Whistling past the grave yard, part two Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, November 01, 2006
John Hawkins of Right Wing News polled 230 right of center blogs (no, not QandO) about how they felt the elections would turn out. 62 responded:
1) Do you think the GOP is going to retain control of the House?
Yes (38) — 61.3% No (24) — 38.7%
2) Do you think the GOP is going to retain control of the Senate?
Yes (56) — 90.3% No (6) — 9.7%
I've got to say, considering the House numbers, I'm surprised.
Well, not really. Partisanship is rampant on both sides and frankly extreme partisans are true believers (see Netroots on the left). And true believers, for the most part, would believe in the face of contrary evidence that a miracle will happen. Obviously not all of the 62 who responded are hiding their heads in the sand, but certainly a majority are. I'm not sure why.
The Senate? A toss up. For the most part I agree the GOP will retain it. But not by much.
Just as interesting was the reasons given for why these folks felt the Republicans had such problems in this election cycle:
3) The Republican Party has been having a lot of difficulty during this election cycle. If you had to pick 1-6 reasons for that, what would they be?
Top Tier Issues
W) The way the war in Iraq has gone. (48) — 77.4% P) The GOP isn't doing enough to control spending. (46) — 74.2% K) Republicans don't fight back hard enough against Democratic attacks. (37) — 59.7% D) Because the GOP is perceived as being too soft on illegal immigration. (32) — 51.6% S) The perception that the GOP is corrupt. (32) — 51.6% J) President Bush's approval rating. (21) — 33.9% O) The GOP isn't being aggressive enough in the war on terror. (19) — 30.6% R) The perception that the Federal Government did a poor job of handling Hurricane Katrina. (19) — 30.6% V) The Mark Foley scandal. (17) — 27.4%
I think they're exactly right on the first two issues. I'd suggest the 4th (immigration) is more of a factor than not fighting Dem attacks. Issues v. politics. Same with the corruption perception. Frankly I wouldn't give the Bush approval ratings a second thought in a mid-term election. And I have no idea how one concludes the administration hasn't been aggressive enough in the WoT. Seems, given the "wire tapping" flap and all the rest, they'd be considered to be overly aggressive by some.
Foley? Nah. Gone. Over. Old news. Katrina, some residual effect but fading. Really not relevant to congressional races anyway. Nope, relevant to Congressional races is the overall impression about Iraq, spending being out of control, and softness on immigration with corruption as the background noise.
There is also a listing of secondary issues:
I) High gas prices. (9) T) The Republican party has catered too much to social conservatives. (5) — 8% U) The Republican party hasn't catered enough to social conservatives. (5) — 8% E) Because too many Republicans are anti-embryonic stem cell research. (4) — 6.5% G) Bush's failed attempt to reform Social Security. (4) — 6.5% M) The Gang of 14 deal on judges. (4) — 6.5% X) The way Republicans in Congress handled the Terri Schiavo affair. (4) — 6.5% Y) The way that Dennis Hastert handled the William Jefferson scandal. (4) — 6.5%
High gas prices and congress? Nah. But leadership? You bet. And that would encompass M, X and Y. Those combined don't speak particularly well of Republican leadership (and, if anywhere, that's where Foley comes into this). I think Republicans underestimate the damage the Teri Shiavo fiasco had on some voters. I'd have put "leadership in Congress" up in the "Top Tier Issues" as one of the top 3 problems.
Listed as insignificant issues:
F) Because the GOP has been "too conservative." (2) — 3.2% H) Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. (2) — 3.2% A) Accusations that the GOP is "pro-torture." (1) — 1.6% L) The fallout from the Dubai Port Deal. (1) — 1.6% Q) The GOP opposition to the minimum wage. (1) — 1.6% B) Because the Democratic Party has pushed a more appealing positive agenda than the Republicans. — 0% C) Because the GOP is perceived as being too hard on illegal immigration. — 0% N) The GOP hasn't done enough to stop global warming. — 0%
Now remember, the question is, "why have the Reps been having a lot of difficulty during this election cycle."
I think the group properly identified these as insignificant. However had "F" been reworded to say "Because the GOP hasn't been conservative enough", at least fiscally (and there is a version of it up there), it would have belonged in the Top Tier Issues.
Anyway, I still think they're whistling past the graveyard on the House. But as with all unscientific surveys take it with a grain of salt. Still interesting to see the mood and opinion of the group which responded.
Mostly I agree with you, except I still have a nagging idea in the back of my head that poll results seem to be more skewed every cycle. What I mean is that there is an inherent underreporting of republican votes, and the pollsters correct for it each cycle, but it comes back each cycle, which tells me that people are deliberately lying to pollsters at an increasing rate. Or something else is up.
I also think that since it is an off year election, so much depends on get out the vote, and The Kerry gaffe might have motivated some stay at home Republicans because they are reminded just how much they loath his ilk.
I don’t know if it whistling past the graveyard as much as it is trying to stay optimistic because pessimism can be self-fulfilling in politics.
I would think that if it was truly whistling past the graveyard, the answers to "what is the problem" would be inaccurate. There would be a lot of "we are doing the right things, just not forcefully enough" and "we just can’t get our message out" and so forth.
I just hope, if the GOP loses this election, they learn from the people who answered this survey. But then, had they been listening to the people in this survey, these issues would have been given attention already.
I share your concern as well, but we must not forget the 2000 and 2004 predictions that the Democrats would win either... It’s the same thing all over again... the Democrats and most of the major media are showing polls that show a huge lead for the Dems. On election day, all of the exit polling will favor the Democrats. Once the Republican’s get out of work and get to the polls, the numbers will shift rapidly. The Republican’s will pull another victory out and the libs will say that we cheated because everything showed that they should win. They’ll threaten everything from riots to "tearing down city hall". After they realize that it takes more than simply stating "we should riot" to stir the Republicans, everything will calm down. We’ll still have a stupid e-mail based conspiracy theory or two to laugh at afterwards, but everything should go back to the normal political hoo-hah within a couple of weeks.
Or maybe we lose. Hell, if the libs can’t win in this environment (that they created through over exaggerated claims of indecency)...
Either way, I doubt you’ll hear of any part of the "vast right wing conspiracy" threatening to tear down city hall.
The reason Rove, et al, give for their optimism is that the polls consistently average an underrepresentation of Republicans to the tune of several %, and the % gain the Republicans need to make up to keep enough seats to keep Congress is in that range, also, the "granularity" of the polls—precinct level—they see show Republicans showing up in the required percentages to produce enough wins to let them keep the House.
Does the under-representaion of Republicans have a history long enough for it to be counted on?
Does the granularity scale of looking at things have a repeatibility compared to past elections that makes it overwhelmingly authoritative compared to national generic polls?
The answer will be had on the 7th, but I don’t see pundits talking about those questions as such, just cheerleading and assertion on each side.
I put the chances of the Democrats taking the House at 33%, and of taking the Senate at around 3%.
...and frankly extreme partisans are true believers...
Actually, anyone can be true believers - even proponents of divided government.
As Gerry points out above, if it were a real whistling past the grave, one would expect to see truly out of touch reasons as to why the GOP is having problems.
What will happen? I dont know, but I place much less faith in RCP average, even for trend analysis, than do you. For what its worth, early voting is up in my CO district (that voted for Bush in 2004) compared to last midterm election.
Yep, lots of blind spots. Look at the netroots wasting their time and effort purging one senator and trying to replace him with someone less impressive than Kerry at the cost of the party. Imagine if they focused on trying to win the election rather than ideological purity.
Maybe the Dem side will win, maybe not. They probably will but considering what happened in 2002 and 2004, there are no sure things.
Well, it is a center-right blogger poll, so we should see it in context. The problem here is that few voters outside the conservative base see immigration as a big issue. Was there any mention of "the economy" or "jobs?" To conservatives, the economy is stunningly great. Unemployment is down, inflation is down, GDP is up, the stock market is way up. But polls, especially in the battleground states of the Ohio Valley consistently show angst about jobs and the manufacturing economy. I live in Michigan and it’s so bad that the GOP governor’s candidate has made jobs his biggest issue.
But the biggest issue is probably George W. Bush himself. The man gets twice as many "strongly disapproves" as "strongly approves" in every poll. He is so personally obtuse - look at his endorsement of Don Rumsfeld today that singlehandedly convinced Andrew Sullivan to demand that voters vote for the Democrats as an "intervention." Bush is simply radioactive in much of the country. Yet, only 34% see him as the biggest issue. He is much more unpopular to moderates now than Clinton was in 1994. Moderates detest him almost as much as liberals. And moderates + liberals equals about 65% of the population. Add to that some disgruntled conservatives and you see why Bush is the biggest albatross on the GOP.
Yes, it’s the war and it’s Bush. The other issues bother center-right bloggers and are a fair representation of their concerns. But they don’t represent the total picture.
I should also add that the 2004 polling never had Kerry far ahead this late. In fact, Kerry was behind in almost every poll, though it was always close. On the Congressional ballot, the Dems had a marginal lead until the last week, when the Republicans took a small lead. The overall vote for House GOP candidates was only about 52%. But mid-decade redistricting in Texas gave the Republicans four new seats. Here in Michigan, Dems outvoted Republicans 52-48 in the Congressional races. But our delegation is 9-6 for the Republicans. It’s gerrymandering.
The polls this year are nothing like we’ve ever seen this late in the cycle. CBS/NYT just came out with a poll showing the Dems with an 18 point lead among likely voters. Suppose it’s exaggerated and really should be 12 points, that could easily translate into a 50 seat gain for the Democrats.
Things could change between now and the election. I keep expecting the generic number to narrow as it usually does. But it hasn’t. External issues - Osama, Kerry, Saddam, etc. - can always intervene. But I think voter attitudes are pretty hardened at this point. Kerry’s apology today, and the White House’s acceptance of it, puts that story to rest. I doubt anybody will remember it by Monday.
There is a lot whistling past the graveyard out there indeed. Unless the polling business is utterly useless, the Democrats are poised for massive pickups this election. What they do then is anybody’s guess.
Kerry’s apology today, and the White House’s acceptance of it, puts that story to rest. I doubt anybody will remember it by Monday. [...] [T]he Democrats are poised for massive pickups this election... a 50 seat gain for the Democrats.
There is a lot whistling past the graveyard out there indeed.