Signs and Portents
The first in an on-going series. I have never been interested in sports, much to the quiet chagrin of my late father. Other than hockey in my college days, I can’t recall ever spending any money to see a sporting event. On the weekends no sounds of athletic contests emanate from the McClarey household TV. I suspect that my strong interest in politics takes the place of sports for me. I am endlessly fascinated by it, pay close attention to all news regarding politics and have familiarized myself over the years with a fair amount of the technical aspects of the craft. For political junkies like me our season is about to begin. Next year’s congressional elections are just a little over a year away and I think looking at the political tea leaves as they stand now might be amusing to those of our readers who share some portion of my passion.
1. Party ID.-The graph above is from Gallup. A poll released yesterday shows Democrats and Independent leaning Democrats at 48% and Republicans and Republican leaning Independents at 42%. This is the closest in party ID the Republicans have been to the Democrats since early 2005. Since Obama took office the Democrat lead in party ID according to the Gallup polls has gone from 13 points to 6 points.
2. Fundraising-The GOP is outraising the Democrats in fundraising for next year. This is odd since usually the party in power finds it easier to raise funds. The Washington post ran a good story on the Democrats’ fundraising woes here.
3. New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections-Common political wisdom says that if a party wins both of the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, then the party will be strong in the next year’s election. Actually I think the record is mixed with only the 1993 election for the Republicans and the 2005 elections for Democrats supporting the thesis. At any rate the Republican candidates are both running ahead in the polls for these elections which will be held in November of this year.
4. Acorn- Acorn had become an important resource for Democrats in voter registration and in voter fraud. Acorn, thanks to two journalists with a combined age less than mine, has gone virtually overnight from being an asset to a liability for the Democrats.
5. Economy-Almost all American elections come down to the economy. Unemployment is quite high, economic growth is flat and most Americans view the economy as poor. The Republicans got walloped for the poor economy in 2008. If the economy doesn’t improve, the Democrats can look forward to the same treatment from the voters in 2010.
6. Generic ballot-A simple and effective way to predict Congressional elections is to ask in a poll whether the respondent would vote for a Democrat or a Republican if the election were held today. Rasmussen polls on this question each week. His most recent poll here shows a two point lead by the GOP. Before the election last year the Democrats had a six point lead.
7. Enthusiasm-Southerners have an old saying, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” Enthusiasm is a force multiplier in politics. It gets people to contribute, to knock on doors, to construct e-mail lists, and all the other 1001 tasks needed to win in a political contest. The tea party movement, the huge turnout at townhalls of ObamaCare opponents and the vast 9/12 rally in Washington all indicate that conservatives are fired up. Left wing pollster Nate Silver worries here about a potential enthusiasm gap.
8. Obama-As many Republicans found out to their sorrow in 2006 and 2008, voters are not shy at all about signaling displeasure with a President by voting against his party in Congressional elections. Most polls show that Obama has an approval rating between 48%-55%. Not bad, but not stratospheric as were his numbers during his first few months in office. Perhaps a more significant number is to compare those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove. Rasmussen shows 28% strongly approving against 39% strongly disapproving. Rasmussen has charts here which show a steady decline in this rating for Obama.
9. Experts-As in athletics, there are experts in politics who have developed a good track record for prognostication. Although I believe his personal political preference is for the Democrat party, I have always trusted the judgment of Charlie Cook. He wrote this on September 5: “With 14 months to go before the 2010 midterm election, something could happen to improve the outlook for Democrats. However, wave elections, more often than not, start just like this: The president’s ratings plummet; his party loses its advantage on the generic congressional ballot test; the intensity of opposition-party voters skyrockets; his own party’s voters become complacent or even depressed; and independent voters move lopsidedly away. These were the early-warning signs of past wave elections. Seeing them now should terrify Democrats.”
10. History-After one party gains the White House the usual House loss for the party in power is 16 seats with a wash in the Senate. However a bad economy can amplify the losses. In 82 with a bad economy the Republicans lost 27 seats in the House. If the party in power greatly displeases the electorate the losses can be severe. In 1994 the Democrats lost 54 seats in the House and 8 seats in the Senate. Combine a very poor economy and an aroused electorate and I think we may be in uncharted territory.
Overall things look good for the GOP. However things can change very swiftly in politics. Much more over the next year as developments warrant.