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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

More Democrats More United

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article today by John Harwood and Jacob Schlesinger titled “Kerry Finds Himself in Enviable Position” with the subtitle “Democrat Begins Big Race with Party Unity, a Positive Image and Lead over Bush in the Polls”. It’s worth reading just to remind yourself how exceptionally well the primary process has worked out for the Democrats.
In the article, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin remarks about the shape Kerry is in at this point:
I don’t think there’s ever been anyone healthier.
Democratic pollster Geoff Garin adds:
You probably have to go back more than 50 years to find a nominating process less divisive. There is no meaningful group of disaffected Democrats coming out of this process.
And conservative, but always fair-minded, opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman summarizes:
It is rare that a primary campaign strengthens the nominee. This campaign has clearly done that.
The article also provides some useful data on where recent presidential races were at similar times in the election year. The most striking datum is from 1992, when Clinton was trailing Bush 50 percent to 44 percent in an early March Gallup poll and losing about one-quarter of Democratic voters to George H.W. Bush. In contrast, Kerry is ahead of the current George Bush 51 percent to 46 percent and is losing only 7 percent of Democratic voters to his Republican opponent.
Party unity. It’s a wonderful thing.
But it’s not just that Democrats are more united than many thought they’d be–there’s also more of ’em. This is the trend I’ve written about quite a bit: the return of the Democratic advantage on party ID. Significant numbers of voters are rethinking the wisdom of being Republicans and switching (or switching back) to being Democrats. Of course, most of us were Democrats before it was cool, but we certainly welcome the newcomers (or returnees, as the case may be).
Here are some recent data that confirm the emergence of this trend. According to the Harris Poll, the Democrats averaged a 5 point lead on party ID over the course of last year, a 2 point gain over 2002. And a just-released Kaiser Family Foundation poll gives the Democrats an 8 point lead in party ID, before leaners are factored in. With leaners factored in the Democrats have a nice 10 point lead in party ID, 47 percent to 37 percent.
And here’s a related shocker: in the same poll, 28 percent say they’re liberals, compared to 35 percent who say they’re conservatives. Pretty close! Now this result probably has something to do with the way Kaiser asks the ideology question:
Would you say your views in most political matters are very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative or very conservative?
Possibly what’s going on here is that being able to say you’re “somewhat liberal” instead of just “liberal” leads a number of moderates who actually are fairly liberal, but are normally afraid liberal really means “very liberal”, to accept the liberal label. Interesting, if true.
Which leads me to say: Closet liberals, we don’t care if you’re only “somewhat” liberal! We’ll take everyone we can get.

9 comments on “More Democrats More United

  1. James on

    Thank you for the welcome. I actually converted back in 2000, when the bush campaign demonstrated that the impeachment nonsense was not a mere anomoly.
    As the republicans have abandoned fiscal ‘conservatism’ and the Democrats have openly embraced fiscal responsibility, I think there may be yet more converts on the way soon.
    As to the social aspect or ‘conservatism’ – I couldn’t care less about what people do in their personal lives or their bedrooms.
    – A ‘somewhat’ liberal who believes in fiscal responsibility.

  2. Guido on

    I find it incomprehensible that anyone who claims to be a Democrat, let alone seven percent, can actually intend to vote for Bush! Actually I can not understand anyone who is not rich having ever done so, or intending to do so.

  3. frankly0 on

    Just a quick followup on your first point. I agree that Kerry has profited by the implicit comparison to Dean’s anger and criticism, which clearly struck most voters, even Dems, as just too much.
    What’s striking about Kerry’s criticisms of Bush is that they are, word for word, probably every bit as harsh as Dean’s ever were, yet they do not have the effect of turning voters off.
    Here’s the near paradox: the very thing most criticized in Kerry, his too measured, too unemotional, manner and speech, here work as his greatest advantage: he can utter the most severe of criticisms WITHOUT seeming in any way out-of-control or over the top. This is a pretty remarkable quality, and can be used to great effect — as indeed Kerry already has.

  4. rt on

    A take on frankly0’s well-taken point:
    It’s helped Kerry that:
    *Dean took a lot of arrows for being the angriest Dem of them all. Kerry has come off as controlled in contrast.
    *his last surviving challenger’s “attacks” on him were indirect and extremely mild by campaign standards. At the same time Edwards offered praise for Kerry which was remarkable by campaign standards. On balance, the combination of Edwards’ negative and positive comments on Kerry may well have helped Kerry more than hurt him. In the LA debate I thought Edwards at times looked at Kerry like an admiring and aspiring younger brother.
    *The Republicans have been demoralized after an awful last 8 weeks or so that has seen them uncharacteristically passive in the face of the daily drubbing they’ve been taking from the Dem candidates and precipitous drops in their approval ratings. Even one R governor said Bush looks overwhelmed these days.
    *It can’t help them that the gay marriage issue from the standpoint of their base demanded dramatic action at a time when Bush’s numbers among independents are abysmal. The gay marriage amendment has not been well received by independents and may make him look opportunistic, reactive, divisive, backwards, chained to his base, and all manner of other bad things just at a point where they are beginning to engage the campaign.
    *They’re just now starting to crank up the attack machine. It won’t be long before we get a better sense of how much success they’re going to have driving Kerry’s negatives up.
    I say let’s keep them on the mat.

  5. Bob H on

    I think Kerry is smart to be reaching out to responsible, moderate Republicans the way he seems to be. I think about 10% of Republicans are Americans first, Party dittohead zombies second.

  6. free patriot on

    Closet Liberals, i love it
    Here in Califas, we saw millions of SF 49er fans come out of the closet in 1981, and the gays just keep popping out. maybe the hidden liberals can now stand up and be proud
    Hi, my name is _____, and i care about my fellow man, i’ve been a closet liberal for my entire life. i can’t help myself, i just get this sudden urge to be a decent human being. i am glad to find a place where people like myself are not ridiculed for their belief in compassion and concern for their brothers

  7. frankly0 on

    One point about Kerry that I haven’t seen noted is that his negatives, at this stage, are quite low. This is remarkable, because he has been criticizing Bush harshly and relentlessly as the most basic staple of his stump speech. (“George Bush has run the most reckless, inept, arrogant, and ideological foreign policy in modern history” is one pleasing example).
    It has been regarded as a truism that negative campaigning, particularly coming out of the mouth of the candidate himself, will push up the negatives of the attacker as well his opponent. And yet there is precisely NO evidence that Kerry’s criticisms have had this effect.
    I conclude from this that most of the public thinks that these criticisms, and this level of negativity coming from Kerry, are quite fair under the circumstances. Otherwise, I’d certainly think that the public would punish Kerry with some pretty high unfavorables.
    And among other things, it would also suggest that Kerry will do himself no harm to remain very negative on Bush — though he must certainly also provide a positive vision to provide voters with a reason to feel hope under a Kerry Presidency.

  8. aleand on

    Can you please analyze (and hopefully obliterate) the latest AP/IPSOS poll showing Nader with 6%.
    Getting nervous here. Thanks.

  9. john McCutchen on

    Psalm 133
    A song of ascents. Of David.
    1 How good and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in unity!
    2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
    running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down upon the collar of his robes.
    3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
    For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore


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