Our staff post this morning flagging Alan Abramowitz’s article in The New Republic “Cheer Up, Democrats” merits a little amplification, given the exceptionally-favorable data he reveals. As Abramowitz explains:
According to every known leading indicator, 2008 should be a very good year for Democratic candidates at all levels. There are many factors that point to an across-the-board Democratic victory in November, including the extraordinary unpopularity of President Bush, the deteriorating condition of the economy, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, and the fact that Americans prefer the Democratic position to the Republican position on almost every major national issue. However, the most important Democratic advantage, and one that has received relatively little attention in the media, is the fact that for the past six years the Democratic electoral base has been expanding while the Republican electoral base has been shrinking.
Since 2002, according to annual data compiled by the Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party has increased by about seven percentage points while the percentage identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party has decreased by about six percentage points. Fifty-two percent of Americans now identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party while only 39 percent identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.
A surge in Democratic enrollment across the country has pushed the party far beyond its competitor in many of the key battleground states: There are now about 800,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania, for example. And even in states without party registration, such as Ohio and Virginia, the fact that turnout in the Democratic primary dwarfed turnout in the Republican primary suggests that a similar movement has been taking place. As a result of these gains in Democratic identification, the 2008 election could see a number of formerly red states, such as Virginia, move into the purple column, and several formerly purple states, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, move into the blue column.
The fact that Democratic identifiers now decisively outnumber Republican identifiers means that in order to win, Democrats only have to unite and turn out their own base. If Obama wins the national popular vote by even a single percentage point, it’s worth remembering, he’ll almost certainly win the electoral vote as well. In order for John McCain to win, on the other hand, Republicans not only have to unite and turn out their own base, which they have been fairly successful at doing in recent elections, but they also have to win a large majority of the small bloc of true independents and make significant inroads among Democratic identifiers, which they have not been very successful at doing recently.
Political commentators often assume that Democratic voters are inevitably less motivated and united than Republican voters–that they either won’t turn out or, if they do turn out, they will defect in large numbers to an appealing Republican candidate like John McCain. Leaving aside the question of just how appealing John McCain will be in November after undergoing several months of withering attacks from an extremely well-funded Democratic campaign, this image of Democratic voters is badly outdated
If Dems can unify, project a clear message and mobilize their base, Abramowitz predicts that Obama will be inaugurated on January 20th. But Clinton supporters will also find Abramowitz’s case for a growing Democratic edge encouraging, should she win the nomination. His argument also points to substantial Democratic gains in congressional, state and local elections, no matter who gets elected President.