NDN Analysis: Early Exposure Appears to Helping GOP Presidential Field

One of the arguments you hear from the defenders of the current DNC debate schedule is that all this extra exposure that Republican candidates are getting from the superior RNC schedule will end up hurting the GOP. It is an interesting argument. But a cursory look at the current state of the race doesn’t back it up.

Let’s first look at Presidential general election match ups. In the Real Clear Politics general election averages, the strongest announced Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is essentially tied with all the major GOP candidates. She has a slight lead over Trump and Rubio, but trails Carson, Fiorina and Bush. Worrisome for the Democrats is that in these five match ups Clinton is between 42% and 45%, which is lower than one would expect at this point.  While early, Democrats cannot be satisfied with their well known nominee in such a tight race with unknown and fringey Republicans.

But compare this data set with the Huff Po’s assessment of where the overall Democratic and Republican brands are. In Party ID, Dems leadthe  Rs by 9, 33 to 24. In favorability, Dems also have a very strong lead, 40/49 to 33/55. The President’s approval rating has been bouncing around in the mid to high 40s these last few months, so it isn’t a drag. Democrat Jack Conway is leading in the Kentucky’s governor’s race, and early polling in 2016 Senate races are showing the Democrats in good shape. So there is no evidence of a drag on the Democratic ticket, or a collapse of the Democratic brand in any other early publically available data.  Given this landscape, it is surprising that what is considered a weak GOP field is slightly ahead of the strongest Democratic 2016 candidate at this point. 

What the data suggests then is either the GOP Presidentials are over performing or the Democrats are under performing their respective brands.  The obvious explanation for why this would be the case would be the extraordinary level of attention the GOP candidates have gotten this far, including their two high performing weekday prime time debates. Yes, it is early, and this data doesn’t take into account this week’s successful Democratic debate. But remember, the far superior GOP schedule is likely to generate three times the impressions for GOP candidates over the course of the primaries. So rather than closing the gap with the GOP in the next few months the early advantage the GOP Presidentials have could grow, not dissipate.

It is still early and things will change. But a look at the data suggests that the extra attention the GOP candidates are getting is doing exactly what one would expect – improve their standing against a Democratic field getting far less exposure to the public. While this trend may not over hold over time, it should bolster the argument of those wanting a better Democratic debate schedule. It also suggests that the central rationale the DNC is using to stubbornly stick to a clearly inferior schedule cannot be backed up by data, or frankly, common sense.

Monday, 10/19 Update - A new CNN poll finds more evidence of impact (or lack of evidence of negative impact) of the early debates.  At this point Rs are more enthusiastic about voting next year, with 86% showing enthusiasm, 68% higher levels of enthusiasm and 12% not.  Dems are 80, 58, 21.  While the differences are not great, it reinforces the need to more aggressively engage Democrats, improve the standing of its candidates.