s an increase of more than 550,000 votes, or 25.4%. So which party’s GOTV program was more effective?

Okay, but everyone knows that the real key to a GOTV campaign is getting out your base. So how effective were Republicans and Democrats at getting out their base voters in Ohio? Well, one way to gauge this is to focus on each party’s strongest counties. In Ohio there were 14 counties that George Bush carried by a margin of at least 10,000 votes in 2000 and 6 counties that Al Gore carried by a margin of at least 10,000 votes. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of Republican votes in the 14 strongly Republican counties increased by 163,000, or 23.4%. That’s pretty impressive. But the number of Democratic votes in these 14 GOP counties increased by 113,000, or 26.4%! So while the Republican plurality in these counties increased by about 50,000 votes, the percentage increase in Democratic turnout was actually greater than the percentage increase in Republican turnout.
And what happened in the six strongly Democratic counties? The number of Democratic votes increased by 193,000, or 24.9%, while the number of Republican votes increased by 97,000, or 21.7%. So not only did the size of the Democratic plurality increase by almost 100,000 votes in these six counties, but the percentage increase in Democratic turnout was greater than the percentage increase in Republican turnout.

One of the most difficult things to accomplish in a GOTV campaign is to mobilize your own party’s supporters without also mobilizing the opposing party’s supporters. Not only did Democrats do a better job of turning out their own voters in Ohio, but they also did a better job of not turning out opposition voters. Based on the actual turnout data, it appears that the GOP’s vaunted 72-hour program was actually less effective than the Democratic Party’s GOTV effort in Ohio. On November 7th, that Republican ace-in-the-hole may turn out to be a joker.

October 2, 2006

Foley Scandal/Cover-up and House Races

It's too early to gauge the political ramifications of the still-unfolding Foley scandal/cover-up and it's clear more revelations are forthcoming. Thus far, the blogs are a step ahead of the newspapers-of-record in sharing the inside skinny on the political fallout. A good place to start is "Fight the Foley Five" at Daily Kos, which reports on five GOP-held seats that may be endangered by the scandal and their Democratic opponents. Also check out The Left Coaster Steve Soto's "Will The Foley Cover-Up Take Down The GOP House Leadership?" In his MyDD post, "Time For Hastert To Resign," Chris Bowers says "there is simply no way that we lose FL-16 now." The New Republic's Michael Crowley reports in "The Plank" that NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds may be especially vulnerable:

Although the New York Republican chairs the National Republican Campaign Committee, a post usually held by a safe incumbent (thus allowing him to focus on other races) Reynolds has always faced an inconveniently dicey re-election fight. Indeed, as reader CS notes, a September 28 SurveyUSA poll showed Reynolds with a mere 45-43 lead over his Democratic opponent, Jack Davis...In all likelihood, then, Reynolds is effectively down by a few points. And now newspapers in his own district are running headlines like "Reynolds accused of inaction on Foley."

And Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo covers the political fallout from more than a dozen different angles here.

October 1, 2006

Assessing Dean's Long-Term Strategy

Matt Bai has a lengthy portrait of DNC Chair Howard Dean in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Bai sheds favorable light on Dean's leadership as a champion of long-term (50 state) strategy and greater participation of Democratic "outsiders," who have been overshadowed by "insider" consutlants. But Bai also gives fair vent to Dean's critics, who believe his strategy will hurt Democratic chances on November 7.

And speaking of long-term strategy, WaPo's Zachary A. Goldfarb has a short, but encouraging update on an important topic that doesn't get enough attention from political journalists (or the DNC web pages) --- the battle for control of the state legislatures, where congressional districts are defined and future candidates for congress are prepared for leadership. Goldfarb's article, "Democrats Hope to Swing State Legislatures Their Way," says Dems have a solid shot at winning majorities of state legislatures in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa (both houses), Maine, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee.