Saturday, January 30, 2010

Possible Epic Party Disaster for Democrats

This analysis today from Michael Barone, America's most widely respected election analyst and forecaster: "Possible Epic Party Disaster for Democrats" - a landslide election which, if held today, would be vastly larger than 1994 or 1946 - with up to 155 house democrat seats in play, and up to 20 democrat senate seats which could swing.

Happy days are here again?!...T

The Real Clear Politics average on the generic ballot now shows Republicans ahead 46%-42%. This is historically unprecedented.

Except for a single CNN/USA Today poll conducted right after the Republican National Convention, September 5-7, 2008, which seems to have been an outlier, Republicans didn’t take the lead on the generic ballot—which party’s candidate will you vote for in House races—until March 9-15, 2009, in Rasmussen polling (which samples likely voters and whose results have therefore leaned more Republican than those of other pollsters since Barack Obama’s inauguration). Republicans since took a lead in the NPR poll (July 22-26), Gallup (November 5-8), Bloomberg News (December 3-7), Battleground (December 6-10), CNN/Opinion Research (January 8-10) and Democracy Corps (January 7-11).

I blogged on the generic vote in December and twice in November. Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones provides useful historic perspective.

“Since Gallup regularly began using the generic ballot to measure registered voters' preferences for the House of Representatives in 1950, it has been rare for Republicans to have an advantage over Democrats. This is likely because more Americans usually identify as Democrats than as Republicans, but Republicans can offset this typical Democratic advantage in preferences with greater turnout on Election Day. Most of the prior Republican registered-voter leads on the generic ballot in Gallup polling occurred in 1994 and 2002, two strong years for the GOP.”

Over the years Republicans have tended to do better in actual House elections than they have on the generic vote question -- although in recent cycles less so, perhaps because the balance of enthusiasm so clearly favored Democrats in 2006 and 2008. But the balance of enthusiasm has clearly changed.

Rasmussen’s tight likely-voter screen has been pretty consistently producing more pro-Republican responses than other polls, and recent generic vote results from other pollsters tend to validate his results. Thus CNN/Opinion Research shows all adults as 46%-45% Republican and registered voters as 48%-45% Republican. Democracy Corps, run by Democrats Stanley Greenberg and James Carville, shows likely voters at 41%-41% and “dropoff voters” at 43%-25% Democratic. NPR, conducted jointly by Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D), shows Republicans ahead among likely voters 44%-39%.

The current results are as favorable for Republicans or more so than the CNN/Gallup polls taken at this point in the 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004, cycles in which Republican House candidates received more votes than Democratic candidates . All of which leads me to second Charlie Cook’s suggestion that if the election were held today, Republicans would gain more than the 40 seats they need to get a majority in the House. I would go further and say that if the election were held today Republicans would do better than in 1994 or 2002, their best years since the “had enough?” Republican landslide of 1946.

Of course, the elections will not be held today. Filing deadlines have passed in only three states: Illinois, Texas and Kentucky; the filing deadline in West Virginia is tomorrow, January 30. So we don’t even know who all the candidates—and all of the retirees—will be. Opinions can change, and the balance of enthusiasm, which seems to favor Republicans now at least as much as it favored Democrats in 2006 and 2008, can change even more quickly. The Massachusetts special Senate election result has given Democrats an early warning that is really hard to ignore—although some Democrats seem to be trying to brush it off. Including, perhaps, Barack Obama in his State of the Union address.

Nonetheless, what we have here are the makings of an epic party disaster. Whether it comes to pass is still uncertain. But it certainly could
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