Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jane, You Ignorant Slut...

While on travel, I had the chance to listen to a well-known, non-partisan, political analyst, and a member of the staff of the NRCC talk about expectations and projections for the fall elections.

First the non-partisan: he was not encouraging (if you're a Republican). He said that it's looking likely that the Democrats will retake the House. He noted similarities to 1994, and said that with Bush's popularity extremely low and with Bush's poll numbers appearing to be largely 'frozen,' (an assertion I don't really agree with), it's hard for the GOP to get much traction. This analyst said that for some months, 'macro' polls showed the GOP in big trouble, but that the dynamics of individual races did not seem to follow. He said that as time has gone on however, those races have materialized into ones that the Democrats are likely to win. He also noted that the GOP always took solace in the fact that while the GOP overall was unpopular, most voters still supported their own GOP incumbent. That has changed as well he said, so that now polls show that people are no longer so supportive of their own Congressman. Lastly, he said, polls show that Democratic voters are more highly motivated than their GOP counterparts.

He concluded by saying that this year looks like a big wave - on the order of 15-20 seats. But he added that in such years, the wave usually develops in such a way that about 5 more incumbents get beaten who were thought completely safe. So his guess is that unless something big happens to change the dynamic, the GOP will lose the House with a few seats to spare.

Anyway, the next day I heard from an NRCC strategist who took a completely different point of view. He explained why the GOP will retain control of the House. The key he said, is that the GOP has better candidates, is better at getting out the vote, and has recognized that elections cannot be nationalized (an assertion with which I don't completely agree). On this latter point, he said that Democrats have been trying in vain for years to win a majority based on Iraq, gas prices, corruption, and other meta issues. He said that the reason for their failure is that local issues dominate local races.

I'm not sure that the GOP is set to lose the House. Partly this is because there remain few truly competitive races. NRCC chair Tom Reynolds has pointed out that Democrats needed to win 87% of all competitive races to win the House. Further, Ken Mehlman is the GOP secret weapon. He organized Get-Out-the-Vote efforts for the GOP in 2004 and before, and his ability to identify GOP voters and get them to the polls is unparallelled. Recall that in 2004 Kerry was sure he won the White House, because the numbers showed that Democrats had voted in such large numbers that there was no way he could have lost. The only problem was that Mehlman turned out more GOP voters than Democrats thought possible.

Further, elections can be nationalized. This is pretty basic, it seems to me. Why would there be a '6-year curse' which turns out dozens of members of the President's party, if an election isn't nationalized?

Anyway, the GOP will lose some seats because people are coming out to vote against Bush. But there is no reason that they can't also gain an advantage from pointing out to voters that Nancy Pelosi and her team oppose some of the key laws and tactics being used by the administration to frustrate terrorist attacks. I think that however disappointed voters may be with Bush, they recognize that it is no accident that there have been no successful terrorist attacks in the US since September 11. If reminded why that is so, I think voters will respond by supporting Republican candidates.

On the Senate, this analyst thinks it rather likely that the GOP will stay in control. He said that it is easy to project the GOP losing 5 Senate seats, but hard to get to the 6th (which Harry Reid needs to become Majority Leader). This analyst says that Rick Santorum and Conrad Burns are more or less goners. It is not difficult to project Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, and Jim Talent as losers. But he said that for Democrats to retake the Senate, they then need to win a long-shot - in Tennessee or Virginia. He does not think that especially likely.

But with regard to Santorum, check out Tim Chapman and Political Wire.

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1 comment:

MikeD said...

Good thinking. Articles with "Slut" in the headline are probably going to drive up our hits.