2010 Elections

Join Us Friday for an Event to Discuss Emerging Electorates

Last week's elections reminded us just how much the American electorate is changing.  For months, pundits declared that young voters and Latinos would stay home and sit this election out.  They were wrong.  Very wrong.  Young voters maintained their midterm enthusiasm and Latino voters played a critical role in various races. 

This Friday, November 12th at 12:30pm, please join us for a discussion that will examine young voters, African-American voters, Hispanic voters and unmarried women voters.  We will be joined by MSNBC Political Analyst and Former DNC Communications Director Karen Finney; Women's Voices, Women's Votes President Page Gardner; and NDN's VP of Hispanic Strategies, Andres Ramirez.

I will be moderating and there will be plenty of time for Q&A.  Please be sure to RSVP soon as this is likely to be a popular event!


The Youth Vote & The 2010 Midterm: Millennials Continue to Vote, Break for Democrats

For a segment of the electorate that was largely hyped by the mainstream media as being disinterested and disaffected, Millennial voters turned out to the 2010 polls in solid numbers. Almost nine million Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in yesterday's elections. In the last midterm, almost 10 million people in the same age group voted. According to a report by CIRCLE, "An estimated 20.4 percent of young Americans under the age of 30 voted in Tuesday’s midterm elections, compared to 23.5 percent in the last midterm election (2006)."

According to NDN Fellow and Millennial Expert Morley Wiinograd, "While the Millennial vote percent turnout was down from 2006, it was not down where youth outreach efforts were in place."  In fact, CIRCLE analysis shows us that we saw an increase in youth turnout in places where the Vote Again 2010 coalition (comprised of more than 30 non-profits focused on youth engagement) is highly active. In these areas where specific investment was made in the youth vote, youth turnout rose by six points compared to 1998. In contrast, we witnessed a decrease in voter turnout in the seven states where the Vote Again 2010 Coalition organizations were least active. For more data on these efforts and their effects, visit http://www.civicyouth.org/youth-turnout-about-20-comparable-to-recent-midterm-years/. 

Rock the Vote, in their analysis echoed this sentment: “In the precincts where Rock the Vote and other groups invested in young people, we saw an increase in turnout," said Heather Smith, the group's Executive Director. "There was no ‘enthusiasm gap.’ It was a ‘leadership gap.’” According to Rock the Vote, "Vote tallies from  precincts where Rock the Vote aggressively targeted young people such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, showed voter turnout amongst those ages 18-29 exceeded 2006 levels." You can read more about Rock the Vote's targeted efforts here: http://www.rockthevote.com/about/press-room/press-releases/vote-tallies-from-key-states-1.html

Perhaps more interesting than the rates at which this demographic turned out is who they turned out for.  Young voters resisted the Republican "wave." In fact, this was the only age demographic that Republicans did not win.  And although they maintain their allegiance to Democrats (even without President Obama on the ballot - an erroneous distinction made by many pundits when predicting young voter enthusiasm) many in the youth community feel that the youth vote opportunity was not maximized by either party.  According to  Smith,"Candidates in both parties failed to really engage young people in their races.  Republicans failed to attract increased numbers of young voters, and it could have been a very different outcome for Democrats had their candidates implemented the lessons from 2008's winning playbook."

What each party learns from these numbers will be a story to watch moving into 2012.

NDN Expands Ad Buys in AZ and CO - Help us do more.

Over a month ago, NDN launched a major Spanish-language radio campaign in three southwestern states designed to increase Hispanic participation in the upcoming elections. Our supporters have chipped in more than $350,000 so far for this campaign, and thanks to new donations received this week, we were able to significantly increase our media buys in Arizona and Colorado, and put a new closing ad on the air in each state.

You can listen to or read the scripts of these powerful, creative ads-- featuring Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer and Tom Tancredo-- here.

But there are more stations to buy in our three states - Arizona, Colorado and Nevada - and more ads we can produce and run.  Can you help us expand our final weekend ad buys with a contribution of $25, $50 or more to our campaign? Every dollar you give will go into buying more time for our powerful ads which are now saturating the airwaves in these three states, but we must receive your donation by 4pm today.

Please support our campaign today and help us make sure that the fastest-growing part of the American electorate turns out strong this November.

And thanks for all that you do.

2 New Polls Show Significant 7 Point Gains for the Democrats

More evidence this morning confirming the argument we've been making for the past few weeks - the Republican wave has crested, and a new dynamic in election 2010 has taken hold.  New Rasmussen and Washington Post polls each show a 7 point swing towards the Democrats in the national Congressional Generic in the past few weeks.  As we wrote yesterday this movement tracks similar movement seen in other polls released over the past few days, indicating that the Democrats have made substantial improvement in their position over the past month. 

The national media had been a little slow to acknowledge the significance of the dramatic change in the election but has clearly come around.  Look for new analyses in the Politico, Reuters, Slate and this video "Fast Fix" piece from Chris Cillizza.  John Dickerson's piece in Slate is particularly thoughtful, and it has this passage:

When voters were asked whether they would vote for a Democrat or a Republican, the GOP had a steady lead over the last two months in an average of the polls. Now the two parties are almost tied. The Gallup poll shows the same narrowing, as does the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Democrats usually discount Rasmussen polls as biased for the GOP, but even Rasmussen shows a nine-point Democratic surge. "There is life left in this baby," says Simon Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network, who has been arguing the case for a reappraisal of the election for weeks.

There is a clear understanding now in the political class that things have changed, but the big hedge is still on.  In the lead Washington Post story on their new poll, the 7 point Democratic gain was "modest," and the 6 point Republican lead "significant."  Not sure how that got by their editor this morning but shows how fundamentally invested much of DC's political class is in the September version of this story which had Democrats losing the House, a wave election and big Republican gains were already "baked in the cake." I am not sure where we will be in November but it is clear now that the election is going through a fundamental late shift, and this new dynamic has become, appropriately, a major topic for discussion now in the national media.  I just think most commentators are understating the significance of what is going on.

Two more observations this morning:

- When a new clear dynamic emerges in any election this late in the cycle, it is very hard for that dynamic to be altered or dissipate.  In the case of 2010, I think this will prove particularly true.  The Democrats have more tools to effect the national environment in the final month.  They have a much more powerful closing argument.  They have the bully pulpit of the White House, and a charasmatic President who has found his voice in recent weeks on the number one issue for all voters - the economy.  The Republicans, on the other hand, have tired and unappealing leaders, have failed to present a compelling election agenda, have fielded far too many fringe candidates, and the country still holds them - accurately - accountable for the mess we are in today.  The inherent weakness of the GOP's offering failed to close the deal with the public, and has left the door open for the apparent Democrat revival we are seeing now.   Given current trends it is reasonable to conclude that the Democrats could pick up another 3-6 points in the national polls before election day, which would have a significant impact of course on the many close races across the country.  One of the shortcomings of many of the current political analyses of this endgame electoral dynamic is the reluctance of the authors to acknowledge that the current trend lines are likely to continue to through election day, and if they do this really is a whole new ball game.  No candidate or political party wants to be losing ground - particularly 6 or 7 points - as they head in the final month.

-  The current American electorate is unlike any electorate most political observers have ever seen.   Democrats went in to the 2010 cycle having completed their strongest electoral performances in over 40 and perhaps even 70 years.   Democrats won 52% and 53% of the vote in 2006 and 2008, with 2008 being the best Presidential performance since 1964 and only the 2nd time since 1944 Democrats won more than 50.1% of the national vote in a Presidential election.  Simply put more people voted for a Democrat in 2008 than in 44 years.   In contrast, the Democrats went into 1994 having only won 43% of the vote in 1992, giving them a very different relationship to the electorate than the current Democrats.   In essence the ceiling for Democrats is higher in this midterm than it has been in a very long time, which may help explain why the Democrats are defying conventional wisdom and gaining ground in the end game of 2010. 

I am struck that in most national polls the Republican number is that very same 46% they got in 2006 and 2008.  Meaning that despite all that has gone on the Republicans have not improved their standing with the American public at all since their wipeout elections in 2006 and 2008.  For the Democrats, starting again back at 53%, the question in this end game of 2010 was could they got those who had wandered from them but not yet gone to the GOP to return.  And what seems to be happening now is that the Democrats are reclaiming some of that majority vote they received in the last two elections.

So lets do some math here.  If the Republicans have peaked at 46%, and the Democrats are somewhere between 43% and 46% and gaining, what do we believe is the most likely outcome in this final month?  Can Democrats regain half of their lost 2008/2006 vote, and get their national number up to 48/49% given the Republicans have shown no capacity to grow?  Somehow I think this feels like the likely outcome in 2010.  We end up with the Democrats even or ahead few points in the Congressional Generic, ahead or even in all regions of the country outside the South, and with a result that will be disapointing to the Republicans who started their victory laps just a little bit too early.  

Morning Update - The always sharp John Heilemann cites our analysis in his weekly New York Magazine column, and the equally savvy Mike Tomasky has an interesting riff on all this in The Guardian today.

NDN Analysis - A New Dynamic Has Taken Hold in the 2010 Elections

After a few weeks of writing and discussing some changes we had picked up in the national polls, I think it is clear a new national dynamic has emerged - the Republicans are losing ground, and the Democrats are gaining.

Consider the two charts below.  The first is an aggregate of all national polling of the so-called "Congressional Generic Ballot," which asks the simple question "do you intend to vote Democrat or Republican this fall?"  In this aggregate, the Republican advantage has gone from 5-6 points to 1 1/2 percentage points in recent weeks.  In the independent Gallup survey chart a similar trend can be found, with the GOP losing 6 percentage points in the generic in the last month.  That same six point drop can be found in the recent WSJ/MSNBC poll released late last week.  In that poll the GOP advantage went from 49-40 to 46-43. 



The data now indicates that any talk of a "Republican Wave" needs to be dismissed, and a new theory of the 2010 elections, one which takes into account this late movement towards the Democrats and away from the Republicans, needs to be fashioned. 

We've offered some initial thoughts on why this all may be happening in a series of recent essays, which you can find HERE.   Also be sure to read this new national Reuters story, which takes an in depth look at this new dynamic.

PM Update - New polling from GOP friendly Rasmussen has found a 7 point net swing to the Democrats in recent weeks. and now has the generic at 45-42. 

Further Evidence the GOP Wave Has Crested, and Is Receding Now

The new WSJ/MSNBC poll out this morning shows similar movement that we've seen in other polls of late - a dip in the GOP's numbers and a rise for the Democrats.   Their likely voter Congressional Generic sample moved from 49-40 for the GOP in August, to 46-43.  As I've written elsewhere, what is important here is that it is not just that the Democrats are gaining, it is also that the GOP is dropping.  And as anyone in politics knows, you don't want to go into the last 5 weeks of any election as the GOP is entering the home stretch of 2010 - losing ground while your opponent is gaining.  These kind of trend lines are hard to reverse at this stage of an election.  I have believed for a long time that the election would end this way, for the Democrats have a much stronger closing argument than the GOP.

As we saw yesterday analysts are finding evidence of Democrats gaining ground across the country.  Consider that in a slew of Senate races - DE, KY, PA, CO, NV, CA, WA - the Democratic candidate is in much stronger shape than a few weeks ago.  

I also find it of interest that the GOP is hovering around 46% in most of the aggregate averages and in the new WSJ/MSNBC poll.   This is the same percentage of the vote they received in the last two elections, indicating that despite all the noise the Republican Party is exactly where it was in 2006 and 2008, and those were not good elections for them.  As Barack Obama said yesterday if everyone who votes for the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 just vote again his party will be fine.  Clearly at this stage the same cannot be said for the GOP. 

There is now enough evidence of late to indicate that 2010 should no longer be considered a "wave election."  Or if it is, then it appears that the GOP wave has crested, and is receding now - a dangerous mental image for a party as unpopular, ideologically divided and as out of touch with every day Americans as the modern GOP.

Was on Fox yesterday talking about all this.  Check it out below:

Hope for the Dems? - Part II

Last week, after a deep look at polls across the country, I wrote a piece, Hope for the Dems? which argued that there signs that the election was beginning to shift away from the GOP and towards the Democrats.  

The piece got a lot of play last week, and I called around to some folks who track this stuff to see if they were seeing the same thing.  Two of the folks I talked to, Mark Blumenthal and Chris Cillizza, have pieces out today which finds a bit more evidence that things may be improving for the Democrats (you can find them here and here).  In my piece last week I lay out why I think this may be happening, so I wont repeat it here.  But I do want to offer a few more observations on this remarkable election.

- Pay attention to demography.  For over five years NDN has been arguing that a "new politics" was emerging in America, driven by vast changes in our governing agenda, our media and technology and our people.  In 2008 President Obama built a new and powerful electoral coalition for the Democrats, the strongest built for center-left politics in over 40 and perhaps even in over 70 years.  This new coalition was built around a very different - and continually changing - electorate of the 21st century.

Going all the back to the primary against Hillary Clinton, the electorate began to split - younger for Barack, older for Clinton.  This trend continued in the fall election of 2008, where older folks went with McCain, younger for Obama.   Younger people are also much more non-white than the aging generations in the US, so the Obama vote was also much more racially mixed than McCains.  As a bi-racial man himself Obama was very much the leader of this new much more diverse and younger coalition that really looked like no other majority coalition built in US political history.

In 2010 this trend continues to play out.  Older, whiter, more conservative parts of the country - the South, the Rustbelt - are trending a bit more Republican now.  Younger, more full of recent immigrants and more racially diverse parts of the country remain pretty strong for the Dems.   There appear to be at least five major regions of the country now -

The Northeast - Solid Dem

The Rustbelt - Democratic, but trending GOP

The South - Solid GOP

The Latin Belt (from FL to TX through the SW and CA) - Leaning Dem

The Pacific Coast - Solid Dem

While important, the national poll numbers dont really tell the story of our complex country.  For example in this "wave election" the Democrats could very well win the governorships in CA, TX and FL.  Harry Reid has come back strong in Nevada, as has Patty Murray in WA.  New polls showing Democrats doing well in House races in NM.  California in trending Democratic again. 

As a rule of thumb I think you should expect the Dems to do a bit better in the younger, more diverse parts of the country this fall, the Republicans a bit better in the older, whiter and more conservative parts of the country.   While this may be enough to see significant Republican gains this fall, long term the GOP's current coalition is a slowly melting icecube and cannot sustain them over time.

- The Republicans Have No Closing Argument, the Democrats Have A Good One Available to Them.  The arguments the GOP are making now about the Democrats are the same arguments they were making six months and even a year ago when the electorate started moving heavily against the Democrats.  So in that sense they have already gotten everything they can out of them in this election.  Putting $2 million dollars behind a campaign which argues that Democrats have seen the deficits rise and the economy worsen will not be very effective as voters already know and understand all this. The Democrats, on the other hand, have a potentially potent closing argument they can use in their ads full of things which have been front of mind for voters this past year. 

I layed out my sense of this dynamic in a piece I penned for the Huffington Post last week called "The Closing Argument."  Essentially I argue that if the Dems close with this narrative - the GOP screwed everything up, the Democrats have started to put things right, the Dems have a smart and good plan for the future which needs more time to work, the Republicans have a bad and reckless plan with ideas already proven to hurt the nation - they can significantly improve their posiition.

To me the one devastating attack against the GOP now open to the Dems is to make clear that the entire GOP economic argument - the single biggest issue in the election right now - is built upon an extraordinary lie.  As President Obama pointed out yesterday, the core of the GOP's promise this year is to cut the deficit, and yet not a single GOP candidate running for office in the US can produce a plan which will reduce the deficit even by a penny in the next ten years. When the Republicans say that they will reduce the deficit - and there is no nice way to say this - it is a lie.  Adroit Democratic campaigns can and will use this basic truth to weaken sentiment about individual Republicans and the overall Republican economic argument. 

So, like many, I am still trying to figure out what is going on in this complicated election.  But what I do know is that there is still life left in this baby, and nothing is "baked in the cake."

Release of NPI Study on Political Attitudes & Behaviors of Colorado & Florida Millennials

As the Director of the 21st Century America Project, I am proud to announce a new body of work that continues our tradition of tracking the evolving attitudes of the Millennial Generation.  As the largest, most diverse and most progressive generation in American history, we continue to analyze their place in the 21st Century Electorate. 

Today, our sister organization, the New Policy Institute, released two reports by 21st Century America Fellow and Millennial expert Mike Hais.  Both reports examine the results of two polls focusing on the political attitudes and behaviors of Colorado and Florida Millennials. 

Young voters were a key component of the voter coalition that won Colorado and Florida for Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2008. These new reports find that two years later, solid pluralities of Colorado and Florida Millennials (18-29 year olds) intend to vote for Democratic gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and Congressional candidates in this year’s midterm elections. The Democratic vote intentions of Colorado Millennials are based on the continued identification of a majority of them with the Democratic Party, and of the greatest number as liberal or progressive. Finally, most continue to hold favorable attitudes toward the Democratic Party and to approve of Barack Obama’s performance as president.

At the same time, the extent to which these young Coloradans and Floridians turn out at the polls this fall is a major concern. Political participation, and the extent to which the political parties and other organizations attempt to enhance it, is the overriding issue in Colorado and Florida youth politics in 2010. 

Both report can be found on the New Policy Institute site: http://www.newpolicyinstitute.org/2010/09/report-the-political-attitudes-behavior-of-colorado-and-florida-millennials/.

For additional background, or to learn more about The 21st Century America Project, please visit our homepage: http://ndn.org/programs/21st-century-america-project.

Poll Watch - Hope for the Dems?

Both the Real Clear Politics Congressional Generic average and the new Gallup track show similar national trend lines - Dems gaining ground, GOP dropping.   Similarly, the Gallup track has Obama's approval rating improving by 10 net percentage points in the past month, from 42/51 to 47/46 (RCP has shown movement despite 2 clear outlier Rasmussen and AP polls).

If these trend lines are true, no one should be suprised.  The underlining favorability of the Republican Party is still far below that of the Dems and Obama.   This election has never been like 1994 where at this point there had been both a fall of the Dems and a rise in the GOP.  The memory of the disasterous GOP reign in the last decade is still too fresh, their leaders still to unreformed, their candidates far too wacky, and their ideas still to reckless for the current GOP to have fully taken advantage of the Democratic underpeformance this past cycle. This election, like all elections, is not like any other election.  It has its own contours, its own set of dynamics.  Like all elections it is sui generis.

As NDN has been arguing for most of 2010, the real questions in the election were 1) could the Democrats get their huge base to come home and vote 2) could the Dems do a better job at engaging on the main issue of the election, the economy, and better define the GOP as a reckless party? The late movement in this election, despite the truly silly "baked in the cake" arguments we've heard on TV of late, was always likely to be towards the Democrats.  This current Congress had done too much right for the summer perceptions of Democratic performance to continue to be as bad as it was.  And the underlying strength of the Democratic and Obama brands were just too great for their standing not to improve with some focused recalibration, which has happened now.  We dont really now exactly why these things have happened, but I for one believe its because the President has begun to make the choice on the economy much more clear.

Remember that in the last two elections, the Democrats garnered 52 and 53 percent of the national vote. The last time they received such numbers two elections in a row was in the 1930s, meaning that for those covering politics there had not been an environment so Democratic since prior to Reagan's rehabilitation of the GOP, and maybe even all the way back to the 1960s or 1930s.  The Democrats started this cycle in a position where if got those who already voted from them in the last two elections to vote for them again they could win a smashing 1934 like victory, bucking historical mid-term trends of parties in historically weaker shape than the 2010 Democrats.  

I hope given these polls that the comparisons to 1994 will come to an end.  For the GOP this polls should be very worrying.  They are now dropping as a national political party 6 weeks before an election.  They have no argument where they want to take the country.  They have unattractive leaders and far too many fringe candidates.  Led by a re-energized President, the Democrats have begun to find their voice, and their numbers are improving.

Underneath all the noise the political terrain of 2010 is changing, and so far this new terrain is far more favorable to the Dems than the Rs.  My sense is that Democrats have reclaimed ground they never should have lost in the first place.  The real question now is what happens next, how does this election close? If I were a Republican I would not like the charts on Gallup and RCP showing sharp downward movement this close to an election, as they have very few tools now to reverse what could be a significant drop in their standing.  For Democrats there is muted but renewed hope.

Update - A new poll by John Zogby released today shows similar movement in both Obama's approval and the Congressional generic.  More evidence that these trends are real.  

Some Early Thoughts on the New Gallup Congressional Generic Numbers

The Beltway is already abuzz this am with a new Gallup poll showing a huge swing towards the Democrats in the Congressional Generic Ballot test, from 47-46 to 49-43.  While we don't know if this is a significant shift yet - time and other polls will tell us more in the weeks to come - we do know that such an outcome is perfectly plausible as the Democrats retain a huge Party ID advantage this year, ranging from 7-12 points depending on the poll. 

NDN has been arguing all year that despite a drop in Democrat favorability, the structural changes which took place in the electorate in 2006 and 2008 have not abated.  Democrats won those two elections with historically large majorities, winning each election by 53-46.  Given that the last time the national Democratic Party had won a Presidential election by more than 50.1 percent was 1964, these back to back majorities signaled an end of what we have called "the era of conservative ascendency" and signaled that a new post-conservative age had begun, that a "new politics" had been born. What happened in 2006 and 2008 was a structural shift in the American electorate, making it much more Democratic than it had been since at least the 1960s, and making the political environment different than any strategist, consultant, reporter or pundit had seen in 45 years, and certainly different than virtually any of these professionals had experienced in their adult lifetime. 

In late June, I wrote the following in a post called Fighting Conventional Wisdom on Deficits, The Economy and the Strength of the GOP,

Democrats Still Hold a Substantial Lead in Party ID - In each poll, the Democratic Party held a 9 point Party ID advantage over the GOP (45/36 in NBC/Wall Street Journal, 43/34 in Public Policy).  9 points is of course a bigger spread than the  actual vote in each of the last two elections, which broke 53% to 46% for the Democrats.  In 1994, by comparison, the GOP had a party ID advantage over the Democrats. 

What is remarkable about these findings is that the structural shift away from the GOP and towards the Democrats is not showing signs of abating.  Looking at the Congressional Generic Ballot (even these days, with Ds and Rs being in the mid 40s) and Obama/Dem approval (mid to high 40s) there is evidence the Democrats have lost some ground since 2008.  But there simply is no evidence in either of these polls that the GOP has gained at all, and remains in the same mid 40 percent range - or less - the party achieved in each of its last two losing election performances (Real Clear Politics average of the Generic Congressional Ballot now has the Democrats up a bit, 43/42.6 - if you take out the always GOP biased Rasmussen it is closer to 2 points now).

In fact, a reasonable interpretation of these polls is that the GOP is stuck at a ceiling of 45/46/47, the Dems have dropped to similar terrain, but with Party ID being so strong for the Dems, there is more of a clear path now for the Dems to regain their lost ground than for the GOP to grow beyond their current position. With the GOP now stuck in the mid 40s, a lot of what happens in 2010 will depend on what happens with that 5-8 percent the Democrats have lost - will they come home? Not turn out? Go to the GOP?

It is fair to say from these polls that neither party should be happy with their position 4 1/2 months from the 2010 midterms.  The Democrats have lost too much of its recent historic vote, and the GOP has not shown any capacity to take advantage of the Democratic weakness.

What may be happening now is that the Democrats may be in the process of reclaiming their lost vote, something that we have argued is more likely than an unreformed and reactionary GOP taking advantage of the recent Democratic slippage. It is too soon to know if this happening, but certainly if it is there is a data driven explanation for why this shift could be taking place.

We are not suprised that even experienced pundits are having a hard time making sense of the current electorate.  It is unlike any electorate that the political class has seen.  It is demographically very different from any electorate in American history, and has been, and remains, the most pro-Democratic electorate we've seen in at least 45 years.  For the current pundit class this is unfamiliar terrain, and applying old models to a new electorate simply will not work.

For more on this see Mike Hais's recent excellent Data Matters column, Democrats, Not Independents or Republicans, Will Decide Who Wins in 2010 and Beyond.

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