washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.


The Daily Strategist

May 27, 2024

GOP Losing Security Cred With White Workers

David D. Kirkpatrick’s New York Times article “Voters’ Allegiances, Ripe for the Picking” includes some very good news for Democrats’ prospects regarding one of the most pivotal constituencies. As Kirkpatrick explains:

…the white working class has voted overwhelmingly for Republicans since Reagan. President Bush widened the Republican advantage among such voters from a margin of 17 percentage points in 2000 to 23 percentage points in 2004, according to exit poll data compiled by Mr. Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.
…Now, that security edge has all but disappeared. Among white voters with no college education, approval of the president’s handling of the war on terrorism had plummeted from a margin of 22 percentage points the summer of 2004 to just 7 percentage points last week, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

The reason is that the Iraq quagmire has obliterated the GOP’s cred as the ‘national security party’ and set off a kind of chain reaction. As Teixeira notes:

“Iraq is the squandering of the national security premium the Republicans have been living on,” Mr. Teixeira said. The Republicans’ failure at “standing up” to foreign threats, he argued, had diminished their credibility on a whole cluster of “values” issues like “standing up for what is right” as well.
That, he contended, is vindicating his argument for a Democratic ascendance: if the Democrats can cut their margin of defeat among white workers, they can build a durable national majority from their coalition of professionals, women, African-Americans and the fast-growing Hispanic population. Although Mr. Bush’s popularity with Hispanics at one time threatened to dislodge them from the Democratic bloc, the Republican moves this year to build a wall along the Mexican border has effectively pushed them back.
“That is fatal,” Mr. Teixeira said.

And the effects may reverberate for years, ventures DCCC chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel:

Iraq has the potential to be to the Republican Party on national security what the Depression was to the Republican Party on economics.

The return of the white working class to the Democratic fold would insure Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. For now the trend line for this key constituency suggests a bright blue election.

Energy Independence: The Roux in the Stew

Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times addresses the centrality of energy independence as a priority for both national security and winning elections. Friedman interviewed Democracy Corps’ James Carville on the topic, and got this savory spoonful of political wisdom:

It should “not be part of an expanding litany, but rather a contracting narrative,” explained Mr. Carville. “It can’t just be that we are for a woman’s right to choose, and education and energy independence. This is the thing we need to get done above and beyond everything else.” People should associate “energy security” with Democrats the way they associate “tax cuts” with Republicans, he argued. “This is not something to add to the stew — this is the stock.”

Carville and DCorps’ Stanley Greenberg have more to say in the column about energy independence as critical for our national security and a leading priority with voters. All of which adds up to a huge advantage for Dems, especially given the GOP’s shameful track record on auto mileage standards, alternative energy and energy conservation.

Strategy from Young Democrats

From the Managing Editor:
The following essay by Scott Harris marks the first in what we hope will be a regular feature on the Daily Strategist blog and the TDS website: Strategy from Young Democrats. The editors and I are interested in well-written, empirically based pieces from college students and other young Democrats. Please send submissions — with some information about yourself — to editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org. -sw
Institutional Corruption and the Midterm Elections
by Scott Harris
Political handicappers all over the country were scrambling in the early days of October to be the first to predict how the new rush of scandals, from a pedophilic Congressman to a book by Bob Woodward depicting a systematic deception of the American people and deliberate manipulation of Iraq facts by their president, will impact the 2006 midterm elections. Of course, our gut feeling tells us that scandal is bad and the public will react negatively against the people in power when things in government go poorly. While there has been no dearth of polling to back up a lot of the analysis that is about to be made here, with common political reasoning alone, some strong inferences can be made.
Since the beginning of instant politics, there have always been a few golden tools that candidates stick to in the art of campaigning. The first and foremost is television advertisements. Positive ads are known to increase turnout and harden support from the candidates’ base and leaners. Negative ads are known to depress turnout and soften an opposing candidate’s support among unaffiliated and undecided voters. You can bet that the GOP is worried about these effects of Foley and Woodward’s Iraq book.
First, examine with specificity how a depressed turnout is likely to affect swing districts in November. The GOP was already nervous about how two years’ worth of bad news was going to affect their GOTV operations so the Democrats started with an advantage. Based on my analysis, depressed Election Day turnout of Republican voters puts at least a dozen seats in play that ordinarily wouldn’t be.
In order for the Republicans to pull off a victory in contests like the one in Nebraska – where populist Democrat Scott Kleeb is facing off against Adrian Smith for an open seat – the Party has to turn out the group that has been its most valuable asset in the past three elections: evangelical voters. Kleeb to some extent has reinvigorated the Nebraska Democratic Party and, with some help from the DNC, the campaign is swinging into a high-gear voter-targeting outfit. Baron Hill (IN-09), Brad Ellsworth (IN-08), and Joe Donnelly (IN-02) are part of a revival that has the state party poised to do the impossible in Indiana – give Democrats control of the Congressional delegation and the state House. The Partisan Voter Index (PVI) of those districts is R+7, R+9 and R+4, respectively. Simply put, Democrats ordinarily should not be favored to win those three seats. Shuler in NC-11, Space in OH-18, Kilroy in OH-15, Burner in WA-08 and Weaver in KY-02 are a few more examples. And, by the way, the same is true for Democrats currently holding onto red seats. In most other elections, John Barrow (GA-12), Jim Marshall (GA-8) and Chet Edwards (TX-18) would be campaigning in hyper mode to ensure they weren’t bounced by an upstart conservative Republican.
Democrats are competitive because GOP turnout is predicted to be dampened in deep red country, and the scandals of Foley and the handling of the Iraq war will only serve to make the situation worse. Christian conservatives were already flirting with the suggestion that evangelicals stay home to punish the Republicans for failing to pursue their agenda fiercely enough and have written a string of editorials, including several from prominent and influential members of the Republican cause. In the latest Hotline poll, the approval rating of Congress was 28%. In another recent L.A. Times poll, Democrats bested Republicans as the party that would be more equipped to govern, 44% to 38%. Does anyone think those numbers are going to get better for the Republicans?
Second, examine more generally how a negative political environment will impact the likelihood that already competitive seats become Dem-favored and how October uncertainty would force the GOP into bad or just plain stupid decisions. The Foley scandal and other recent revelations, even in this early media stage, have put a few GOP leaders on alert for re-election and, thus, have disrupted the Republican media machine.
Going into the last month before the elections, Bush was providing the Republican Party something of a redemption. His approval ratings ticked back up into the 40s, after a summer of mid-30s and the Party’s marks on terrorism and the War in Iraq also enjoyed modest bumps. Then Bill Clinton faced off with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, and Woodward’s book came out. And in the next media cycle, attention was turned to Bush’s efforts to combat terrorism (or lack thereof) before 9/11. The Foley sex scandal broke loose on Washington a few days later and no one wanted to talk about Iraq, terrorism or pre-9/11 efforts to kill bin Laden. They wanted to talk about how the GOP leadership mishandled having a child predator in their midst.
A strong, united campaign message has been the centerpiece of the Republican strategy since the Contract with America. What about the scandal has knocked Republicans out of their usually disciplined message operation?
First, the Foley scandal has put two seats of GOP leaders in jeopardy. Tom Reynolds (NY-26), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, or the man responsible for electing Republicans to Congress, is trailing his challenger (Jack Davis). Many people in Washington and in his district see the writing on the wall and understand this is a seat they just lost. Very unexpectedly, the seat of House Speaker Dennis Hastert is suddenly a prize to be won. No polling has been released on this race as of this writing, but you can bet that both the NRCC and the DCCC have one in the field right now and depending on the results, we should see whether or not the Speaker has just made himself a prime target for the midterm elections. There is little doubt that last week was the worst press week for Hastert in his political career.
Second, out of fear that they could be next on the chopping block, Republicans are turning on Republicans. Kirk Fordham, a now former aide to both ex-Rep. Foley and Rep. Reynolds, told the AP that he warned Hastert’s office three years ago about Foley’s inappropriate contact with pages. That seems to back up the account of Majority Leader Boehner. The denials coming from the Speaker’s office aren’t really denials, which leaves it to speculation that someone is going to find out that these meetings did take place, the Republican leadership did discuss Foley, and chose to do nothing. No one wants to have their career in Washington end because they couldn’t place the blame on someone else.
Scott Harris is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is studying political science. He can be reached at harris.scott.jr@gmail.com.

Solid GOP South Cracking?

Facing South‘s Chris Kromm blogs on an article in Hastings Wyman’s ‘s Southern Political Report predicting a net pick-up of seven southern House seats for Dems. Wyman, identified by Kromm as a “former Republican operative,” says Dems will pick up FL 13, 16 and 22; Ky 4; NC 11; TX 22; and Va 2. He rates FL 8 and NC 8 as toss-ups.
If Wyman is right, the south may contribute a healthy portion of the Democrats’ expected margin of victory. And with Harold Ford and James Webb running highly competitive campaigns in TN and VA respectively, it’s possible the South could also make a significant contribution to winning back the Senate.
Kromm quotes the subtitle of Thomas Schaller’s forthcoming In These Times article “Where the Seats Are,” making a very different prediction: “The Democrats are going to gain seats in the 2006 midterms, and those gains will come from outside the South.” Schaller’s view gets a little boost from an article in yesterday’s New York Times “Georgia Home to Two of a Rare Breed — the At-risk Democrat” about the possibility of Dems losing two House seats, GA 8 and 12.

Hispanic Turnout Critical in Many Races

June Kronholz article “Uphill Climb: Registering Hispanics to Vote” in today’s Wall St. Journal provides a discouraging update on efforts to register Latino voters. If Kronholz is right, and we need to hear from other sources on this, Hispanic registration and turnout will fall well short of optimistic goals bandied about in the wake of this year’s massive demonstrations in support of immigrant rights. The stakes are high, and the immigration issue could be pivotal in specific races, as Kronholz notes:

Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and account for more than half of all foreign-born immigrants. But historically, most of them can’t or don’t file for citizenship, and most of those who do file don’t vote. For example, during a recent week, 28,000 immigrants became citizens. If past patterns hold, 6,160 are Hispanic, and just 3,572 of them will register to vote.
The untapped potential means both political parties have much at stake in the immigration debate. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an advocacy group, estimates there are 9.4 million immigrants — both Hispanic and non-Hispanic — who are eligible to become citizens and vote. That is almost three times the popular-vote margin for President Bush in the 2004 election.
In a half-dozen swing states, the immigrant vote this year could be decisive for the party that can harness it. The Illinois Coalition says that in Florida, there are 870,000 potential votes among immigrants eligible to naturalize and their voting-age U.S.-born children. An additional 77,000 U.S.-born children of immigrants will be old enough to cast ballots in Florida in the 2008 election, it adds.

The WSJ article has an interesting chart noting that, while Hispanics are the largest demographic minority, they remain a distant third in eligible voters and voter turnout. There are 148.2 million white citizens over the age of 18, compared to 23.3 million African Americans, 16.1 million Latinos and 3.3 million Asians nationwide. But the 2004 voter turnout percentages show an even greater gap that cries out for a more aggressive voter registration program by Democrats: white 67; Black 60; Hispanic 47 and Asian 44.
Voter registration deadlines for ’06 have passed in most states, but it’s not too late to put more resources into increasing turnout. And on the morning after the election, Dems should begin planning for a stronger registration program for ’08.

State of the Race Update

by Ruy Teixeira
cross-posted at the Washington Monthly’s Showdown ’06 blog
Over the weekend, I put up a lengthy post on “State of the Race: The Macro and the Micro“, which provided my basic take on how the campaign currently looks, based both on macro (national) and micro (race-specific) indicators. There isn’t much new micro data, but the release of four new national polls (CNN, USA Today/Gallup, CBS/New York Times and ABC/Washington Post) yesterday allows for some updating of the macro indictors–updating that is all bad, bad, bad for the GOP.
Generic Congressional Vote. In these four polls, Democrats averaged a 17 point lead over the Republicans. That pulls Charles Franklin’s trend-based estimate of the Democratic advantage up to 13 points.
Bush Approval. These four polls averaged 37 percent approval for president Bush. Charles Franklin’s trend estimate has consequentially been pulled down to 38 percent.
Congressional approval. These four polls averaged 28 percent Congressional approval.
Party Favorability and Preferences. In the Gallup poll, Democrats in Congress are favored over Repubicans in Congress on health care (+37), gas prices (+26), corruption in government (+21), the economy (+21), the situation in Iraq (+17), immigration (+13) and even moral standards in the country (+7) and terrorism (+5). In the ABC/Washington Post poll, the Democratic party is favored over the Republican party on health care (+33), ethics in government (+19), the economy (+17), immigration (+13), the situation in Iraq (+13) and even the US campaign against terrorism (+6).
Believe me, this just scratches the surface of all the bad news in these polls for the GOP. If these macro sentiments are driving the micro situation farther toward the Democrats–which they likely are–the GOP is indeed in very big trouble. No wonder Charlie Cook observed in his latest column: “Four weeks is a lifetime in politics and the tide still could shift. But for Republicans to salvage their majorities in the House and Senate, quite a bit would have to change.”
Stay tuned. We shall see if the GOP gets those changes…or whether these polls foreshadow a disastrous election day for the Republicans.

New Roundtable on National Security

by Scott Winship
Hope you are enjoying Columbus Day. (Personally, I’d trade it for making Election Day a national holiday so that people might actually vote.) Whether or not you’re enjoying the holiday, our new roundtable on national security is bound to make it a little better. Our discussion piece this time around is by Marc Grinberg, Rachel Kleinfeld, and Matt Spence of the Truman National Security Project. They present an organizing public philosophy on national security for Democrats that would bring together the left and center factions of the Party and win over swing voters.
We are lucky enough to have responses from former Colorado senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart and from Heather Hurlburt of the US in the World Initiative and democracyarsenal.org. Responses to come from Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and David Rieff, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. Check it out.

State of the Race: The Macro and the Micro

by Ruy Teixeira
(cross-posted at www.washingtonmonthly.com)
Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to looking at the outlook for this year’s Congressional elections. One is the “macro” approach, where one looks at a variety of national indicators to gauge the mood of the electorate and how that’s likely to affect the incumbent and challenging parties. The other approach is the “micro” approach, which assesses how each individual House and Senate race is likely to turn out, and aggregates up from that level to assess the likely gains and losses of the two parties.
The two methods can tell different stories and, indeed, this spring that’s just what they did. The macro story suggested that the GOP was in terrible shape and likely to get swamped by the Democrats in November. Indeed, by these macro-indicators, as Charlie Cook pointed out at the time, the GOP was at least as badly off as the Democrats were at that point in the 1994 election cycle.
The micro story was different, however. Looking at individual races, it was hard to see where the Democrats could pick up enough seats to take back the House, while the Senate looked almost impossible.
But that was then. This is now and now the macro and micro data are aligning and pointing in the same direction: big trouble for the Republicans and a good chance that they could lose not only the House—which looks better than 50-50 at this point—but also the Senate.
Let’s review the relevant data, starting with the macro indicators.
Right Direction/Wrong Track
Right before 1994 election, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal (NBC/WSJ) poll had this critical indicator of the public mood at 55 percent wrong track/27 percent right direction. Today, the same poll has this indicator at 58 percent wrong track/29 percent right direction.
Generic Congressional Contest
In polls concluded this week, Democrats averaged a 14 point lead among registered voters in the generic congressional contest. Charles Franklin’s model-based trend estimate looks to be about a 12 point lead for the Democrats, judging from the chart on his site. Even assuming the generic question overestimates Democratic support by 5 points (Charlie Cook’s rule of thumb and the average difference between Gallup’s final poll among registered voters and the actual election result), that still gives the Democrats an average lead of 7-9 points.
The Democrats are also running even larger leads among independents in the generic Congressional ballot–typically 6-7 points higher than their overall lead. Thus, if the Democrats’ “true” overall lead is now about 8 points, then their true lead among independents is probably 14 or 15 points.
With that in mind, consider the following. As far back as I can get data (1982), the Democrats have never had a lead among independents larger than 4 points in an actual election, a level they managed to achieve in both 1986 and 1990. Indeed, since 1990, they’ve lost independents in every congressional election: by 14 points in 1994; by 4 points in 1998; and by 2 points in 2002. So, even leaving questions of relative partisan turnout aside (and I suspect the Democrats will do better, not worse, in this respect in 2006), the implications of a strong Democratic lead among independents in this year’s election, if it holds, are huge.
Generic congressional data also tend to show substantial shifts away from the GOP among a wide range of Republican-leaning groups, including some of their strongest base groups. For relevant data, see the October 3 Democracy Corps memo “Key Targets for November” and Friday’s Washington Post article, “GOP’s hold on Evangelicals Weakening”.
Presidential Job Approval
According to the Hotline, the average approval rating for Bush in this week’s polls is 38 percent approval/56 percent disapproval (Charles Franklin’s trend-based estimate has his current rating a couple of points higher). By comparison, Clinton’s average approval rating right before the 1994 election was 46 percent/45 percent.
Congressional Job Approval
The Hotline’s weekly poll average for Congressional job approval is now 28 percent, with 65 percent disapproval. Right before the 1994 election, Congress’ job approval stood at 24 percent (according to the NBC/WSJ poll). This indicator is not just bad for the incumbent GOP in general, but there are reasons to believe this is a key indicator of potentially large seat swings. As a Gallup report on Congressional job approval and the election notes:
During recent midterm election years, low congressional approval ratings have been associated with greater shifts in the partisan composition of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the five elections since 1974 in which Congress’ approval rating was below 40%, the average net change in U.S. House seats from one party to the other was 29. In the three midterm elections in which congressional approval ratings were above 40%, the average change was five seats….
The fact that both congressional and presidential approval ratings are low does not bode well for the Republican Party. The current situation is similar to the political environment in 1978 and 1994, when Democrats controlled both the legislative and executive branches — which were both unpopular. Those elections resulted in net losses for the Democratic Party of 11 and 53 seats, respectively.
Party Favorability and Preferences
According to a Gallup report based on data collected before the Foley scandal, Republicans are now running a considerable favorability deficit. The public rates them 42 percent favorable/53 percent unfavorable, compared to a 54 percent favorable/40 unfavorable rating for Democrats.
The latest Pew poll finds the Democrats preferred 55-27 on “more concerned with people like me”, 48-28 on “can bring about changes the country needs”, 44-34 on better managing the federal government and 41-27 on governing in a more honest and ethical way. And the public believes, by 41-27, that the GOP is more influenced by lobbyists and special interests.
On issues, the latest Ipsos-AP poll reports the following. Registered voters prefer Democrats over Republicans by 58-27 on health care, 53-31 on Social Security, 52-27 on gas prices, 51-36 on the economy, 50-37 on taxes, 48-38 on Iraq, 44-35 on same-sex marriage, 44-36 on immigration and 41-25 on political corruption. Most amazingly, Democrats are even preferred by 43-41 on terrorism and by 43-41 on protecting the US. (Note: the just-released Newsweek poll also finds the Democrats ahead—this time by 44 percent to 37 percent– on which party is trusted more to fight the war on terror.)
The Micro Situation
As these data suggest, there is precious little in the macro indicators that suggest anything other than a bad election for the GOP. But macro indicators don’t determine elections, voters in individual races do. And it is here that the big changes have taken place. In the spring, one could look race by race and it would be hard to see where the Democrats could make the necessary pickups to translate macro sentiment into a victorious election. But now you can.
While there is a lot of data available in a lot of different places on House races, Chris Bowers of MyDD provides a useful summary of competitive races tiered by likelihood of going Democratic and including the latest polling data, where available. This provides the raw material for thinking about how races might fall and lead to the net gain of 15 seats Democrats need to take back the House. The key thing to keep in mind is that the races near the top of Bowers’ chart appear highly likely to go Democratic (including, of course, a new entrant to this category, Mark Foley’s FL-16 seat). These races alone should take the Democrats within a handful of seats of retaking the House. After that, less probable races have to fall the Democrats’ way, but there are enough of these that average performance in these districts should put the Democrats over the top (i.e., if two races are 50-50 for the Democrats, those odds say that, on average, the Democrats should pick up one of these two seats). And historical experience suggests that in a “wave” election like this one, the party favored by the wave—the Democrats this year—may do far better than average in races that now appear 50-50.
Turning to the Senate, the math here is simpler. The Democrats must take all five of the most vulnerable GOP seats (Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) plus one of two other seats that have been considered less vulnerable but still competitive (Tennessee and Virginia) plus lose none of their own. Alternatively, they could lose one of their own (the obvious candidate here is New Jersey), but then they’d have to win all seven of the GOP seats just mentioned. This is a tall order and last spring it seemed virtually impossible; it was not clear how strong Democrats would be in the top five races and the Tennessee and Virginia races looked like real outside shots.
Now things look different. The Democrats must still run the table in the manner described but the outside shots now look quite plausible and chances in the top five look good to very good. Here are the last-five-poll averages from the very useful site, Pollster.com, run by Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin: Missouri (McCaskill-Talent), 44-45; Montana (Tester-Burns), 49-43; Ohio (Brown-DeWine), 45-42; Pennsylvania (Casey-Santorum), 49-39; Rhode Island (Whitehouse-Chafee), 44-40; Tennessee (Ford-Corker), 45-43; and Virginia (Webb-Allen), 42-48. In addition, in New Jersey (far and away the Republicans’ best chance for a seat pickup), Democrat Bob Menendez now leads Republican Tom Kean by 43-41. So, in a wave election, all the raw materials are there for these seats to all or almost all break in the Democrats’ direction– an outcome with plenty of historical precedent—leading to a switch in control of the Senate. That doesn’t mean it will happen (chances still look poorer than in the House for a switch of control and are probably less than 50-50) but it easily could happen, something most observers would not have said earlier in the year.
What Lies Ahead
One month ‘til election day! What we would all like to know, of course, is whether this situation is liable to get better, get worse or stay the same for the GOP. On the stay the same or get worse side of the argument, start with the fact that this is a heavily nationalized election, which is a big disadvantage for an unpopular incumbent administration and Congress. To cite some representative data, the latest Pew poll found voters saying national issues, rather than local issues, were most important to their vote by a 51-23 margin. And 39 percent said they are thinking of their vote for Congress as a vote against President Bush. Analogous figures going back to 1982 show that this level of anti-president voting has never been surpassed—indeed, there are no figures before 2006 that are even close.
The Foley scandal should, if nothing else, keep the spotlight shining on the failures of the Bush administration and GOP Congress. Changing the subject back to local issues, already difficult, has just become even harder.
But it could be much worse than that. Two of my favorite political observers, Charlie Cook and Chuck Todd (editor of the Hotline), termed it respectively a possible “inflection point” or “tipping point” in the campaign, creating serious momentum toward the Democrats as we move toward election day. Already, we know that almost everybody (78 percent in the latest Time poll) has heard of the Foley scandal and that they strongly believe a GOP cover-up is going on (64-16 in the same poll).
But it could take awhile for these effects to be fully felt. In the Pew poll, which concluded on October 4, there was no difference in the Democratic lead (13 points) in the generic Congressional contest before and after the Foley news broke. A more extensive review of recent data by Mark Blumenthal also finds no recent change.
On the other hand, an October 7 story in The New York Times suggests that the Foley scandal is already tipping some races where corruption or related issues have been important in the Democrats’ direction. And the just-released Newsweek poll does have Bush’s approval rating down to 33 percent, a new low in that poll. So we shall see.
But the biggest problem for the GOP remains Iraq. Even before the Foley scandal broke, the string of Iraq-related bad news and revelations (the loss of Anbar province in Iraq, the NIE conclusion that the Iraq war has made the war on terrorism harder, the Woodward and Powell books and their documentation of Bush administration failures) had halted some modest momentum in the GOP’s direction. Now Iraq is increasing in importance to voters’ Congressional vote intentions—and is clearly the top voting issue—even as pessimism on Iraq deepens. In the new Newsweek poll, 64 percent believe the US is losing ground in Iraq and 66 percent say the war in Iraq has not made the country safer from terrorism.
On the get better for the GOP side of the argument, there are limited possibilities. One, of course, is some unforeseen event that allows the GOP to change the subject. Not much one can say about this other than it could possibly happen.
Then there is the vaunted GOP turnout machine (but polls have generally shown Democrats more enthusiastic about voting this year and the Foley scandal seems likely to have a further negative effect on GOP voting enthusiasm) and their ability to spend a lot of money in the last days of the campaign. This may be their last and only hope of avoiding a very bad election. The Democrats, however, will not be standing idly by while the GOP tries to muscle their way out of bad situation, so it should be a very interesting last several weeks.

Newsweek Poll: The Donkey Runs Strong

Newsweek/Princeton Survey Research Associates International has a new poll (conducted 10/5-6) out and for Democrats it’s all good. Some highlights:

A plurality of Americans, 42 percent, now say they trust Democrats to do a better job of handling moral values; 36 percent say they trust Republicans more. This represents almost a complete reversal from an Aug. 2-Sept. 1, 2002 Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard/Washington Post poll in which 31 percent of Americans said they would trust Democrats to handle moral values better while 44 percent said they would trust Republicans more.

On which party is most capable of confronting terrorism:

On the subject of the war on terror at home and abroad, 44 percent of Americans trust the Democrats to handle it better-a five-point increase from the Aug. 10-11, 2006 Newsweek Poll. Thirty-seven percent trust the Republicans more-a seven-point drop from the same August Newsweek Poll.

Dealing with Iraq?

When it comes to the situation in Iraq, 47 percent of Americans say the Democrats would handle it better, versus 34 percent who say the Republicans would.

Your money?

Fifty-three percent say the Democrats would do a better job with the economy, while only 31 percent say Republicans would…Fifty-six percent say the Democrats would do a better job managing gas and oil prices and 53 percent say they would do a better job managing federal spending and the deficit.

And the kicker:

A majority of Americans, 53 percent, would like to see the Democrats take control of Congress in this year’s elections, according to the Newsweek Poll. Only 35 percent say they would like the Republicans to keep control. And 51 percent of registered voters say that if the elections were held today they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their district, versus 38 percent who say they would vote Republican. Among likely voters, 51 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate and 39 percent for the Republican candidate.

With less than a month to go, it would be hard to improve on such numbers. The challenge for Democratic candidates is to hold the line and close the deal over the next 3+ weeks with strong critiques of their opponents, clearly-stated policy positions and an inspiring vision for the future. The challenge for their campaigns is a fierce GOTV program in every district.

Dems Building ‘Blue Bridge’ in Mountain West

We refer readers to the New York Times Sunday Magazine for the second Sunday in a row, this time because freelancer Mark Sundeen takes a perceptive look at the Mountain West as a lynchpin for Democratic victories, both soon and later. Sundeen’s article “The Big-Sky Dem,” is largely a profile of charismatic Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. But he shares some interesting insights about the rising importance of the Mountain West in politics:

The Interior West has long been seen by Democrats on election night as simply a disheartening wall of big red blocks. Idaho, Utah and Wyoming haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Montana, Colorado and Arizona have all gone Republican in 9 of the last 10 presidential elections. But below the surface, the map of the West is slowly becoming a little less red and a little more blue. In 2000, Democrats had not a single governor in the interior West states; now they have four. Democrats have gradually been picking up House seats, too. In 1996, they won 4 of 24 House seats in the region. But they’ve managed to pick up 1 or 2 seats in each of the last four elections and have now clawed their way up to 8 of 28. In 2004, the party’s only bright spot besides Montana was Colorado, where Ken Salazar won a Republican Senate seat; his brother, John, picked up a House seat; and the Democrats took control of both state chambers.
“The pan-Western states — in an arc from Ohio, west to Montana and south to Arizona — are where the low-hanging and most-ripe-for-the-plucking electoral fruit for Democrats is to be found,” writes Tom Schaller in “Whistling Past Dixie.” The midterm election outlook seems to support Schaller’s thesis. None of the region’s eight Democratic representatives — the so-called Coyote Caucus — are considered at serious risk in 2006. But 10 of the 20 Republican-held seats are included in the list of 56 potential Democratic pickups compiled by Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. The Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona is putting up a surprising fight against the Republican incumbent, and the race for Nevada governor, an open seat vacated by a Republican, is listed by the Cook Report, an influential Washington political newsletter, as a toss-up.

Not all Democratic strategists agree with the “write-off-the-south” strategy. Sundeen quotes Dave ‘Mudcat’ Saunders on the subject:

As fertile as the West may seem for Democrats, some in the party remain skeptical that it matters much. “The problem with the Democrats is that they can’t count,” Dave (Mudcat) Saunders, a Democratic campaign strategist, told me. Saunders’s book, “Foxes in the Henhouse,” argues that the party would be wrong to focus on the West and ignore the South. He notes that 30 percent of the country’s electoral votes come from the South, and that by 2025 that percentage will be 40. “Georgia and Florida have as many votes as all the West put together,” Saunders points out.

It seems likely that any strategy or national candidates that can win the Mountain West could also find support in the SW and even some support in the South, and perhaps vice-versa. What seems certain, however, is a clear trend favoring Democrats in the Mountain and Southwestern states. Meanwhile, Brian Schweitzer continues to build what he calls a “blue bridge from Alberta to Mexico” an unbroken chain of Democratic governors from Montana to Arizona, and that mission could be accomplished on November 7.