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June 21, 2006

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Though you're of course right, Dem, that Iraq is the strongest card for this election -- one unlikely to be anything but a greater liability for the GOP, once this brief flutter passes -- I'm struck by what you note about seniors and moderates defecting in such numbers. Though these groups, too, care about Iraq, I wonder if the two early mistakes of the post-'04 Bush agenda -- privatization and Schiavo -- are what moved them in the first place. I believe they're the groups who most instantly regretted being suckered into supporting Bush in '04, and the least likely to return, even over genuine good news.

Election Day is still agonizngly far away, and, given the press/nation's inability to stay with one narrative for so long, it's almost inevitable we're going to hear alot of "the Dems'll blow it in the end" talk (not least from fatalistic Democrats). But I'm convinced, like you, that the feeling out there is genuine and strong, and if that doesn't result in political convulsion, it's not a sign of out-party weakness, but a scary gelding of the electoral system.

People keep making analogies to 1994: Can the Dems pull it off the way the Pubs did then? Where's their Contract with America? (Though no study ever showed that had much to do with the '94 result) But I wonder if the real analogy is 1980. For those who weren't around at the time, I can't stress how invulnerable Congressional Democrats thought they were, even while they conceded that Carter would probably lose the presidential election. This was a group that had weathered the historic Nixon landslide barely losing a step -- and, after Watergate, had returned bigger than ever. When Carter squeaked by in '76, Time magazine asserted that America's "natural Democratic majority" had reasserted itself, and the universal assumption was that, even if Reagan were elected, Democratic congressional majorities would prevent him from doing much. The biggest shock of that election night was not really the size of Reagan's margin (much abetted by Anderson's third-party candidacy), but the extent to which the GOP took over, capturing the Senate and gaining more or less ideological sway in the House (especially since the punch of the election made surviving Dems wary of opposing Reagan).

Dems have come much closer to victory in the past three election cycles than most pundits (or even Democrats) seem to want to understand. A slight swing in 2002 or 2004 would have meant full (if marginal) presidential/Congressional control for Dems, not Pubs; any large swing would have brought realignment. The fact that Dems have lost two straight elections by such frustrating margins have persuaded some that this will be the Democratic fate into infinity. But that's like believing a pitcher who loses alot of one-run games in consecutive seasons will inevitably do the same from there on. (I remember Danny Jackson, a pitcher for the Reds who'd suffered such a fate in the 80s, then finally got some luck and went 20-3).

It wouldn't surprise me if the hubristic, we-can't-lose GOP suddenly found itself at the surprise short end of political history.

demtom

Couldn't some of the movement in seniors be the debacle of a prescription drug program?

Absolutely

re-release with this headline:

Democrats Looking Strong Heading Toward Midterm Elections
Eleven-point lead in first half of 2006 is the highest Gallup has measured

And, to follow on that quick answer: Perhaps even more, since the drug mess affects them directly, right now, whereas they've been assured that THEIR Social Security is in no jeopardy.

Though, as I recall, despite this assurance, seniors consistently show the strongest opposition to privatization, suggesting one of two things: 1) Unlike the GOP base, they don't take a "Long as I've got mine..." approach to policy; or 2) They've learned not to trust the Bushies as far as they can throw them, and figure once the SS wall is breached, their own checks are threatened, no matter what promises have been made.

check today while it's free.

Gallup's latest read on congressional voting intentions is the eighth this year. There are several ways to look at these data as an indicator of what might happen in the Nov. 7 elections. Most of them portend a strong showing for the Democrats this fall.

1. The Consistency of the Democratic Lead in '06
2. The Unusually Large Democratic Lead
3. An Auspicious Start
4. Exceptional Cases

This is not "likely voter", and Gallup suggest Rls will do better when it is; nonetheless...

Demtom: I have only anecdotal evidence, but I think Seniors have defected partly over Medicare Part D but also over the general sense that the world they thought they built for their children and grandchildren is going to hell in a handbasket under the Bush Regime and the modern GOP. Remember these are the people who always paid cash for their cars, borrowed only to buy a house, and thought that Social Security was a holy compact.

No wonder the Iraq debates gave no boost--what is the point of a resolution saying that we will win the (illusory) war on terra? To the extent the public pays attention, it is tired of this "we make our own reality (aka just close your eyes and wish hard)" malarkey.

Thanks for the Gallup link. They show comparisons from Aug 28-30, 2005, which of course was Katrina. While the D's don't really go up from there (on average), the R's seem to fall from there with "National Adults", the least political group. The big fall comes in late Feb-Mar. What was that?

Other factors in our favor that count as evidence not anecdote are the numbers of races the Dems have filed in (up), the strength of candidates (up, especially in the middle tier), and the amount of money raised (up).

Per the WSJ Monday, business has figured out the Dems' chances are rising, and have begun to adjust donations. Maybe the press will realize it too sometime before the election.

Mimikatz, I like that as big, umbrella covering for the whole disillusionment with Bush. Seniors are the only segment of society with some memory (even if faint, or second-hand through parents) of a pre-New Deal America, and the sudden prospect of such a thing actually returning must horrify them.

And this is a big blow to Bush, because this senior demographic had been more than willing to give him leeway right after the Trade Center attacks. Paul Krugman talks about how, in that late '01/early '02 period, research found that focus groups, shown literal descriptions of what the administration was doing, categorically refused to believe such things were being undertaken -- despite living through all the Vietnam/Watergate alienation the rest of us had, they still retained memory/hope of a time when the president couldn't be that deceptive. And, as I recall, polling in the '02 election showed they were the one group favoring the GOP enough that they swung the close results.

Today, of course, the administration's mask has dropped (and let's not overlook Katrina's part in all this -- talk about something that showed the undoing of the social contract). The deterioration in Iraq is of course important, but, as you say, the obvious mendacity behind it may be just as significant. Press pundits like to pretend the falsehoods of war runup are irrelevant ("That's the past"), but remember the sudden sharp drop in Bush's personal ratings (honesty, likability etc.) that so shocked Chris Mathhews? Such a thing wouldn't have happened if the public were only reacting to policy disappointment. I'd say there has been substantial, deeply-felt alienation of this group, in particular, from Bush. And I don't see how he ever comes back from that.

I always enjoy your analyses, demtom - this one, too - all the more so since this is an arena in which I am decidedly weak. But it seems to me there is an automatic difficulty in comparing any presidential election year with a mid-term election. Five months out, Republicans appear genuinely weak on a variety of fronts, and I would think there would be competitive districts where no incumbent would want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mister Bush on the dais. But I'm still giving 2:1 odds to any taker that not enough Democrats will be able to overcome the I-hate-Congress-but-my-Congressperson-is-OK sentiment to gain a majority in either house. And 5:1 odds that they won't take both houses.

I'd be happy to lose both of those wagers.

I'll take the 2:1, MB but not the 5:1. senators don't know how to play well with others and I don't see them winning a blue senate, though they will make gains.

Those gains are crucial for future SCOTUS appointments.

To Demtom above, not only did D's lose close in 2002 and 2004 BUT the externals were against them in both of those cycles, thanks to 9-11 and a sense that the economy was bascially OK.

2000 was the biggest missed opportunity, but even that had a little something to do with the worst managed and executed D Presidential campaign in many years. Thank sweet fancy moses that Gore looks like he isn't going to jump in again.

To Meteor Blades, I understand your cautious pessimism, but I maintain that luck and external factors like the economy are as big a factor as any, including D "wimpiness" (so oversold on the web - yet still important, of course)

Republicans have had a great run of luck that when combined with their tactical and messaging edges (both not insurmountable) has them punching above their weight. And this is why I have so little patience for pessimism, and don't bother to post much on blogs anymore.

If we get a Pres candidate skilled at messaging in '08, (not some coastal intellectual who activates the elitism factor) the long term picture will brighten more quickly.

I'd probably take the stance DemfromCT has, betting on grabbing one house, but not both. Which has worthy precedent: it's precisely what Dems did in 1930, prior to their complete takeover in '32 and '34.

It's worth noting, Meteor Blades, that the '94 turnover also happened during the period of hate-Congress-love-my-own-Congressman, so big changes can be achieved despite the rigged system. I should add my cautious optimism is not just based on polling (though that's helping back up my instincts), but also the overall gestalt I feel in the country. It would defy history for such a sour public mood not to result in significant electoral change. And while I agree midterm and presidential elections are somewhat different animals, they both still tend to follow a thumbs up/thumbs down pattern, especially in extreme cases.

Minor but maybe illustrative anecdote: I recall stopping with a friend at a pizza place in early Fall 1980, being told the price of a slice had gone up 10 cents in the week or so since I'd last been there. "That's it", I said; "I'm voting for Reagan" -- which, I assure you, I would NEVER have done...but the fact I was making such a joke indicated some awareness I had that something potentially big was coming (this at a time when national polls were showing a tie). I've had alot of the same "Things are REALLY bad" feeling lately.

Crab Nebula, I think your phrase "punching above their weight" is a perfect expression of how I've felt about the GOP since Bush's first "election". The party has no reason to feel confident about its position with the public (they haven't been winning issues, other than "terror", since the mid-90s). A combination of luck, skill and tactics have put them into an illusorily strong position, much like Dems were in c. 1978, and it would not be surprising to see the whole edifice come crashing suddenly down.

Right, Demtom...I assume we all agree that Democrats have been weak since '68, and haven't been truly strong for any sustained period since WWII.

We were running on fumes for 20 years. The Republicans had a great opportunity in the mid 90s to define themselves responsibly and cement a majority coalition and blew it. Blew it again by nominating Bush. Now, they're running on fumes and may blow it all after only about 10 years.

But I almost would rather go into '08 as the out party, so not winning the house doesn't kill me. OTOH, there is the damage containment argument. What do others say?

I only want to win a chamber if that chamber then takes an aggressive "force Bush to veto" strategy.

subpoena power, and damage containment. Two reasons why it matters.

I'll take MB's bet on the House as well. The Senate looks iffier, maybe PA, MT, MO, and either RI or OH. If VA gets more competitive and we hold on to MN and the rest, we could get to a 50-50 tie. In many ways taking the Senate is better, but the House has control of taxes and the budget, and when push comes to shove, I think we'd actually find Pelosi the stronger leader.

And "seniors" is a really big and diverse group--everyone born mid 1941 and before, at this point. The oldest remember the Depression and fought WWII abroad or at home. The younger ones heard all the stories and remember the frugality growing up, despite the seeming prosperity of the '50s. I'm just a year and a half short myself, and none of what's happening now is what we were taught America is. Unless, of course, your family were McCarthy fans.

If polls are so good what about the Ohio 2004 exit polls. I happen to think those polls were accurate. Something else happened there. But the same old machines and human manipulators will be at it again in '08, maybe sooner.

Pilgrim, I happen to think they weren't. See mystery pollster and see this.

An interesting straw poll on Doonesbury Friday, June 23'06

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