Free Markets, Free People
That’s what the latest Gallup poll has concluded.
In thinking about the 2012 presidential election, 45% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, while nearly as many, 44%, are less enthusiastic. This is in sharp contrast to 2008 and, to a lesser extent, 2004, when the great majority of Democrats expressed heightened enthusiasm about voting.
45% just won’t get you to the promised land. And with Democrats you have to believe the numbers may be a bit softer than that. It’s called whistling past the graveyard. There may also be a little of the “I don’t want to be thought of as a racist” effect at work here, meaning a portion will claim enthusiasm for the president for fear of being thought to have deserted him because of his race. And, of course, they’ll likely not show up at the polls.
Democrats’ muted response to voting in 2012 also contrasts with Republicans’ eagerness. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans, 58%, describe themselves as more enthusiastic about voting. That is nearly identical to Republicans’ average level of enthusiasm in 2004 (59%) and higher than it was at most points in 2008.
Democrats’ net enthusiasm (+1) now trails Republicans’ net enthusiasm (+28) by 27 percentage points. By contrast, Democrats held the advantage on net enthusiasm throughout 2008 — on several occasions, by better than 40-point margins. Democrats occasionally trailed Republicans in net enthusiasm in 2004, but never by as much as is seen today. The current balance of enthusiasm among Republicans and Democrats is similar to what Gallup found in the first few months of 2000.
Look I know it is early and I know the GOP can always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but every poll out there on just about every aspect of the current electoral picture is exceedingly negative for Democrats and Barack Obama. And while plenty out there will attempt to wave all this bad news off, the bottom line is while each of these polls is a snapshot, when you put them all together they make an album of trends. Terms such as “lowest in history” have a meaning, and while all these polls won’t guarantee an outcome, they sure have been pretty good in pointing toward outcomes in the past.
And right now, they’re looking pretty darn bad for the prez and his party.
One of the things we constantly hear from the left is the public is already fed up with the obstructionist House and that the possibility exists Democrats may be able to reverse 2010 and take it back in 2012.
Well then explain NY-9, the congressional seat in a very blue district in New York city. Disgraced Democrat Anthony Weiner resigned and what should have been an almost rubber stamp Democrat win has suddenly shifted in favor of the Republican challenger.
Well part of it is those troublesome independents again. They refuse to listen to the left’s version of conventional wisdom. But there’s also a good amount of crossover voting:
Turner’s winning in a heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of crossover support. He’s ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party. And he’s winning 29% of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60% with voters of his own party, while losing just 10% of Republican partisans.
We’ve been documenting the flight of independents from the Obama (and Democratic) agenda for a couple years now. Nothing really new there. But in a district as heavily Democratic as NY-9, it takes more than capturing the independent vote if you’re a Republican. You have to get some pretty significant crossover votes as well.
So what’s causing this defection by some Democrats there? Well, I’ve documented any number of stories saying that the bloom is off the Obama rose. We had Richard Cohen in the Hamptons visiting with NYC’s liberal elite and finding very little if any support for President Obama. We have Democrat Pete DeFazio saying the “enthusiasm” for Obama is gone. Is NY-9 a referendum on the President?
If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district. Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him. It’s a given that Republicans don’t like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he’s below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving.
That’s got to be part of it. Turner is also a strong candidate and Weprin, well, not so much. But still, this is a reliably Democratic district, so that to has to be remembered. Given a strong opinion of national leadership, it should be no real chore to overcome a GOP candidate there. But that’s not the apparent case. Here’s the warning sign:
One final note on the poll and what perhaps should concern Democrats most of all. 55% of voters in the district report having voted for Obama in 2008, which is the actual percentage of the vote he got in the district. Last year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters didn’t show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a Presidential year. When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we’ll be fine. But there is no enthusiasm gap here. Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008. But only 65% of them are voting Democratic. That’s a really big cause for concern.
It is indeed a big cause for concern if that’s a pattern that repeats across the nation. White it is possible that the Democrat may end up winning in NY-9 because crossover trend hasn’t yet solidified, the indicators contained in the PPP poll show contain some very disturbing news for Democrats, win or not.
There has been a lot of assertion flying around the net about how Democrats are “closing the enthusiasm” gap. The question, of course, is whether or not that’s actually true. Certainly any number or races are tightening as should be expected with 8 days to go before an election. And both sides are ginning up their Get Out The Vote drives – critical to a win. You also have the President and VP hitting the road for any number of at-risk candidates thereby punching up the visibility of those candidates and stirring up the base (although the level of enthusiasm among some base groups lags 2008’s).
But are the Democrats really closing the enthusiasm gap?
POLITICO seems to think the latest information from early voting says “no”.
POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.
Two important points there. A) GOP turnout is running ahead of the party’s share of state wide voter registration. That’s a very important indicator of where the enthusiasm lies. When that sort of an advantage gained, history shows the results are usually favorable for the party that does so. B) Independents are more pro-GOP than pro-Democrat this time around. Each of the parties command about 30 to 35% brand loyalty in any election. It may go higher in some as the early voting indicates it is for the GOP this time. However, everyone understands that the party faithful alone can’t swing an election. It takes persuading independents to sign on and vote for the party to close the deal. Independents have shown consistently in polls that they’re favoring the GOP this time around.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has taken a look at the early voting as well, and comes to pretty much the same conclusion as does POLITICO:
So, the various estimates of early voting data each show an edge for Republicans: their voters have been slightly more inclined that Democrats in most states thus far. Under the most favorable set of assumptions for them, their advantage is around 9 points; by the least favorable set of assumptions, it is more like a 4-point edge.
These figures ought to seem familiar to regular readers of this blog. How come? Because they are very close to the enthusiasm gap as inferred by the consensus of pollsters — who, on average, show Republican candidates performing about 6 points better among likely voters than among registered voters — although their advantage varies from state to state and from polling firm to polling firm.
Take a look at Silver’s full analysis – probably one of the most exhaustive you’ll find. It holds up pretty well and it underlines the fact that the reports of a Democratic comeback – a closing of the “enthusiasm gap” – is founded more in “hope” than reality. He concludes:
Overall, however, the early voting data does not provide compelling reason to reject the consensus among pollsters, which is that the enthusiasm gap is most likely to manifest itself in a mid-to-high single digit turnout advantage for Republicans. When coupled with the edge that Republican candidates have among independent voters in most races, this suggests that they are liable to have a pretty good year [emphasis mine].
That seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion despite a rising tide of media stories implying that Democrats are coming back. There’s little reason to believe independents will begin to reverse their trend away from Democrats at this late date. There has been absolutely nothing happen that would trigger such a reverse.
Keep all this in mind as you read more stories that I’d put in the “whistling past the graveyard” category about Democrats keeping the House, etc. While I don’t believe the dire predictions of 70 or 80 seats there switching sides, I do believe more than enough will turn over to give the GOP a majority.
II’m always entertained by those on either side of the political spectrum who, when faced with an obvious and impending defeat, begin lists of why that won’t happen. This whistling past the graveyard is truly a testament to thinking which can somehow put aside every negative fact out there and some how spool up a "positive" outcome for his side. Today’s example is from a Democratic strategist who has discovered four more reasons Democrats will win in the mid-terms.
He sounds strangely like Republican strategists about a month before the 2008 presidential election who had umpteen reasons why McCain would win, none of which panned out. I have a feeling our Democratic strategist will have to reevaluate his ability to objectively analyze political races after the vote in November.
Nevertheless, his four reasons are, 1) Democrats will end up spending as much money as Republicans, 2)Voters aren’t voting for "generic" Republicans and that’s not good for Republicans, 3)Obama has switched to "campaign mode" and will save the day, and 4)the "enthusiasm gap" will close.
I feel for the guy. This is the thin thread upon which he hangs his hopes that Democrats won’t lose the majority in the House or seats in the Senate.
Feel free to read his "reasoning". It is full of stuff that might appeal to a political junkie who is knee deep into the whys and wherefores of this election. But for the average Joe – meh.
As the public’s attention as a whole slowly turns toward this November election, they will be guided by their overall perception of the shape of our country and its economy and who it is they think got us in this shape. It is going to be incredibly hard shift the blame on the Republicans. Crying about partisanship and in-fighting isn’t going to answer the mail. For most, I would guess, the blame has already been placed. So massive expenditures and “robust” GOTV efforts are unlikely to have the effect this gentleman might expect. And, as he notes, the other side is going to be spending too – as well as mounting their own GOTV effort.
As for his point about Obama and campaign mode, let me beg to differ. When has he ever switched out of that mode? That’s part of his problem and why his job approval rating is 42% and only 38% say they’d vote to reelect him if the election was held today. You’ve got politicians running from him. HIs signature “accomplishment” is something not a single Democrat will campaign on. And, you have professionals like Charlie Cook continuing to move races, as he did with 4 today, from “Solid Democrat” to “Likely Democrat” (see bottom right).
And that fact naturally speaks much more eloquently to this fantasy of closing the enthusiasm gap than anything else I can think of.
The Democrats are in a pickle of their own making. They have had control of the Congress for 6 years and are hooked up to a failing presidency. Those stark facts are what the public is going to take with them to the polls, and barring some economic miracle within the next 30 days, all this talk about generic politicians, the savior Obama, enthusiasm gaps closing and money to be spent is going to sound a lot like “we know McCain’s going to win and here’s why”.
Sometimes what is going to happen is just obvious – and this seems to be one of them.
She was probably not what the President wanted at one of his staged “town hall” meetings – but apparently they had to recruit people to fill the audience and this was one of the recruits:
"I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for," a woman told President Obama at a town hall.
"My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but, quite frankly, it’s starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we’re headed again, and, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?," she added.
This is probably one of the most obvious of the problems Obama and the Democrats face. Note there’s not a word of “blame Bush” in this Obama supporters words – those quoted or unquoted. She essentially says, “hey, you’ve sold me a bill of goods, or so it seems after 2 years”. In fact, she also said she was “deeply disappointed with where we are right now”.
This disappointment is likely to translate into non-votes for Democrats. Not necessarily votes for the GOP, but lack of votes for Democrats as the “deeply disappointed” and “exhausted” supporters (or former supporters) stay home.
The problem – as we’ve noted many times – is enthusiasm. Relative to the right, there is none on the left, or certainly not as much or enough to get people to the polls. In two short years, Obama and the Democrats have gone from owning significant and filibuster proof margins that seemed safe for quite some time to a vulnerable status that may see them in the minority in at least one chamber of Congress and with enough gains in the other to stall the president’s agenda.
Many of us, of course, see that as a feature, not a bug.
But again, I think this woman very articulately and succinctly puts the frustrations of not only the average American, but the average Obama supporter in focus. She is the face of defeat and she tells them precisely why that’s so.
Very interesting. The answer Obama gives is just as telling. Make sure you listen to it as well.
A party can have the greatest candidate in the world, or at least think so, but if voters who favor that candidate and party don’t get out and vote, even a Jimmy Carter can win. This time around, if the polls are indicative of the voter’s true feelings, the enthusiasm gap is on the side of the GOP. In fact, pollsters haven’t seen such a difference since 1994. The Pew Research Center conducted a recent survey and found:
Fully 56% of Republican voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections – the highest percentage of GOP voters expressing increased enthusiasm about voting in midterms dating back to 1994. While enthusiasm among Democratic voters overall is on par with levels in 2006, fewer liberal Democrats say they are more enthusiastic about voting than did so four years ago (52% then, 37% today).
The other key, of course, is the final sentence. And, if you read the liberal blogs, that’s patently obvious. None of the rah-rah activism we saw when Republicans were in control or in office. And certainly none of the enthusiasm they displayed then.
Probably the most damaging to the Democratic side, is their failure to hold on to the elderly vote, with which they usually do very well. The elderly vote and it looks like they’re going to vote Republican this time around (again, assuming the poll numbers hold). At this point, the vast 2006 lead (52% to 38%) the Democrats held among the elderly voters (50 and over) has completely disappeared:
Voters younger than 30 favor the Democratic candidate in their district by a wide margin (57% to 32%). Yet only half of young voters say they are absolutely certain to vote. Voters ages 50 and older favor the Republican candidate in their district by double digits (11 points) and roughly eight-in-ten (79%) say they are absolutely certain to vote.
These polls, of course, provide national snapshots of feelings at the time they’re taken. Their worth is as indicators and as they’re repeated over time, their ability to spot trends. The trend now is toward the GOP candidate generically. Some local races may tend toward a Democratic candidate, but overall, it appears to be shaping up as a GOP mid-term.
The consensus appears to be that the Oval Office speech last night fizzled. It didn’t accomplish what the administration and, I’d guess, the Democrats hoped it would. That is show a commanding president in charge of the situation who reflects confidence and leadership.
Which brings us to a poll that’s quite interesting – the USA TODAY/Gallup poll about political viability. By that I mean futures for both the president and the Democratic Congress. And if the poll is to be believed (and I see no reason it shouldn’t), the future isn’t so bright the Dems need shades:
The criticism hasn’t driven down Obama’s overall job-approval rating, at 50% in the new poll, the highest since January. But it may be affecting his standing in other ways. By 51%-46%, the registered voters surveyed said Obama didn’t deserve re-election.
Enthusiasm about voting in the midterm elections fell, especially among Democrats. Just 35% of Democrats say they are “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” the lowest level in more than a decade and 18 percentage points below that of Republicans.
The poll, of course, doesn’t reflect the mood of voters after the “big speech” so those “overall job-approval rating” numbers may not remain at 50%. But the future is reflected in the enthusiasm, or lack thereof and the doesn’t “deserve re-election” numbers that the poll reports.
If you’ve lost your base, which is how I interpret “enthusiasm” numbers – i.e. how enthused your base is about what you’re doing and will they get off their duffs and vote to keep you going – then you’re pretty much done. Because you can count on a whole lot of independents not being too enthused about Democrats either, as other polling has shown.
And, when you have a 5% gap in “doesn’t deserve to be re-elected”, that’s fairly significant and gives Dems and idea of the job they have in front of them selling this guy the next time.
That all supposes that events keep going the way they have for the past few months. I have little doubt they won’t. And then, for good measure, some international event, of which a number are building, will burst over the horizon and into the news, complicating this administration’s fuzzy focus even more.
Some would describe all this ineptitude and chaos we’re witnessing to be a teachable moment for the voting public – next time pay attention to qualifications. The only problem with that is you are supposed to learn something from teachable moments, and to do that, you have to survive them.
Way back during the Bush years, we saw the rise of the netroots premised on the idea that Bush was the worst thing that had ever happened to America. Also boosted by the Bush years was the circulation of liberal magazines. The passion of the opposition was readily apparent to anyone who took the time to read either the liberal blogs or pubs.
That was then, this is now. Suddenly the opposition came to power and instead of spending their days throwing bombs and spit wads, they’ve had to defend what they helped bring about – a seemingly inept and drifting administration focused on the wrong things (they’re having a “health care reform” summit today, instead of talking about jobs) in a time of economic downturn and joblessness.
Vanity Fair has “discovered” that “hate sells”. It sold throughout the Bush years and now it is selling in the Obama years. Liberal magazine circulation is down from their Bush hating highs and conservative magazine circulation is up. I don’t know if it is true, but I’d guess that liberal blogs are suffering a bit of a downturn too. It is much easier to criticize (and I’ll be the first to admit that as I do it daily and find plenty of fodder for such criticism) than to defend. And criticism is usually much more passionate and seems to draw more passionate responses than does a defense.
What has happened to the liberals is they’ve gone from being the opposition – their usual position – to the establishment. They’re not comfortable (or particularly good) with being the establishment. They’re also not comfortable with having to defend their positions as they try to put them into effect via law. What they’re finding is it’s no fun being the establishment, and it is many times hard to summon the passion to defend their actions and ideas when they’re under assault from all sides.
One of the things these circulation numbers tell us as they swing from one side to the other is the measure of the “enthusiasm gap” (that all important gap that usually indicates which party’s GOTV effort will turn out the most voters in any upcoming election). As has been the case depending on which party holds the White House or Congress, there is usually more enthusiasm on the opposition’s side than on the establishment’s side. That seems to be the case now. Welcome to American politics. In fact, it is nothing new and should the GOP capture Congress or Obama be a one-term president, the left will rise again.
In the meantime, they learn what it is like to be on the receiving end of what they dealt for 8 years. But they should also understand that the passion has deserted the left and now resides more on the right (although the Tea Parties indicate a bit of a wild card). And they know full well what that tends to mean in terms of politics and elections. The circulation numbers cited by Vanity Fair are only an indicator of that.