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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Stan Greenberg: Pessimistic analysts are wrong about Dem chances in 2014

July 22, 2013
Dear Readers:
Several weeks ago Stan Greenberg and Democracy Corps released their 2014 Congressional Battleground survey. The conclusion they reached was startlingly optimistic and at odds with the common wisdom among political commentators.
As the survey stated:

The first Democracy Corps Congressional Battleground survey of the most competitive House races will challenge serious commentary and the informed presumptions about the 2014 election. Analysts, pundits, and commentators have concluded that there will be fewer seats in play in 2014 and that neither party is likely to upset the current balance.
To be honest, our poll results surprised us. They show that Republicans are just as vulnerable as 2012 and that Democrats could at least replicate the net gain of 8 seats they achieved in that last election.

Greenberg’s conclusion challenged a wide consensus among political analysts who argued that Dems could not avoid severe setbacks in the off-year elections and that the Democracy Corps analysis simply had to be too optimistic.
Last Friday, Greenberg fired back at the pessimists in an article that he published in the Huffington Post. As he said:

The serious arbiters of Congressional forecasting reacted to the Democracy Corps survey with an almost ideological aversion to the Republicans-will-pay-a-price-for-extremism framework that really blocked them from considering the evidence at face value. Stuart Rothenberg described our memo as “an advocacy document, not an analytic one”…The Cook Report’s David Wasserman says his reading of the data leads him to the opposite conclusion. Democrats are more exposed than Republicans…Just this past week, one critic in the Guardian embraced the Cook Report analysis and piled on with historical inevitability: only three times since the Civil War has the presidential party made gains in off-year elections.

Greenberg then boldly continued:

But I encourage everyone to step back and listen to voters in the current context and not allow a pre-conceived beltway presumption to screen out what people may be saying and feeling…
…What is brewing is evidence that voters are indeed paying attention to the mayhem, gridlock and extremism in Washington — and that is precisely where the Democracy Corps poll shows the biggest changes from last year.
First, working with President Obama rather than trying to block his agenda. By 64 to 30 percent in the Republican battleground seats, these off-year voters want their member to work with the president — up 5 points from October and 10 points from last summer…
Second, the Tea Party. Though the off-year battleground is more Republican, negative feelings about the Tea Party have jumped 5 points since the election to half the electorate. The Tea Party is even more unpopular in the Democratic seats…
Third, tax increases to address to our problems and reduce the deficit. Just 39 percent of the voters in these Republican off-year districts want to vote for the kind of no-tax Republican that represents them. A majority want to raise taxes in a balanced way like the President — again, tied for the highest margin on this question, despite the off-year.
And fourth, Medicare and seniors. The Republicans faced their biggest electoral pull back since November among seniors in both the Republican and Democratic districts. Maybe seniors noticed the centrality of Medicare and entitlements in all the Republican battle plans.

Greenberg concludes:

…Maybe voters are now connecting the dots that they were not inclined to do during a presidential election and choice…We would all benefit from listening to the voters who may be trying to tell us something about what is happening in Washington and the U.S. Congress.

Greenberg’s complete analysis is vitally and urgently important for all Democrats to examine because there is one fact about the 2014 elections that is indeed absolutely certain: if Dems accept a fatalistic, “history says we can’t do well” point of view today, this will guarantee a negative result sixteen months from now.
So Dems owe it to themselves to read Stan’s commentary and not passively accept today’s common beltway wisdom. After all, Democrats already proved the common wisdom about bi-elections wrong once before recently — in 1998 when a nationwide backlash against GOP extremism produced a Democratic wave that none of the experts predicted.
Read Stan Greenberg’s article here:
Is there no price to be paid for GOP extremism?
We believe you will find the analysis profoundly important and extremely useful.
Sincerely Yours,
Ed Kilgore
Managing Editor
The Democratic Strategist

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