Congress in 2006
Kevin Drum comments on a Democracy Corps poll saying:
Unfortunately, this means exactly the opposite of what Democracy Corps says it means. Last June, as you may recall, Democrats had a lead of at least 9 points in generic congressional polls, but when November rolled around Republicans won 51% of the congressional vote. In other words, a 9-point lead at this stage of the game means that in reality we're running about even — and that's bad news, not good.
Kevin makes some additional observations as well. Armando at Daily Kos has a longish rebuttal of Kevin's claims. Among other things, Armando pulls up data mined by Chris Bowers showing that both in 2002 as well as in 2004, the last poll to ask about the generic congressional ballot (prior to the Nov elections) showed Republicans actually leading Democrats (on average) by margins fairly close to the final "reported" vote margin. Now, Armando does not specifically discuss the corresponding results from Democracy Corps itself, so it is worth noting that even the Democracy Corps poll results from 2004/2005 - specifically page 20 in their charts file - indicate that in Nov 2004 the assessed Democratic margin over Republicans was +1% (basically none if you consider the MoE). So, two points are in order.
1. Kevin's link to the June 2004 polls refer to a list of outlets that does not include Democracy Corps. It is true that the polls in June 2004 that he cites showed an apparently large Democratic advantage. However, the way his post is worded gives the impression that a 9-point lead in the opinion polls equates to maybe a 1-2 point loss in actual voting results for Democrats. That is totally incorrect. As Armando/Chris have commented, a review of some of the opinion poll results right before the election actually showed an average of ~1.5% lead for the Republican ballot. This was very close to the final election result that Kevin highlights.
2. Kevin makes the mistake of comparing a Democracy Corps result now to opinion poll results from other outlets back in 2004. This is not good practice. The correct comparison would have been to Democracy Corps polling back in June 2004 and Democracy Corps polling in Nov 2004. I haven't been able to find the Democracy Corps generic Congressional ballot polling results for June 2004, but except for a brief bump to +3% in one of their October 2004 surveys, the assessed Democratic advantage over Republicans remained ~1% from September 2004 through the elections. So, any suggestion that a Democracy Corps +9% advantage for Democrats is the same as an actual +1-2% advantage to Republicans is completely wrong.
Now, if Kevin wanted to make the point that Democrats ostensibly squandered a real high-single-digit advantage as they got closer to the elections, that may be a point that has merit. I am certainly inclined to believe that was the case in 2004 because of their lack of focus on highlighting Bush's weakness on national security and because they simply did not/don't have a clue as to how to aggressively fight back the lies against them in the media and in ads. Likewise, I am inclined to believe, based on their current trajectory, that will also be the case in 2006 - short of the GOP imploding due to their gangrenous culture of corruption (a hallmark of the GOP). I simply have no confidence that the Democratic Party has the political unity and political vision to maintain their current generic congressional ballot advantage. This is largely because the party's sell-out Congresspersons and Senators simply have zero comprehension that if you want your team to win, you can't behave like a free agent on and off the field. These people display a complete lack of knowledge of the concept and importance of team work. Rather than respecting the Party leadership's direction, they continue to destroy the prospects of the party with their reckless disregard for party unity - largely because of their "me, me, me" culture. We all know the fate of teams filled with "me, me, me" team members. There is no successful team with a "me" in it.
Let me add this. I am all for the ability of individuals to "vote their conscience". But voting for the heinous MBNA Welfare Bill or the Paris Hilton Tax Cut or for Deranged Extremist Crackpots for Federal Judges does not display any measure of conscience. All it displays is a callous indifference to the fate of the party and its progressive message and a callous indifference to whether the Party is successful in winning back power to change the country in beneficial ways.
Likewise, I have long held back against commenting on the NARAL Chafee endorsement but it's time to point out to defenders of NARAL that it was not a decision based solely on ideological purity. It was a decision also based on ignorance. After all, even if they had stayed neutral, and an overt pro-life candidate wins who would vote against radical anti-abortion judges, how is that any less ideologically pure than endorsing a fake moderate/"pro-choice" candidate who will vote repeatedly for anti-abortion judges (to say the least)? The concept of ideological purity has merit for independent organizations, but there are multiple ways to define ideological purity. NARAL and groups like it have to decide whether they want a real victory or a Pyrrhic victory. We need groups like NARAL for sure since they do good work, but if they take their head out of the sand and saw the real world and built a more intelligent perspective about it, we wouldn't continue to face such challenges to the progressive agenda in the current media and political environment.