Tuesday :: Sep 7, 2010

After Labor Day: Let the Politics Begin

by CA Pol Junkie

There being a great oversupply of political punditry in America, we've heard alot about the 2010 elections ever since the end of the 2008 elections. None of it mattered until now. Labor Day is when voters who don't happen to be political junkies start paying attention and campaigns kick into high gear. This is when polls really start meaning something.

Of course, that means things look very ugly for Democrats right now. CNN, ABC, and NBC polls all paint a similar picture: among all voters Republicans have a very slight edge, but among likely voters Republicans have a big advantage. The political math is pretty simple and favors the Republicans in three ways. First, Democrats have done very well the last two cycles, so political gravity is pulling the other way. Second, Democrats are in power so Republicans are desperate to vote and get some power back. Last, it's the economy, stupid: Democrats are in charge and the economy stinks, therefore voters favor the other party.

If the portrait of today's likely voters comes to fruition in November, Republicans will make huge gains. However, there are reasons to believe the GOP's current standing in the polls is their best case scenario and Democrats have an opportunity to minimize their losses.

1. Republicans don't have a plan. Republicans are basically hoping voters will use the logic that anything is better than the last two years and vote for the GOP. Democrats have the opportunity to point out that the GOP really doesn't have a plan other than returning to the policies that got us into this mess or invoke Paul Ryan's screw the middle class Republican fantasy.

2. Individual Republicans are crazy. Sharron Angle is the classic case in the Nevada Senate race: voters deeply disapprove of Democrat Harry Reid, but he has taken the lead in the polls as voters learn more about Angle. The California and Wisconsin Senate races look competitive in the polls, but both Republican candidates are deeply out of step with their respective states so we can expect those to move toward the Democrat. Crazy candidates in Colorado, Kentucky and perhaps Delaware (pending the Republican primary) provide opportunities for Democrats where prospects would otherwise have been bleak. A poll out today from a Republican pollster shows Democrat Michael Bennet ahead of Republican Ken Buck by 3 points.

3. There are relatively few open seats The Republican sweep of 1994 was fed in part by 31 Democratic retirements which made it easier for the GOP to pick up those seats. By contrast, this year only 18 Democrats are retiring from the House, 14 of whom are from competitive districts. There are four Republican held districts which are strong to certain pick up opportunities for Democrats, making the task for Republicans that much harder.

4. Republicans can't campaign themselves out of a paper bag Democrats have learned to mobilize their voters over the last two election cycles. It certainly helped that they had the wind at their backs, but they have also done well in most of the special elections held since the 2008 elections. The classic case was in the special election last May to fill the House vacancy in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district upon the death of Jack Murtha. This is the only district in the country to have voted for John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. It is in the Appalachian zone where Obama deeply underperformed the Democrats who came before him. If Republicans are to take over the House, this would be one of the easier districts they would need to win, but Democrat Mark Critz outperformed all the polls to defeat Republican Tim Burns by 8 percentage points.

Democrats' future has not yet been written. They have the opportunity to keep the House, even by a comfortable margin, by running a vigorous campaign this fall.

CA Pol Junkie :: 10:32 AM :: Comments (30) :: Digg It!