Monday, November 6, 2006

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)


Why is the GOP gaining strength?

Over the past 72 hours, every poll announcement I've seen has the Republicans gaining momentum. Mickey Kaus and Charles Franklin argues that this trend actually started 10 days ago -- so no one blame Kerry.

How serious is this momentum shift? It's actually forced the NYT's Adam Nagourney to perform his prognostication pirouette 24 hours before the election takes place -- contrast today's Page One story with yesterday's Page One. The contrasts with Nagourney's usual tactic of having a "Democrats Gaining Steam" headline on Monday of election week followed by a "Republicans Display Hidden Strengths" headline Thursday.

I have a very simple question -- what's driving this? Is it:

a) Positive headline numbers on the economy (Dow Jones Industrial Average + falling unemployment numbers)?

b) Election coverage crowding out depressing Iraq coverage?

c) Foot-in-mouth syndrome among other prominent Democrats?

d) A general lack of faith that the Dems offer a viable alternative?

e) Republican "dirty tricks"?

UPDATE: Hmmm... maybe the GOP isn't gaining strength -- Fox News shows gains by Democrats (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

posted by Dan on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM




Comments:

If you canít stomach what has to be done to debride the putrid, festering wound that is the Bush administration, its okay to sit this one out.

I swear no allegiance to any political party; I am an American first, last and always.

posted by: knatoli on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



Could it be that accurate polling has become so difficult and expensive due to cell phones, call blocking, people lying, etc. that the only accurate poll is the last one, the one that goes on the record for the pollsters' post-election accuracy ranking?

posted by: Mrs. Davis on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



Quite honestly, it seems like a recurring pattern for the Republicans to gain ground in Congressional elections late in the process. I seem to recall this happening every year. I suspect the primary mechanism is as follows: 1. The media tilts very Democratic. 2. Most people tell others what they think the others want to hear and/or what they think is the "normal" answer. 3. Most poll respondents assume that, based on media coverage, the Republicans are very unpopular, so they respond to polls by saying that they favor the Democrats. 4. In the week or two before the election, paid ads and get out the vote activities remind people that there are lots of Republicans, which causes a significant number of those people to swing back into the Republican fold, both in late polls and in the voting booth.

posted by: y81 on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



I am not sure if it is a Republican surge or not. If it is that owes more to individual candidates than to the Republican party's increasing popularity. It is mainly certain candidates like Chafee and Burns who have closed their gaps. The fact that both of these candidates trailed for so long and by so much is more surprising than their recent surge. I don't particularly like Burns but he is running in a heavily red state against a really inexperienced candidate, Tester, who has some fairly odd positions. A liberal Republican like Chafee whose father was the most prominent poltiician in the state, should have been doing better previously.

The Talent/McCaskill race really alternates depending on poll. In terms of the Webb/Allen race, I was more surprised at the backfiring of the leaked book material which gave Webb a surprising lead than I am that the race is now tied. Allen at the beginning of the campaign was an extremely popular politician in VA. If he wins it will be less about a surge and more about him being a better qualified candidate who jut ran a poor campaign. As shown at powerline he was also in part a victim of really bad and sometimes unfair press from the Washington Post.

The new Rasmussen poll actually shows the Democrat Ford surging as he has narrowed the gap to 4 points, while other polls had previously shown Corker pulling away. Which provides evidence that is less about a surge and more about individual candidates.

My views can more aptly be decifered here http://holdthesenate.blogspot.com/

posted by: Ian on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



I am not sure if it is a Republican surge or not. If it is that owes more to individual candidates than to the Republican party's increasing popularity. It is mainly certain candidates like Chafee and Burns who have closed their gaps. The fact that both of these candidates trailed for so long and by so much is more surprising than their recent surge. I don't particularly like Burns but he is running in a heavily red state against a really inexperienced candidate, Tester, who has some fairly odd positions. A liberal Republican like Chafee whose father was the most prominent poltiician in the state, should have been doing better previously.

The Talent/McCaskill race really alternates depending on poll. In terms of the Webb/Allen race, I was more surprised at the backfiring of the leaked book material which gave Webb a surprising lead than I am that the race is now tied. Allen at the beginning of the campaign was an extremely popular politician in VA. If he wins it will be less about a surge and more about him being a better qualified candidate who jut ran a poor campaign. As shown at powerline he was also in part a victim of really bad and sometimes unfair press from the Washington Post.

The new Rasmussen poll actually shows the Democrat Ford surging as he has narrowed the gap to 4 points, while other polls had previously shown Corker pulling away. Which provides evidence that is less about a surge and more about individual candidates.

My views can more aptly be decifered here http://holdthesenate.blogspot.com/

posted by: Ian on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



It seems to me that polling always tightens up in the last few days prior to an election giving the trailing party false hope. I don't have any data, but I sure don't recall many elections when the poll gap widens at the end. It is likely the relucant undecideds finally making a choice without a strong conviction.

posted by: Alan on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



Maybe people are waking up and realizing that

Democrats=Amnesty + 'accelerated H1-Bs' + 'guest worker' = a possible 60 Million new immigrants in 20 years , all with rights to Earned Income Tax Credits , medicaid/medicare, free schooling for their children, HUD subsidies for housing , and on, and on, and on.


posted by: Mitchell Young on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



I think that lot of the Republican weakness is due to their base being unhappy, but these voters can easily to return to the fold at the last minute. The base is also highly unlikely to vote for a Democrat under any circumstance (if they want to punish Bush they will just stay home), so a vote lost to the Republicans does not necessarily translate into an equivalent gain for the Democrats. Republicans also seem to be holding their own among independents, although a majority still supports the Democrats. All in all, I don't see a Democratic "wave" materializing. I still think they will win the House, but by a smaller margin than they would like, and the Senate will be 50/50 with Cheyney casting the deciding vote.

[Aside: It could even be 51/49 if Steele wins in Maryland, which I think he might. If he does squeek through, it will be because he managed to attract a decent number of African-American voters. He doesn't need that many, since each one sort of counts twice: a black vote for the a Republican is probably also a vote to the Democrats. Republicans will go to bed very happy if Maryland goes their way.]

I think everyone would be satisfied with this kind of result. The Dems will be happy with a win, even if it is tinged with thoughts of what might have been. Republicans will be grateful to escape with just a severe slap on the wrist. And best of all, both Kerry and Allen will be out of the running for 2008.

posted by: american in europe on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



My own suspicions: (1) people are getting serious with pollsters, and starting to focus on how they're actually going to vote rather than just venting steam; (2) Voters who habitually vote Republican won't abandon their loyalties lightly, and continue to regard Dems in terms of nasty partisan stereotypes; or (3) this is a version of the wedding-day jitters; the prospective bride/groom is having last-minute doubts about the commitment (s)he's about to make. Of course, most weddings actually go through, and if this is the dynamic the Dems may well wind up getting the girl/guy anyway. But we won't know until tomorrow.

BTW--One wild card that virtually no one is addressing: the impact of early voting. Here in Tennessee, a quarter of all registered voters have already gone to the polls. Did they vote differently then than they're polling now? We'll see.

posted by: David on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



The poster upthread who noted various factors that might impair the accuracy of preelection polls raises a valid and interesting point. The only prediction I can make this year with real confidence is that beginning Wednesday an intensive effort will begin to determine which of the myriad polling services were closest to predicting the actual result, and why.

I'd predict something else, though with less confidence. Democrats this year have not used the corruption issue effectively, and this will allow some endangered Republican incumbents to slip through with narrow victories.

After the 1994 Republican landslide there was some exagerration of the Contract with America's impact on voters; in actual fact the Contract was issued late in the campaign, mostly dealt with issues other than the ones voters typically care most about, and in general was probably no more than a modest plus for Republican candidates. But a modest plus can be decisive in close races, and what the Contract did do successfully was help the Republicans crystallize the pronounced but vague public discontent with Congress that year, and make it work for them by selling voters on the idea that Republicans had a program to fix some of the things voters disliked most. This was sometimes referred to as "running against Washington," which in a sense it was. It was not wholly negative, though, which made it (and the candidates who endorsed it) potentially appealing to people other than reliable Republican voters.

The list of Congressional scandals available to Democrats running this year is if anything longer than what the Republicans had to work with in 1994. With a few exceptions, though, Democrats have not tried to weave this into a coherent theme to attack Republican incumbents who are not tied directly into a specific scandal. Nationally, Democratic spokesmen and Democratic ads have pounded away on Iraq, Iraq and Iraq, because the pollsters they depend on have told them this is the issue that works best for them with their voters. The problem is that this theme also has the potential to energize Republican voters on the other side; as the Democrats complain about Iraq, the Republicans respond by pointing with alarm to terrorism -- but the real issue voters see is anti-Bush vs. pro-Bush. In individual races, particularly in states like Montana, Virginia and Tennesee that Bush carried strongly two years ago, this does not always work as well for Democrats as it does nationally.

Congressional corruption is an issue that does not directly involve Bush at all. Even voters supportive or ambivalent toward the President have few reasons to look with favor on Congressmen taking bribes, wasting money on bridges to nowhere or romancing teenage pages on the Internet. With polls indicating public approval of Congress in the 20s, this represents a substantial opportunity for Democrats prepared to propose plausible solutions and, to some extent, to run against Washington, not just against Bush.

Not all Democratic candidates are well positioned to use this theme. Harold Ford in Tennessee and Sherrod Brown in Ohio, sitting members of Congress running for the Senate are not, for example. Otherwise, though, even Republican incumbents who had nothing to do with Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff or Mark Foley can be accused of having stood by and done nothing about the cesspool of corruption on Capitol Hill.

Again, for the most part Democrats have passed this opportunity up. This is surely due in large part to the party's institutional bias toward protecting its own incumbents, a bias amplified this year by the fact that so many prospective Democratic candidates for President in 2008 are serving in the Senate now. Democrats are used to playing defense, not offense, and it shows.

But another reason is probably that Democrats in Washington don't see a cesspool of corruption on Capitol Hill; what they resent is that the Republicans in charge. Might voters respond to attacks on bridges to nowhere and other wasteful earmarks? Well, maybe -- but most Democrats haven't objected to rampant earmarking up to now and want to use the practice for their own states and districts if they win this fall. Ditto with Republicans' rampant selling of influence for campaign cash (and cushy jobs for former GOP colleagues and staff on K Street); here too, Democrats in Washington want to replace Republicans, not to change the way Congress works. You can't make a Contract with America out of that.

Finally I don't think Democrats have appreciated the significance of the Foley, ahem, affair. Evangelical Christians, among the most loyal Republican voters, generally aren't fans of corruption and unethical dealing in Washington. However, they do not (actually, most Americans do not) follow politics closely enough to track the course of scandals like the ones involving Reps. Ney, Cunningham, and DeLay or Sen. Burns. In fairness to them, the details of some of these scandals are fairly complex). Other things being equal, they might leave conservative evangelicals with a vague sense that something was wrong in Washington, nothing more -- not enough to associate with their own Republican member of Congress or turn against their President.

What makes the Foley scandal different is that it was simple. It involved an offense everyone could understand, a cover-up by the Republican Congressional leadership, and subsequent dissembling by the Republican Congressmen involved. Except for the first quality it shares all of these things with the multitude of other Congressional scandals that have been in the news regularly for a year or more. This makes it a hook for them -- Republicans who let the Foley scandal happen let Congressmen get away with taking bribes, waste taxpayer money on worthless eamarks, work one and a half-day weeks and basically anything else you can think of: a cesspool of corruption that can only be cleaned up if Republican incumbents are thrown out. Evangelicals, even more than other strong Republican voters, tend to react defensively to attacks on the current Republican President, who they see as one of their own. To discourage them from turning out in large numbers to vote for Republican members of Congress requires that attacks on Bush not be the only themes Democrats use. With a few exceptions, though, they have been.

Having said all this, I have to add that the public's discontent with the President and with the Republicans, mostly over Iraq, is very strong this year. Democrats may win most of the close races anyway. I don't think they will, though, and the main reason is that I think Democrats have some strong cards that, for whatever reason, they've decided not to play.

posted by: Zathras on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



umm...there are now about as many recent polls showing that the GOP has LOST ground in the last week on the generic ballot than GAINED. If there has been a change, Dem support went from very strong to strong, and all the rest is the HypeManiaMachine about the BIGGEST ELECTION EVER. Who knows.

posted by: festus on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



We poll volunteers got together about eight days ago and decided to have some fun with the pollsters. You simply have no idea what we're going to say next. Hee hee. (ps - don't tell)

posted by: wishIwuz2 on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



The new Survey USA poll casts some doubt on Dan's theory as puts Jim Webb up 8 points in VA. As one other comment noted, it just seems there are wide discrepencies between polls. I tend to trust Rasmussen the most given his accurancy in the last view elections and Zogby the least based on past results (2000 not withstanding). For a good article detailing Zogby's methods which I find antiquated see http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/041018fa_fact5?041018fa_fact5.

http://holdthesenate.blogspot.com/

posted by: Ian on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



Zathras:

Has a national Congressional scandal ever historically created the Congressional turnaround you expected the Foley scandal to create? I surely don't recall it. the last time a political party dove deeply into a sex scandal that did not, at its heart, involve any crime other than the usual lying and deceit and TMI, they LOST seats. (Remember 1998?)

My memory of 1994 was that Congress looked so disasterous and stupid and ineffective during the debate on health care, and Clinton did not look like the moderate everyone thought they had elected, and the economy still did not look good to people. I think the Democrats were banking on similar feeling about Congress stemming from Iraq to generate 1994 type results. However, the Demos, afraid of having a position anyone could attack, have not given people much of anything with which to close the deal. If you feel that our President is an utter disaster -- you will vote Democratic. But, if you just feel slightly ill disposed towards him, you wont vote against incumbent GOP without a good reason. And the Democrats have not given that reason.

That may be why they won't get the sweep which they think they will.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



Well, yes, A.M. That's what I was saying. I don't have any illusions about Foley or any of the other GOP scandals producing a Democratic sweep. My argument, which I thought was clear enough, was that in a year when most other factors are helping the Democrats their effective use of the corruption issue would help them win some races they would not otherwise.

In about 48 hours we will know if I was right.

posted by: Zathras on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



My guess is that it's a simple generic-to-specific thing.

Now instead of the Big Bad GOP vs. the world, there's a human face, and people might be saying "oh, that guy? He's not so bad."

posted by: Pooh on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



The whole debate may well be irrelevant, since today's polls by both CNN and Fox show the Dem lead WIDENING rather than shrinking -- with leads of 20 and 13 points among "likely" voters. Since the definition of the latter is notoriously shaky, the margin among registered voters may be more important. We don't have that for Fox; but for the other four latest polls (CNN, Gallup, Pew and ABC) it comes out as 15, 11, 8 and 10 points. Moreover, Gallup -- peculiarly -- lists "likely" voters as more Republican than registered ones despite the fact that his poll (like virtually every other one this year, including the new Fox one) shows Democrats MUCH more enthusiastic about voting this year than Republicans. Fox and CNN also show the remaining GOP vote as softer than the Democratic one, and Fox says that the people who've already voted have gone for the Dems by 15 points.

posted by: Bruce Moomaw on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



There aren't a lot of malleable voters out there, which I personally find absurd since the value of democracy must be about change and therefore a voter by definition should be malleable - but the reality is most people just vote the way they've always voted. If you have a 'real' job and spend a lot of time around average Americans you know this is true.

So the question becomes what motivates that small group of voters who are actually willing to honestly consider their options free of 'preconceptions'?

The answer becomes you remind people of preconceptions they have and follow even if they're not aware of them.

So if you take something like 'democrats don't offer a viable alternative' - well, what does that mean? To a pundit like yourself Dan you may be able run down a list of worthy points that substantiates such a claim - but to the average voter the notion merely conjures up a preconception within a particular context ie Democrats are 'weak'.

Any honest person willing to look at current situation without prejudice would admit that Bush has been a disaster re foreign policy and that to try and defend him by suggesting the democrats would be worse is not an argument - but to the average voter who may be willing to change their vote it is an argument simply because it emboldens prejudices that for very good reasons may be in ebb. And so the Kerry blunder becomes important - not because it actually means anything but rather because it can be used as if it does. At this point in history the GOP is much better at manipulating this dynamic.

The electorate is largely made up of fools that believe certain things and know it and fools that want to believe certain things but need to be reminded of what those things are - elections are decided by the latter.

posted by: Saint Ambrose on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



Z:

I guess my thought is that the average voter cannot stand negative advertising, and a more "those corrupt Repugs" approach would have, for that reason, been tuned out by the already over-slimed voter.

Corruption is a negative issue. The Democrats have given folks nothing positive to grip hold of.

Then, again, Iraq may prove enough. We'll see.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



I'm afraid the answer is "d"--the Dems offer no appealing alternative.

And this comes from someone who voted straight Democratic not more than 90 minutes ago.

Sad.

posted by: Jim Harris on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



I'm curious as to how this plays out today. Iraq is perceived as an unmitigated disaster. The economy seems to be spinning its wheels for the majority of Americans. If Dems can't win this one, then they really can't win(I thought this is 2004 as well though). 90% of the people in Boston not liking the President only costs you those seats. They're aren't bonus points for blowouts. You have to carry a broad section of the country to win control of the House or the Senate. My conspiracy theory suggestion is the big leads are made up by the media to allow the subsequent loss to string together a months worth of Diebold articles.

On a side note regarding the Contract with America, it amazes me that the only thing they promised was they would vote on 10 issues in the first 100 days. How crazy is that?! Think about that. They didn't promise to pass anything. There platform was we'll implement democracy on these 10 straight forward issues. How novel! This goes back to the disconnect that people perceive with the Democratic party. Well actually, when you get beat because the other side promises to vote on some pretty banal issues, then its not preception. Dems are out of touch and I didn't see much difference today.

Democrats don't represent my views. I read Matthew Ygelias yesterday and he was comparing Fallujah to the incident that Saddam was sentenced for(Fallujah wasn't as bad, apparently Bush should do 10 years versus death). Someone with that view just shouldn't be voting for the same person that I am. It just doesn't matter how bad implementation is.

posted by: Chad on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



It always tightens in the end because the interested parties *want* it to tighten.

The television networks want a tight race to increase viewership. Each party proclaims that "it's close" in order to motivate people to get out and vote.

Ho hum. Seen this before.

posted by: uh_clem on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]



What's driving the shift? Answer: The realization that it doesn't matter what party wins!

posted by: HGH on 11.06.06 at 10:23 AM [permalink]






Post a Comment:

Name:


Email Address:


URL:




Comments:


Remember your info?