Democrats concerned about shoring up their U.S. Senate margin should read “Senate Races ’08: Down to the Wire Again?” at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Sabato crunches the numbers and covers the big picture, along with some specific Senate races, and concludes:
At least to judge by the early line-up, it will be a surprise if the Senate doesn’t remain highly competitive after November 2008, with neither party having anywhere near the sixty reliable votes needed to run this balky, idiosyncratic institution–the saucer that cools the hot brew in the House teacup.
Sabato opines that at this admittedly early stage, it appears that Dems are slightly more likely to hold the Senate, than lose control. But he warns:
The biggest imponderable is the presidential campaign. Senators like to think they are immune from the coattail effect. They are not. Certainly, coattail has a greater impact on open seat races, such as the ’04 Southern contests mentioned earlier, where the Bush reelection margin pushed Republicans over the finish line in states such as Florida and Louisiana. Yet a large margin for one party’s White House contender can add a few Senate seats all by itself. And then there are all the usual macro forces that are unpredictable but often determinative, including scandals that may arise, or the shape of each state’s economy (if it’s good, the incumbent claims credit, and if it’s bad, the challenger makes the incumbent take some blame). Fear of the unknown keeps both parties on their toes.
This early in the game, we hesitate even to categorize Senate races for 2008. Which senators will retire? Which senators will attract trouble or commit devastating gaffes before the campaign is finished? What will the quality of the challenger turn out to be in each race? How about the comparative financial war chests of the candidates and the national party senatorial committees? (With money, as in so many other aspects of life, size matters.)
A reasonable assessment, and one that underscores the importance of financial contributions to ’08 Senate and presidential candidates, as soon as possible for the latter, given the heavily front-loaded presidential primaries.
Kos has a thought-provoking post “Religion, Values and Politics,” offering a cogent argument that political candidates rarely gain much by talking about their religion. He nails it nicely in this nut graph:
Here’s the deal — Republicans have claimed god as their own and perverted religious texts to justify some of the most divisive and hateful policies and discourse in our politics today. And while Corporate Cons, Neocons, and Paleocons have tolerated the Theocons in order to tap into their activist network (none of those other conservative factions have significant boots to help them win elections), fact is it’s created an ugly party that is unelectable in entire regions of the country. No one likes to have their morality dictated by others. And that doesn’t just mean the Religious Right, but those on our side as well.
Kos believes Dems who think Harold Ford’s losing Senate campaign provides a model for emulation are sorely mistaken. He notes that Jim Webb and John Tester won in conservative states “without cheap pandering to the religious set.” He explains further:
They didn’t shoot commercials in churches, embrace hatred of gays, or demand school prayer (all of which Harold Ford did). They didn’t prattle on about “god” at every campaign stop. Yet somehow they were able to win.
Voters do want to know about candidates’ personal values, Kos explains. But candidates who equate values with parroting religious doctrines may be courting defeat. Kos’s article riffs on a discussion underway at Atrios, and both merit a thoughtful read. Nation-wide, there may, indeed be more voters who wish candidates would just shut up about their religion than those who want to hear about it. And just once, wouldn’t it be great to hear some leading politician say “Religion is a deeply personal matter, and I’m just not going to exploit it to jockey for votes.”
Today’s Wall St. Journal has an interesting article about the power of the blogosphere as a medium for political advertising. In the article, “Candidates Find A New Stump In the Blogosphere,” author Amy Schatz notes that internet political ads are increasing sharply
With 18 candidates vying for the most open race for the White House in 80 years and front-runners on both sides announcing plans to forgo public financing, the 2008 election promises to be a huge revenue opportunity, not just for TV broadcasters….All told, online spending by candidates, political parties and third-party special-interest “soft money” groups, like Moveon.org, could hit $80 million during the 2008 cycle compared with $29 million in 2004, according to an estimate by PQ Media LLC, a Connecticut research firm.
The boom in ads for political blogs is proving to be lucrative for high traffic political websites, although TV still rules in terms of ad revenues, explains Schatz:
Internet ad spending is small compared with spending on traditional radio, broadcast and cable advertising. The best-read blogs still charge comparably little for ads. A standard-size weekly ad purchased through Blogads costs $2,900 on the progressive site DailyKos for example, or $250 at Hotair.com, a conservative video blog site. By comparison, a 30-second broadcast television spot could set back a candidate anywhere from $90,000 to $110,000 a week in a market like Des Moines, according to Evan Tracey of the TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Campaigns know, however, that they are targeting a high number of opinion leaders and politically active net-surfers when they advertise on particular blogs.
The most popular political blogs reach a daily audience of just a few million readers, according to a study released last October by George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet. But they are more likely than the general public to actively participate in the political process. The study found that about 75% of daily political-blog readers are male, about 40% are between 35 to 54 years old and 42% reported an annual income of $100,000 or more.
So far bloggers’ content has not been influenced by their advertisers, and Schatz cites examples of bloggers biting the hands that feed them. The article also discusses the internet ads of several presidential candidates, including John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
by Scott Winship
Longtime readers of TDS–by which I mean those of you who read it last fall–remember the, um, spirited debate we hosted over an essay by Third Way, “Missing the Middle“. Authors Anne Kim, Adam Solomon, and Jim Kessler argued that Democrats’ economic message to the middle class failed to resonate with voters because it was unduly pessimistic and focused on security rather than opportunity. Their critics responded that economic insecurity is prevalent–often with good reason. Secondarily, discussants asked, “Where’s the Beef?”, noting the absence of a coherent policy agenda that flowed from their analysis.
Today Third Way rolled out its initial effort to respond to these criticisms–“The New Rules Economy: A Policy Framework for the 21st Century“. The report begins by debunking “myths” of neopopulism and conservatism. It then takes the next step of presenting nine “new rules” of today’s economy, as well as proposals to address the gaps between our old-rules policy framework and the new rules. You could think of it as a “third path”, no, a “middle way”, or….what’s the phrase I’m looking for?…….
Hil-larious kidding aside, progressives will recognize that there is nothing mushily centrist about Third Way’s policy agenda, though because it rejects the neopopulist critique of the new economy it is not as expansive as many progressives would like. Still, there’s no denying the progressivity of an agenda that advocates wealth-promoting and inequality-reducing “worth at birth accounts”, making college more affordable, greater funding for continuing education, training for workers in industries vulnerable to foreign competition to prepare for better employment in high-growth industries, expanded portability of fringe benefits, expanded child care funding, and having the federal government take over responsibility for some of the health care costs that businesses currently bear (among other laundry-list items). To be sure, it’s a framework viewed from 10,000 feet, but Third Way has a permanent project dedicated to fleshing out the details of these and other ideas.
Seems like an agenda even neopopulists could embrace. Give it a look-see. How does it compare with other progressive policy agendas you’ve seen?
Dems will be cheered to read Eric Kleefield’s TPM Cafe synopsis of Stuart Rothernberg’s Roll Call article, pointing out that Dems have a good chance to win a fillibuster-proof 60 Senate seats by 2010. Kleefield cites Blumenthal’s argument that Dems only have to defend 27 seats over the next two cycles, while the GOP must defend 40 seats. In addition, in 2008, Blumenthal says the GOP has “tough seats to defend” in CO, NH and ME, along with possible Republican retirements in VA, NM, NE, MS and NC. Further, most Dem seats being defended are in blue states.
All well and good in the longer run. But on Sunday on The Chris Matthews Show, killjoy Joe Klein predicted that, in the shorter run, Senator Lieberman may switch to the GOP “pretty soon,” causing Dems to lose control of the Senate. Here’s hoping Sens. Schumer and Reid are working hard on persuading a GOP Senator to join the Dems.
by Alan Abramowitz
Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science
The South is the most conservative and most Republican region of the country. In both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, the Democratic presidential candidate failed to carry a single state of the old Confederacy, although Al Gore probably did win a majority of the intended votes of Floridians. And even though Democrats made modest gains in the South in the 2006 midterm elections, Republicans continue to hold the large majority of the region’s Senate and House seats.
Looking at the bleak Democratic landscape in the South, Tom Schaller argues in Whistling Past Dixie that not only should Democratic presidential candidates write off the South, they should actively campaign against southern values in order to maximize their electoral prospects in the rest of the country. What Schaller is advocating is not just a non-southern strategy for Democrats, but an anti-southern strategy.
The assumption underlying Schaller’s argument is that not only is the South more conservative than the rest of the nation, but that southern values are now so antithetical to those of voters outside of the region that trying to appeal to southerners will only reduce a candidate’s appeal outside of the region.
But is it true that a candidate who appeals to voters in the South will reduce his appeal in the rest of the country? Based on an examination of the evidence from the past six presidential elections, the answer to this question is a loud and clear no. In fact, the evidence supports the opposite conclusion: the better a presidential candidate does in the South, the better that candidate will do in the rest of the country and, especially, in the key battleground states that determine the outcomes of presidential elections.
In order to test the viability of Schaller’s anti-southern strategy, I examined the correlations among Democratic presidential candidates’ vote margins (Democratic percentage minus Republican percentage) in five states across the last six presidential elections. The five states that I chose included two southern states, Georgia from the Deep South, and North Carolina from the Rim South, and three battleground states, Pennsylvania from the Northeast, Ohio from the Midwest, and Colorado from the Mountain West. The results are displayed in Table 1.
Not only are all of the correlations positive, all of them are very strongly positive—a correlation of 1.0 indicates a perfect relationship between two variables, and most of these correlations are very close to 1.0. It is clear that over the last six presidential elections, the better the Democratic candidate did in Georgia and North Carolina, the better that candidate did in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
There is no reason to believe that the positive relationship between a presidential candidate’s appeal in the South and that candidate’s appeal in the rest of the nation, including the key battleground states, will change in the future. The better the Democratic (or Republican) candidate does in the South in 2008, the better that candidate will do in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado that are critical to winning the presidency. That is because southern voters respond in the same way to the candidates and issues as voters in the rest of the country.
No matter whom the Democrats and Republicans nominate for president in 2008, the South will almost certainly be the most difficult region for the Democratic candidate. But is also almost certain that no matter whom the Democrats and Republicans nominate for president in 2008, the better the Democratic candidate does in the South, the better that candidate will do in the rest of the country including the key battleground states and the better that candidate’s chances will be of winning the presidency.
The blogosphere is still smokin’ with screeds covering every conceivable angle of the Edwards campaign bloggers flap (from here it looks like he struck a fairly Solomonic compromise as a presidential candidate who appreciates the importance of free speech, the netroots, reproductive rights and Catholic voters in PA.) Meanwhile, print columnist Jules Witcover reminds us that, ahem, there is a war on, and “the world’s greatest deliberative body” is being upstaged by the “lower” House in dealing with it. As Witcover rolls it out in his syndicated column:
With the Senate dithering over whether or not to debate President Bush’s latest troop buildup in Iraq, the Democratic leadership in the House is going ahead next week with debate of its own, thumbing its nose at tradition and protocol.
As the legislative body responsible for such key matters of foreign relations as approving treaties and confirming ambassadors, the Senate customarily leads the way on issues of international consequence. Its 100 members elected statewide revel in its reputation as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” compared with the House, whose 435 members are often painted as more focused on the needs of their districts.
Witcover goes into considerable detail about the pathos of the spectacle of Senators droning on about procedure to a mostly empty chamber, while the House is about to be set afire with impassioned debate about how to actually disengage from Iraq. He doesn’t give due weight to the narrowness of the Dems’ Senate majority as a causal factor of all this inaction, which underscores the importance of Dems increasing their Senate edge in ’08. Helvidius, over at Taegan Goddard’s Political Insider notes in his post “Kerry’s Cash” that ex-candidate John Kerry has $7.4 mill left over from his ’04 campaign and another $5 mill in his campaign’s legal war chest, and to his credit, Kerry “has pledged to donate a considerable amount” to a new campaign to bring the troops home from Iraq. After reading Witcover’s article, one wonders if maybe the best investment might be the DSCC, so Dems could win a real working majority in the upper chamber in ’08.
MyDD‘s Jonathan Singer scores a revealing interview with Sen. Chuck Schumer, uber-strategist behind the Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate. Singer gets more interesting insights about the Senate ’08 campaign out of Schumer than any print reporter thus far. A teaser:
I think what the blogosphere did in 2006 was incredibly great, particularly with Webb and Tester. We intend to work really closely with the blogosphere in this cycle…We have 12 Democrats and 21 Republicans and we’re feeling good about the 12 Democrats who are incumbents. But the 21 Republicans by and large come from very tough states. You have very few deeply blue states. Last time we had Pennsylvania, which was a pretty blue state, and Rhode Island, which was a very blue state. We don’t have many of those this time. New Hampshire is slightly blue, Maine is a little more blue, Oregon is slightly blue, Minnesota is slightly blue. But none of them you’d call more than 52 percent Democratic states.
So we’ve got to find candidates all over. And this is where the blogosphere excels. There may be somebody, a state Rep. or even not, in Alabama who might be a very good candidate. So we intend to have a good, close relationship and work together the way we did, sort of, towards the end last time…Webb, Tester would be the two classics. But I think it’s going to be more close – I know it’s going to be more close this year.
Schumer also lets loose on Dem prospects in specific states, including Oregon and Colorado, as well as inside Democratic stategy against sending more troops to Iraq. All in all, a must-read for everyone who wants to see a stable, thriving Democratic majority in Congress. There are also some interesting reader comments (see David Kowalski’s take). And this is only the first installment of a four-parter.
It may seem early for horse race analysis, but it’s good to know Schumer is already focused on candidate identification and development. Even better, he envisions a critical role for the netroots in helping Dems to improve on their one-vote Senate majority amid the quickening pace of the presidential sweepstakes.
The National Journal‘s Charlie Cook pulls the plug on the party lights in his post “Reality check for the Democrats: Fragile majority seems to be acknowledging its limitations” at MSNBC‘s Politics page. Cook says GOP pundits who expected the Dems under Speaker Pelosi to press a full-speed-ahead leftist agenda are disappointed by the House Dems'”moderate and measured” leadership. Noting that approval ratings of congress in opinion polls have improved only slightly, Cook explains:
Public antipathy toward Congress is deeply engrained; trying to turn it around is akin to changing the direction of an aircraft carrier — it only happens very slowly. Democrats had the luxury of attacking a much-maligned institution in 2006; in 2008 they must defend it and justify its performance.
…As tempting as it must be for Democrats to embark on a bold and ambitious policy agenda, particularly after having been mired in the minority for a dozen years, the simple truth is that between the reality of narrow majorities and their decision to abide by pay-as-you-go spending and tax rules, their options are few and limited to relatively small-ticket items.
According to Cook, the average post-election approval rating for Congress in the most recent polls is 34.4 percent, which is an improvement over pre-election figures averaging about 27 percent. With just over a third of respondents holding a favorable impression of Congress, however, it may be that the public wants bolder action on leading priorities such as disengaging from Iraq and better health care security.
Cook describes the House Dems’ 15-seat majority as “narrow,” but it’s extravagant compared to the 1-seat margin that allows Dems to run the Senate. A 15-seat lead should be enough to hold the House in ’08, barring any major disasters. Winning some breathing space in the Senate is the more urgent challenge — and the key to bolder Democratic leadership in Congress.
MyDD’s Chris Bowers takes the latest Gallup Poll figures for “partisan self-identification” (PSI) for a spin, and it’s a sweet ride for Dems. Bowers quotes from a Gallup News Service article by Jeffrey M. Jones:
An average of all national Gallup polling in 2006, consisting of interviews with more than 30,000 adult Americans, finds 34% of Americans identifying as Democrats, 30% as Republicans, and 34% as independents…In 2006, 50% of Americans identified as Democrats or were independents who said they leaned toward the Democratic Party. Forty percent identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party…This is the first time since 1991 that a party’s support reached the 50% level.
Bowers explains further:
…the rate of change in favor of Democrats appears to be increasing…The percentage of Democratic self-identifiers, not including Democratic-leaning independents, rose by 2-2.5% during the final nine months of 2006. This might suggest that Democrats are in fact on the verge of a very real realignment….Over the past three years, Republicans have lost their advantage in 14 states, and Democrats have gained a statistically significant advantage in 19 states.
Bowers stops short of a regional analysis, but a look at PSI in the southern states suggests that advocates of the ‘skip ‘n diss the south’ strategy may have some ‘splainin’ to do. Here’s how Gallup rates ’06 PSI in a dozen southern states (competitive = within m.o.e.):
AL competitive; ARK Dem; FL Dem; GA competitive; LA competitive; MS competitive; NC Dem; SC Rep; TN competitive; TX Rep; VA Dem; WVA Dem.
Of course the ’06 PSI figures are connected more to the way respondents felt about the mid-terms, than how they might vote in a presidential election. However, five Dem, Two GOP and five competitive doesn’t look all that red. Dem PSI increased over ’05 in FL, VA and NC and declined only in LA, probably as a result of Dem Katrina evacuees leaving the state. Purple, with blue tint rising would be more like it.