Monday, September 20, 2010
Christine O'Donnell's victory last week is different from other Tea Party-backed primary upsets. Marco Rubio forced moderate Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party in Florida, but Rubio has been a good candidate with successful history in politics and was electable in a swing state like Florida. In Nevada, Sharron Angle beat Sue Lowden but Lowden was damaged goods and the state likely an unlosable race. Ken Buck was polling as strongly as Jane Norton in Colorado's general. Despite Alaska's Senate candidate Joe Miller clearly being less electable than incumbent Lisa Murkowski, the state is red enough that in this current political environment Miller's credibility might not matter.
With O'Donnell the dynamics are very different. O'Donnell is a bad candidate. She has already run for statewide office twice and lost. She has a host of bizarre statements and positions that can be used against her from fear of mice with human brains to her vocal opposition to masturbation. Her polling numbers are terrible in the general election and she'll likely lose.
On the other hand Mike Castle was also a great general election candidate because of his unique history in the state. Not only was he almost guaranteed to win but national Republican groups probably didn't need to spend a dime to help him, freeing up money for tighter races. Despite it being a good year for Republicans, having an almost guaranteed pick up in one of the blue states in the union is a very rare thing for a party. There is probably no other moderate in the Republican Party who could more justifiably use the electability argument in their defense.
This is what should make O'Donnell's victory so deeply frightening to GOP moderates everywhere. O'Donnell was the "wrong" insurgent candidate, Castle was the "wrong" moderate to try to take out and Delaware was the "wrong" state. Yet despite all that Castle was still taken out. What this means is there is no moderate Republican, no matter how electable, no matter how blue their district and no matter how poor their potential primary challenger can truly feel safe.
The move might not be as foolish as for conservatives many think
Many are trying to depict the conservative support of O'Donnell as pure foolishness costing Republicans a seat in the Senate, this may not be the case. The loss of a single seat which would vote with them 60-70% of the time is a clearly a loss from their policy perspective. But over the long term I can see how the sacrifice might be worth it. By putting the fear in every moderate Republican everywhere in the country, O'Donnell's primary win could have the effect of moving rightward dozens of conservative members of Congress who now feel unsafe voting against their base.
Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League -- probably one of the most powerful and suave political activists in American history -- understood the importance of fear. Wheeler forced through the passage of the 18th amendment not because huge majorities in Congress on a personal level strongly agreed with prohibition, but because they were afraid to vote against the prohibitionist base. In politics you don't elected officials to agree with you; you just need them to be too afraid to vote against you.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In what can only be assumed is an attempt to counter the “Democrats are doomed” narrative, the DCCC has released five internal polls of swing districts taken by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Not surprisingly, they paint a much better picture for Democrats in the midterms.
All polls are of 400 likely voters
Larry Kissell (D) 48
Harold Johnson (R) 36
Thomas Hill (L) 6
Bobby Bright (D) 52
Martha Roby (R) 43
Mike Arcuri (D) 50
Richard Hanna (R) 37
These polls are more favorable to Democrats than what little independent polling I have seen on these races. For example, a recent SurveyUSA poll found Perriello trailing Hurt by 23 points, and an August 6 Rasmussen poll found Herseth Sandlin losing by nine points. It would be very interesting to see crosstabs and projected turnout for all these polls. The problem is not really that voters who supported Democrats are now backing Republicans, but that most pollsters are finding Democratic-leaning voters are not planning to vote this November.
While at or just below 50 percent in a poll is not a great place for an incumbent to be, these numbers don't reflect the huge wave you would expect, given recent generic ballot polling. Seeing that the DCCC’s numbers are from internal polls, probably selected from the best polls of all swing districts, released now to counter the Democrats are in real trouble memo, I would take the findings with a grain of salt.
The fact that even the best polling the DCCC has show Perriello losing speaks to just how much trouble he is in.
Monday, August 30, 2010
PPP (PDF) (8/27-28)
Joe Miller (R) 47
Scott McAdams (D) 39
Joe Miller (R) 38
Scott McAdams (D) 22
Lisa Murkowski (L) 34
The important point about the poll is that Democrat Scott McAdams is not well known in Alaska. 23% of voters have a favorable view of him, 24% have an unfavorable view, and 53% are not sure. This is not surprising given that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has invested no money in the race and until recently McAdams had raised less than $10,000. Currently McAdams is basically a blank slate meaning there is huge potential for movement, either positive or negative.
Polling only eight points down in a Republican state in a Republican year, Alaska is not a bad place to be for McAdams as a no-name Democrat. There are several top-tier Democratic recruits with very expensive campaigns in what are thought to be battle ground states which have recently polled eight points or more behind their Republican opponent.
McAdams benefits from Joe Miller's very high unfavorable numbers. Only 36% have a favorable opinion while 52% have an unfavorable opinion of him. Miller has taken some extremely and unpopular positions on which McAdams could easily hammer. It is not inconceivable that after McAdams runs even a modest amount of what should be relatively cheap campaign ads to improve his name recognition with Alaska's voters, there could be significant improvement in his poll numbers.
The three-person race numbers are interesting but I suspect they have no predictive power. Three-way races can be extremely volatile and clearly McAdams has a lot of potential for growth. In a three-way race it is not inconceivable McAdams could pull off a narrow victory by simply rallying the die-hard 35.5% of the Alaska electorate that voted for John Kerry in 2004.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
PPP (PDF) (8/14-16)
Joe Sestak 36
Pat Toomey 45
That is a serious deficit for Sestak in what many people thought was going to be a close race in a traditional swing state. One of the big problems for Sestak, according to PPP, is that Democratic-leaning voters are not enthusiastic about this election, many saying they are not sure to vote this November.
This is our first poll of the race explicitly surveying likely voters and given the considerably greater enthusiasm on the Republican side we're seeing an electorate in the state that voted for John McCain by a point in 2008, in contrast to Barack Obama's actual 10 point victory in the state.
It seems Obama's is having problems with the base that extends well beyond the handful of individuals Robert Gibbs labeled the “professional left.” With enthusiasm on the Democratic side so weak, it might be time for the White House to reverse its strategy of attacking the dedicated progressives, and instead do things that might actually get the base excited. For example, Elizabeth Warren could not only have been appointed to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but through several different means, she could be put in power right away to start protecting rank-and-file Americans.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The enthusiasm gap might be more important than the generic poll number. Pew, like almost every other pollster, has found Republicans far more engaged and excited about voting than Democrats. From Pew:
Republicans and conservatives continue [sic] express far greater interest in the election than do Democrats and liberals. More than half of Republicans (55%) say they have given a lot of thought to the election, compared with 37% of Democrats. Among Republican-leaning independents, 62% have given a lot of thought to the election; Democratic-leaning independents are much less engaged (29%). Among Republicans, conservatives are far more engaged than those who describe themselves as moderates or liberals (62% vs. 41%).
The poll also found engagement among young voters to be dismal. Pew found only 23 percent of voters under 30 to have “high campaign engagement.” That is less than half of the percentage of voters over 50 who have high engagement.
As a young person who is deeply involved in politics, I find this very disappointing. I know the importance of politics, and while I understand why many young people are tuning it out, this is still an unfortunate development. However, there is one small silver lining for me personally because I love good political data and care about the issue of marijuana legalization.
Since youth engagement and turnout is likely going to be very low across the country, it will be easier to determine if having Prop 19 to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana on the ballot results in increased engagement and turnout among young voters in California. Neither Democrat Jerry Brown nor Republican Meg Whitman seems to have the ability to fire up young voters for the gubernatorial race. If youth turnout in California significantly exceeds the levels in other states, it would be logical to conclude that having marijuana legalization on the ballot was responsible.
Patty Murray (D) 41
Dino Rossi (R) 33
Clint Didier (R) 11
Paul Akers (R) 5
Murray and Rossi have a double digit leads over all other candidates in this single, open primary contest, and should easily be the top two vote-getters. It looks like the Democratic and Republican parties will get their top choices for November.
It is important to remember the Washington State "primary" is not like most states where it is up to the parties to select their nominees for the general election, either through convention or plebiscite. Washington, and California starting in 2012, adopted the top-two primary system. All candidates, regardless of party, compete in the same "primary," and whichever two candidates, regardless of party, get the most votes are the only two candidates to make it on the November ballot.
This system means, in theory, the general election could be a race between only two Democrats or two Republicans, or--as is the case here--November contests will be restricted mostly to the best-known or best-financed competitors.
McInnis was caught plagiarizing much of the work he had been paid several hundred thousand dollars to produce. This did not sit well with Colorado voters, creating an opening for the only other person in the primary--political novice Dan Maes. Maes is not only an extreme conservative but also has some downright crazy ideas. For example, he thinks steps taken to make Denver more bike friendly were all part of an elaborate plot by the United Nations to take over Denver.
McInnis and Maes refused to bow out of the primary, which would have allowed the Republican Party to nominate a candidate with at least a shot of winning. This angered, among others, former Rep. Tom Tancredo. So he has filed to run for Governor on the American Constitution Party ticket.
The best result of a bad situation for Republicans was that scandal-ridden McInnis would beat conspiracy theorist Maes last night in the primary and at that point, the party could convince McInnis to drop out. That would give them a chance appoint a more electable nominee. The GOP had no such luck. Maes pulled off a squeaker victory and it sounds like he is in it to the end.
So this November, John Hickenlooper will take on both Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo. Instead of facing one extreme right-wing candidate, he gets two. Because we use a first- past-the-post election system, Maes and Tancredo are sure to split the right-leaning vote. The latest polling shows Hickenlooper with a 22-point lead in the three-way matchup. Hickenlooper is at 46 percent with Maes and Tancredo tied at 24 percent each.
There has been a lot of talk about how lucky Harry Reid (D-NV) was to get Sharron Angle as an opponent, because it gives him a better shot of winning re-election. Well, Reid's luck is nothing compared with Hickenlooper’s.
Update - PPP is out with some new polling (PDF) showing Hickenlooper in really fantastic shape. In a three way race it is Hickenlooper 48%, Dan Maes 23%, Tom Tancredo 22%.
Friday, August 6, 2010
The correlation between economic performance leading up to an election and the success of the incumbent party is very close. Bad economic conditions heading into an election have historically meant electoral losses for the party in power, and this year looks no different
The November election is fast approaching. People's opinions about how the economy is doing will soon jell, if they haven't already. Even if things begin to improve in late September, that could easily be too late to actually change minds and votes. There is now almost no time left for Democrats to do anything to significantly help employment before the election. That is why this jobs report is so important
Unlike tracking polls or horserace polls, this jobs report is probably the most important piece of political news in a long time. Democrats have failed to take the action needed to reduce unemployment before the election and will pay at the polls for this failure. Pathetic and fabulous excuses about weird Senate rules and a mean Republican minority are not going to change voters' minds or save Democrats this November.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
"I made a case last night to about ten freshman senators, you know, you want to turn this into a unicameral body? What's the point of having a Senate? If the vote margins are the same as in the House, you might as well close the doors," Dodd told reporters in the Capitol.
Dodd is either ignorant of our country's entire political history, or he is calling the founders idiots. We know the framers of the Constitution intended for both the House and the Senate to pass laws with the same simple majority vote and wrote that into the document. The first Senate even had a rule that would have prevented a filibuster, ensuring all laws needed only a simple majority to pass.
There is zero evidence that the founders set up the bicameral legislature with the purpose of having one require super-majorities to pass basic laws—in fact, there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Anyone who took high school US history would know the reason the founders created two chambers was a grand compromise--one house dividing representation by population, the House of Representatives, and one house providing equal representation for all states, regardless of population—that would be the Senate. At the time the Constitution was drafted, individual states were far more autonomous, and most citizens saw themselves as loyal to their state, and not the federal government. Small-population states feared delegations from large-population states could easily dominate the House—a bicameral legislature was a concession to small states. Dodd seems wildly unaware of this history.
For Dodd to claim that there would be no purpose to having the Senate if it wasn't a chamber requiring super majorities is especially absurd given that it wasn't until roughly one hundred years after the Senate's founding that they created the two-thirds vote requirement for cloture. By that logic, Dodd thinks the founders fools--creating a Senate with absolutely no purpose until some senator exploited a sloppy rules change decades later. It was that first filibuster that eventually led to the creation of super majority cloture votes several more decades after that. According to Dodd, it was only then that the Senate had any reason for being.
The great irony of Dodd claiming that elimination of the filibuster would make Congress a “unicameral body” is that the filibuster has already done that. The House is all but meaningless at this point because a bill now must be crafted expressly to garner 60 votes in the Senate. The Senate has stolen almost all power from the other chamber. Eliminating the filibuster would actually restore Congress to a true bicameral body by putting the two chambers on equal footing when it comes to crafting legislation.
If freshmen and sophomore Democratic senators find Dodd’s ridiculous argument compelling, my already low opinion of the Democratic party will take another hit. This nonsense from Dodd just reaffirms my joy at his impending retirement. I would like to suggest he uses his golden years to actually take some classes in basic US history.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
While the more conservative or Tea Party candidates in those primaries may not be as electable as the establishment choices, the polling data indicate they could still easily win. A recent SurveyUSA poll found Republican Rand Paul leading Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky, 51-43. While some polls have shown the race to be close, no independent poll in months has found Conway in the lead. In Colorado, Tea Party favorite Ken Buck is tied with both possible Democratic nominees, according to a recent poll. Quinnipiac’s latest poll of the Pennsylvania Senate race has the GOP’s Pat Toomey tied with Democrat Joe Sestak. While many think Sharron Angle has been a gift for Democrat Harry Reid, Mason-Dixon found Reid with a single-point lead over Angle, and PPP had him with only a two-point lead. Angle could easily overcome that deficit.
According to the polls, Florida seems to be the only state where Marco Rubio's insurgent challenge against the former establishment choice, Gov. Charlie Crist, has a real chance of costing Republicans a seat. But that requires a lot of luck on the part of Crist, now an independent, to keep his early lead and let two unpopular Democratic candidates battle each other for months. Given that it is a three-way race, the picture could still change in Rubio's favor. If the Democrat gets a large enough default Democratic vote and Republicans come home, Rubio would have a path to a small plurality victory.
Even if these more conservative candidates end up performing worse than a more moderate Republican would have, that’s unimportant as long as they win. In American politics, getting just one vote more than your opponent has the same outcome as getting a million more votes. These hard-core conservatives only need to be electable enough.
If the electoral environment continues to get worse for Democrats, Republicans who are on the cusp could conceivably win narrowly. If the economy starts to improve and with it Democrats’ chances, many of these Republicans could end up losing narrowly. Whether the conservative primary challenges leave a legacy of brilliant grassroots action or self- destruction will depend on the electorate and the economy. While it is possible that embracing Tea Party-backed candidates could cost the GOP several Senate races this November, the poll data indicate that Democrats can’t bank on this.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
PPP (PDF) (7/27-8/1)
Patty Murray 49
Dino Rossi 46
Washington is a very blue state, but these numbers indicate that Rossi has a legitimate chance of winning. Even if he doesn't win, forcing Democrats to spend resources in a state like Washington to defend a sitting Senator will still have value for the GOP. It also allows Republicans to claim, somewhat credibly, that they might take back the Senate. With Washington state now seriously contested, Republicans are reaching the necessary total of semi-competitive candidates.
The good news for Murray is that Rossi is pretty much a known quantity from his two previous unsuccessful statewide campaigns. While Rossi is currently only a few points behind, he likely has much less room to grow than most challengers would at this point.
For Rossi and Murray to face each other, they also need to be the top-two vote getters in the primary. In Washington’s system, all candidates of all parties appear on the same ballot, and the top two, regardless of party, are the only ones to make it to the ballot in the general. PPP polled the primary and found Rossi and Murray with huge leads.
PPP (PDF) (7/27-8/1)
Paul Akers (R) 4
Clint Didier (R) 10
Patty Murray (D) 47
Dino Rossi (R) 33
Other candidates 1
Not sure 6
Monday, August 2, 2010
Andrew Romanoff 48
Michael Bennet 45
This is a significant improvement for Romanoff. With the primary roughly a week away on August 10, having momentum and a small lead is about as good as it gets for an underfunded challenger.
In response to this poll, the Bennet campaign quickly released an internal poll that had him beating Romanoff by just four points. If this is, presumably, the best recent internal poll the Bennet campaign has, releasing it does little to change the idea that Bennet has a real chance of losing the party's nomination.
On the Republican side, Buck holds lead
SurveyUSA also polled the Republican Senate primary. Establishment choice, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, is still trailing Tea Party favorite Ken Buck. While Norton had an early lead for weeks, now Buck is holding onto a solid margin.
Ken Buck 50
Jane Norton 41
If Buck wins next Tuesday as expected, this year will mark an incredible string of failures for establishment GOP candidates in Senate primaries. In Florida and Pennsylvania, the establishment Republicans were driven out of the party by their primary challengers. In both Nevada and Kentucky, the establishment choice lost big. Finally, in Connecticut, establishment pick Rob Simmons is expected to lose his strangely suspended (but not really suspended) campaign against Linda McMahon.
Would you support or oppose legalizing and taxing marijuana in Nevada?
This implies that in Nevada, there has been effectively zero increase in support for legalizing marijuana since 2006, when Question 7, a ballot measure to legalize and tax marijuana, failed by a 56-44 margin. It is hard to believe, given that pollsters like Gallup and Rasmussen have shown significant increase in support nationally for legalizing cannabis. There is no legalization initiative is on Nevada’s November ballot.
Probably more important than comparing this recent poll with the official results for Question 7 is to compare it against the last Mason-Dixon poll on marijuana legalization, taken right before the 2006 election. That poll found 35 percent for Question 7, 53 percent against and 12 percent undecided. So, comparing only polls by the same pollster, we are seeing a 7 point increase in support for marijuana legalization since 2006. That’s a decent improvement in only four years, and in line with what we have seen nationwide.
In 2012, the next time marijuana legalization will likely be on the ballot in Nevada, the voter demographics should be different because it is a presidential year. Also, if Proposition 19 passes in neighboring California and is successfully implemented for two years--or if it fails to pass--that could significantly move opinion in Nevada. I would be surprised if support levels don’t clearly change by 2012.