Democrats

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.

Fighting Conventional Wisdom on Deficits, The Economy and the Strength of the GOP

In prepping for my last two segments on Fox News (here and here) I had to review new polls which had some not so good news for Democrats. The first was from Public Policy Polling. The second one from NBC/Wall Street Journal.  In digging down on these polls, I found some suprising results (perhaps for DC):

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.

Spending and Deficits Are a Secondary Concern For Most Voters - Adding in a third recent poll, a YouGov/Economist poll, the other remarkable thing in these recent polls is how clear it is that spending and deficits - despite the media frenzy of late - remain a secondary concern - at best - for most voters.  In each poll, as most polls over the past five years, the economy is the overwhelming concern of voters, with the spending/deficit numbers far behind.  As it should - for every day Americans suffering through a "lost decade" of no wage and income growth, the state of the economy is a much more immediate and significant concern than the more abstract concern about the federal budget.   Concerns about deficits and spending spike among conservatives and Republicans, but in the In The Economist poll, for example, less than 10 percent of moderates and independents cited the deficit as a major concern.  In the NBC poll, those citing the importance of deficits actually dropped over the past month and still trailed the economy by 20 points. There simply is no data in these polls showing spending/deficits to be the killer app of 2010.

In each poll there was a great deal of intensity about spending and the deficit among Republicans, and much more interest in the economy/jobs in the rest of the electorate.  Which begs the question - how did the Democrats allow fiscal issues to become so dominant? I take a look at that in another post, this one on how the all important debate over the economy might play out this year.

Come to Our Event Wednesday Which Will Look at All This In Greater Detail - On Wednesday, NDN will be holding an event, noon, at our offices, which will take a much deeper look at all this matters.  Join us live, or on the web. 

If anyone can find polling which shows spending and deficits to be ranked higher than these two polls showcased by Fox News please send them our way.  And for a roundup of our thinking about the American economy, visit here.

Democrats Still Most Likely to Succeed Among Millennials

The "Millennial Generation" of young voters (read: my generation), along with other members of what Simon often refers to as the "New Coalition," played a critical role in delivering the 2006 and 2009 Elections to Democrats.  But according to Pew Research - which has been doing some really exciting work on Millennials- Democrats' edge may be slipping.  From Pew:

"The Democratic advantage over the Republicans in party affiliation among young voters, including those who 'lean' to a party, reached a whopping 62% to 30% margin in 2008. But by the end of 2009 this 32-point margin had shrunk to just 14 points: 54% Democrat, 40% Republican."

Let it be said that 15% remains a sizable differential, and that in 2008 most Americans were at the height of their Republican discontent so there was probably nowhere to go but down.  Further, Millennials' core political values continue to be significantly more progressive than any generation before ours, so Democrats' baseline advantage (the "value synchronicity" advantage if you will) is durable, even in light of this recent slip.  With Millennial voters, Democrats may be losing their hold on Most Popular, but all the data indicates that they remain the clear favorite for Most Likely to Succeed.

Plouffe's WaPo Piece a Must Read

David Plouffe returns to the national scene with an ambitious and thoughtful op-ed in the Washington Post today.  It is a true must read for anyone trying to make sense of the national environment right now, and where it might be headed this fall.

Also of interest on this busy Sunday morning is a sort of GOP response to the Plouffe piece in the WaPo, this one by the one of the message architects of the Scott Brown race.  And of course if it is Sunday there is Frank Rich.   

For good measure I will toss in my own essay which ran in Salon earlier this week.  It offers some thoughts on where the President's governing narrative might head this year.

Kos Weekly Track Shows Democratic Erosion Continues

There is mounting evidence that President Obama will need to return from his vacation with a new game plan. 

Update: Found this nugget from last week's national Pew Poll:

Although the Obama administration and some economists have touted the early signs of an economic recovery, the public is, if anything, more gloomy about the economy than it was two months ago. Ratings of the national economic situation remain dismal, with 52% saying the economy is in poor shape, and 38% saying its condition is “only fair.” People’s assessments of their own financial situation are less negative, but the number describing their finances as “poor” ticked up from 22% in June to 26% today.

The most notable change in economic views is the decline in the number of people who expect their financial situation to improve over the next year. The June survey found a nine-point increase in optimism since February (from 54% to 63%). In the current survey, the proportion expecting their financial situation to improve has fallen back to 55%.  Much of the change since June has occurred among middle- and upper-income people. There was no rise in the percentage who think their situation will worsen; instead, the number expecting things to stay the same has grown.

My recommendation to President Obama - spend much more time talking about what is clearly the number one issue to voters today, the economy; do more to help improve economic conditions for every day people; and use Labor Day and the G20 meeting as hooks to restart an important conversation with the American people about their economic future.

In Kos Track, Everyone Drops, Right/Wrong Track Evens Out

My new favorite weekly barometer of public opinion shows slight drops for all people and parties this week, but for the first time in many years the "right track, wrong track" measure did not have a higher wrong than right track.  That measure came in 48/48, reflecting the growing optimism of the American people in this new age of Obama. 

Amazingly the GOP's numbers continue to drop across the board.  In this poll the GOP trails the Democratic Party in favorability by 30 points, the Congressional GOP trails the Congressional Dems by almost 30, and Boehner trails Obama by over 40 points.  As low as the Republicans started this year - and it was low - it is astonishing that their numbers continue to slowly drift down, not having hit bottom yet.  There isn't a whole lot more room for them to go.  But they seem to be heading there any way.

After this week should we begin to speculate on whether Cheney is going to run for President this cycle?

Obama, Democrats rising - the race is going through a structural evolution

Two central dynamics are now taking over the Presidential campaign - the enormous, even historic, structural advantage of the Democrats, and Obama's new "surge", brought about through the early stages of his imminent victory over Senator Clinton.

Poll after poll these last few years have documented the emergence of a whole new political dynamic in American politics - the end of the conservative ascendency, the collapse of the GOP brand and the rise of the Democratic brand. Simply put, the country is more Democratic today than it has been since at least 1982 and perhaps all the way back to the 1960s. Today's Washington Post has a new national poll which again captures the yawning gap between the two parties, and the strong wind blowing behind the Democrats as they head into 2008 (for further evidence of this note huge fundraising and turnout advantage for the Dems so far in 2008).

A big looming question over the Presidential race has always been would the Democratic nominee be able to match the 10-15 spread between the two parties, resulting in what could be a truly realigning election and the dawn of a new progressive era? So far there has been little evidence of this, and indications have largely pointed to a very close general election.

But in the last week, there are signs that Obama's slowly emerging "victory" over Senator Clinton is beginning to alter that dynamic. Winners often get a bounce from their victory. It can be a few points or much more. And given that Senator Clinton is still in the race, it would be surprising for the Obama bounce to be more than a few points. But looking at the Post poll, the new LA Times poll, Rasmussen and Gallup, there is evidence that Obama is in the early stages of a bounce. He now leads Senator Clinton in all these polls by a larger margin than he has at any time in the campaign, consistently in double digits now (destroying her argument to be a stronger general election candidate). But he also is now starting to show three, six and in the Post poll, seven point advantages over Senator McCain.

While the Post makes the case that at this point McCain is outperforming the GOP and is showing remarkable early strength, I think that interpretation, while partially true, does not really capture what is happening in the race (particularly on the day GOPer Bob Barr entered the race, again showing how hard it is going to be for McCain to take full control over his party). Given the nature of the Democratic race, we really have no idea what a true McCain-Obama match up looks like. Senator Obama has yet to go through his ascension to be the Democratic chief, and all the public benefit that accrues from winning. This week, we are starting to see the public in the early stages of seeing Obama now as the Democratic nominee, and his numbers are rising across the board. But has he has not yet really won yet. I don't think at this stage he has risen as far has he will once Senator Clinton drops out of the race. He is in a sort of "mid-bounce." Which given that Senator Obama is now up mid- single digits now without having fully won, and given that the structural gap between the two parties is between 10-15 points, means he is likely to keep climbing over the next few weeks.

So, to me, this new Post poll should not be a comfort to the GOP, but yet another reminder of the catastrophic legacy of the age of Bush, and another early sign of what may be an historic realigning election to come in 2008 (the Mississippi House Special Election will be another sign).

For more on the dawn of a new political era, be sure to read our recent magazine article, The 50-Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era.

Richardson to endorse Obama

The Washington Post has reported that Bill Richardson will endorse Senator Obama.

As I wrote a week ago, this long lull 'til Pennsylvania is a very dangerous time for Senator Clinton. It is giving people time to look deeper at the campaign, and what they are seeing is that Senator Obama is winning, and given the delegate math will be very hard to beat. Expect more calls for Senator Clinton to end her candidacy in the coming weeks. Adam Nagourney reviewed this emerging dynamic in the NYTimes yesterday.

The Richardson endorsement will no doubt help Senator Obama address one of the most important weaknesses of the campaign, his standing with the Hispanic community. For more on the importance of Hispanics and the Southwest, see this new article in the American Prospect by Tom Schaller, our recent essay, The 50 Year Strategy, or our new analysis of how Hispanics have voted so far in 2008.

It will be interesting to see how Obama's speech on race earlier this week played into Richardson's decision to endorse.

Update: TPM reports that Senator Clinton ended February in debt. In debt.

Has anyone else noticed that Senator Clinton sort of disapeared this week? That the only stories she got into were process ones about FL and MI, passports and attacks?

Update 2: A new essay in the Politico strongly makes the case that Obama has already won the nomination. Without a primary for the next 4 plus weeks and the Wright controversy behind us for now, the press will need something to focus on. It appears as if for the next week or so the focus will be on whether Barack Obama has already won the nomination, challenging the Clinton campaign to come up with a better rationale for why they are continuing the race. The pressure on her to end her campaign and endorse Obama is going to mount in the next few weeks ushering in a very new dynamic in the campaign.

Obama now leads in the daily tracks

Just a few days ago Senator Clinton was leading by 4 and 6 points in the two major daily Presidential tracking polls. Now Gallup has Senator Obama up 5 (49-44) and Rasmussen has him up 2 (46-44). Obama has clearly now recovered from his tough week last week and seems to regaining some degree of national momentum. In both polls the movement is two way - he is trending up and she down. It is astonishing how this race continues to change, evolve, mature.

See this post for more on my thoughts about this next phase of the Democratic campaign for President.

Tue Update: Rasmussen now has it 48% Obama 41% Clinton, Gallup 48%-45%.  If Obama breaks 50% later this week with the small momentum he will get from his Mississippi win tonight, he will be able to say to all the undecided superdelegates that he is over 50 percent in the national polls, has won more votes, states and delegates, has raised much more money and has a far superior national organization.  And that given the math the only way she can win is by destroying him and his campaign, something nobody wants. 

So while the campaign moves on to the next round of states, you could see a scenerio developing in this 6 week window before Pennsylvania where elite Democratic opinion decides that he is definitively ahead, that it is dangerous for the party to prolong the fight and pressure mounts on Senator Clinton to fold.  For her campaign Obama's rebound in the national polls is a dangerous development, and one she is going to have address quickly or risk having this race slip from her grasp before we get to the Keystone State.

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