Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic candidate

Sen. Conrad’s Retirement and a GOP Senate Majority in 2012

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced today that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2012, and chances look good that Republicans will be able to pick up the seat, helping them inch closer to a Senate majority.

There are several reasons for optimism. First, North Dakota is a safely Red State, with strong GOP majorities in both statewide seats and the state legislature, according to Real Clear Politics:

Republicans hold nine of the 10 statewide offices — their one miss is for superintendant of public instruction. Representative Earl Pomeroy, the longtime heir apparent to Conrad and Dorgan, lost his re-election campaign by nine points in 2010. And Democrats hold only 37 of 141 seats in the state legislature.

RCP also notes that the state has been trending Republican in recent years. Older North Dakota voters, who tended to swing toward Democrats, have been replaced by younger, more conservative voters in the past few election cycles. “North Dakota was one of the few states in the 2004 elections where young voters voted more heavily for President Bush than did voters over 60,” RCP reported.

Conrad was elected in 1986, and his ability to hold on to the seat in recent years was likely based heavily on that seniority. But now that the seat is up for grabs, it will be much more difficult for Democrats to retain it with a fresher-faced candidate.

Analysts say that the one Democratic candidate who may have a shot is former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, since he’s considered to be a more moderate Democrat. But since he lost his congressional re-election bid just last year, there’s doubt that he’ll be able to mount a successful Senate campaign.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to have a bevy of strong candidates who could potentially pull off a win. The short list includes Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

Of that list, Kalk appears to have the head start. Even before Conrad announced he was stepping down, Kalk had expressed interest in challenging him, and he even formed an exploratory committee last week.

“Following the election of 2010, a lot of folks have reached out to me as potentially running against Sen. Conrad. Quite honestly, my wife and I are going to give this some serious thought and make a decision after the first of the year,” he said at the time.

Democrats were already facing an uphill battle next year, since only 10 Republican senators will be up for re-election, compared with 23 Democrats. So Conrad’s decision to step down is certainly cheering news for the GOP, which is now in a prime position to control both the House and the Senate.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced today that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2012, and chances look good that Republicans will be able to pick up the seat, helping them inch closer to a Senate majority.

There are several reasons for optimism. First, North Dakota is a safely Red State, with strong GOP majorities in both statewide seats and the state legislature, according to Real Clear Politics:

Republicans hold nine of the 10 statewide offices — their one miss is for superintendant of public instruction. Representative Earl Pomeroy, the longtime heir apparent to Conrad and Dorgan, lost his re-election campaign by nine points in 2010. And Democrats hold only 37 of 141 seats in the state legislature.

RCP also notes that the state has been trending Republican in recent years. Older North Dakota voters, who tended to swing toward Democrats, have been replaced by younger, more conservative voters in the past few election cycles. “North Dakota was one of the few states in the 2004 elections where young voters voted more heavily for President Bush than did voters over 60,” RCP reported.

Conrad was elected in 1986, and his ability to hold on to the seat in recent years was likely based heavily on that seniority. But now that the seat is up for grabs, it will be much more difficult for Democrats to retain it with a fresher-faced candidate.

Analysts say that the one Democratic candidate who may have a shot is former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, since he’s considered to be a more moderate Democrat. But since he lost his congressional re-election bid just last year, there’s doubt that he’ll be able to mount a successful Senate campaign.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to have a bevy of strong candidates who could potentially pull off a win. The short list includes Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

Of that list, Kalk appears to have the head start. Even before Conrad announced he was stepping down, Kalk had expressed interest in challenging him, and he even formed an exploratory committee last week.

“Following the election of 2010, a lot of folks have reached out to me as potentially running against Sen. Conrad. Quite honestly, my wife and I are going to give this some serious thought and make a decision after the first of the year,” he said at the time.

Democrats were already facing an uphill battle next year, since only 10 Republican senators will be up for re-election, compared with 23 Democrats. So Conrad’s decision to step down is certainly cheering news for the GOP, which is now in a prime position to control both the House and the Senate.

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Sic Transit Joe Lieberman

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The last time I read such slobbery praise was in Laurence Tribe’s letter to Obama. The Washington Post on Ted Sorensen: “Amply endowed with the qualities required for an intimate adviser at the highest levels, Mr. Sorensen was regarded as a man of ideas and ideals, keen intellect and a passion for public service.” That reminds me, come January, there won’t be a single Kennedy in office for the first time since 1947 (thanks to my guru on all things Kennedy), when JFK came along with Richard Nixon. And no, an ex-husband — Andrew Cuomo — doesn’t count.

The last union defection like this was in 1976. “Union households back the Democratic candidate in their district over the GOP by a 54 to 42 percent margin, lower than the 64 to 34 percent split in 2006 and the worst performance for Democrats among labor union households in exit polling dating back to 1976. Since 1976, labor union households have backed Democratic Congressional candidates by an average margin of 62 to 35 percent.”

The last excuse: losing is good for us! “Large gains by Republicans on Election Day Tuesday could actually improve President Obama’s chances of reelection in 2012, a centrist senator said Monday. Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said that if Republicans take control of the House and make the Senate close, as expected, it could open an opportunity for both parties to work together, an environment that would help the president politically.” Take it from me, winning is always better than losing.

The last round of Fox News Senate polls: Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Mark Kirk all lead. Washington is “down to the wire.”

The last of 20 reasons for the Democratic meltdown is the most important (the other 19 are dead on as well). “America is a center-right, aspirational nation. Democrats thought the financial crisis and near-landslide 2008 election meant it somehow wasn’t anymore. So they attempted to graft an essentially artificial, elitist (especially cap-and-trade) agenda onto the body politic. It didn’t take and is in the process of being rejected.”

The last act in Harry Reid’s political career? “If Harry Reid loses this election, it will be a crushing end to a storied political career. The majority leader of the United States Senate will have been defeated after four terms by an opponent he doesn’t respect or even take seriously. He will be the victim, in his view, of an electorate gone mad, taken down in his prime after rising higher than anyone from his state ever has.” His contempt for us has no bounds.

The last thing GOP presidential contenders want to do is seem like they are in cahoots with the mainstream media in trying to chase Sarah Palin out of the race. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Monday it would be ‘great’ for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to run for president in 2012. … A spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate, said Palin deserves credit and thanks for her work for the Republican Party. ‘We’re all on the same team, and anonymously sourced stories that try and divide us exemplify one reason why Americans outside the beltway hold D.C. in such contempt,’ said Alex Conant, the Pawlenty spokesman.”

The last time I read such slobbery praise was in Laurence Tribe’s letter to Obama. The Washington Post on Ted Sorensen: “Amply endowed with the qualities required for an intimate adviser at the highest levels, Mr. Sorensen was regarded as a man of ideas and ideals, keen intellect and a passion for public service.” That reminds me, come January, there won’t be a single Kennedy in office for the first time since 1947 (thanks to my guru on all things Kennedy), when JFK came along with Richard Nixon. And no, an ex-husband — Andrew Cuomo — doesn’t count.

The last union defection like this was in 1976. “Union households back the Democratic candidate in their district over the GOP by a 54 to 42 percent margin, lower than the 64 to 34 percent split in 2006 and the worst performance for Democrats among labor union households in exit polling dating back to 1976. Since 1976, labor union households have backed Democratic Congressional candidates by an average margin of 62 to 35 percent.”

The last excuse: losing is good for us! “Large gains by Republicans on Election Day Tuesday could actually improve President Obama’s chances of reelection in 2012, a centrist senator said Monday. Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said that if Republicans take control of the House and make the Senate close, as expected, it could open an opportunity for both parties to work together, an environment that would help the president politically.” Take it from me, winning is always better than losing.

The last round of Fox News Senate polls: Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Mark Kirk all lead. Washington is “down to the wire.”

The last of 20 reasons for the Democratic meltdown is the most important (the other 19 are dead on as well). “America is a center-right, aspirational nation. Democrats thought the financial crisis and near-landslide 2008 election meant it somehow wasn’t anymore. So they attempted to graft an essentially artificial, elitist (especially cap-and-trade) agenda onto the body politic. It didn’t take and is in the process of being rejected.”

The last act in Harry Reid’s political career? “If Harry Reid loses this election, it will be a crushing end to a storied political career. The majority leader of the United States Senate will have been defeated after four terms by an opponent he doesn’t respect or even take seriously. He will be the victim, in his view, of an electorate gone mad, taken down in his prime after rising higher than anyone from his state ever has.” His contempt for us has no bounds.

The last thing GOP presidential contenders want to do is seem like they are in cahoots with the mainstream media in trying to chase Sarah Palin out of the race. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Monday it would be ‘great’ for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to run for president in 2012. … A spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate, said Palin deserves credit and thanks for her work for the Republican Party. ‘We’re all on the same team, and anonymously sourced stories that try and divide us exemplify one reason why Americans outside the beltway hold D.C. in such contempt,’ said Alex Conant, the Pawlenty spokesman.”

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Where Is Obama Going?

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

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Hide Him!

So much for “getting out there more” — which Democratic leaders allegedly implored the president to do. In fact, Obama is avoiding big campaign events and swing-state districts for fear of burying those in his party who still have a fighting chance. The candidate who filled a football stadium at his Greek revival convention now has to be squirreled away in backyard mini-gatherings and “indoors … [at] a $1 million fundraising dinner in suburban New Jersey on Wednesday night.”

But isn’t he pumping up the base and getting all those college kids to go to the polls? Perhaps for every pep rally (at which a tiny fraction of the attendees will vote), Obama’s presence reminds a bunch of other, actual voters why they are unhappy (e.g., risible economic claims, hyper-partisanship). Even in his home state, he’s lying low: “Even when Obama is in his home state, he is not going to do any big public appearances for [Alexi] Giannoulias — although Illinois is a place where Obama is popular enough to help the Democratic candidate.” (Now, granted, that may be as much to preserve Obama’s reputation — which doesn’t need further Chicago-machine blemishes — as it is to prevent a backlash against the ethically challenged banker.)

It will be nearly impossible for Obama to claim credit for any Democratic survivors. But he certainly will take the lion’s share of the blame by those who’ve come to appreciate just how politically radioactive he is.

So much for “getting out there more” — which Democratic leaders allegedly implored the president to do. In fact, Obama is avoiding big campaign events and swing-state districts for fear of burying those in his party who still have a fighting chance. The candidate who filled a football stadium at his Greek revival convention now has to be squirreled away in backyard mini-gatherings and “indoors … [at] a $1 million fundraising dinner in suburban New Jersey on Wednesday night.”

But isn’t he pumping up the base and getting all those college kids to go to the polls? Perhaps for every pep rally (at which a tiny fraction of the attendees will vote), Obama’s presence reminds a bunch of other, actual voters why they are unhappy (e.g., risible economic claims, hyper-partisanship). Even in his home state, he’s lying low: “Even when Obama is in his home state, he is not going to do any big public appearances for [Alexi] Giannoulias — although Illinois is a place where Obama is popular enough to help the Democratic candidate.” (Now, granted, that may be as much to preserve Obama’s reputation — which doesn’t need further Chicago-machine blemishes — as it is to prevent a backlash against the ethically challenged banker.)

It will be nearly impossible for Obama to claim credit for any Democratic survivors. But he certainly will take the lion’s share of the blame by those who’ve come to appreciate just how politically radioactive he is.

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If Only They Had Joined the Party of “No”

The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has become the first Senate Democratic candidate to call for the repeal of ObamaCare, never mind that at the time it was being voted on he said he was for it. Now amid a tight Senate race, Mr. Manchin’s campaign says that, “knowing what he knows now,” he would not have voted for the bill in its final form.

It’s a curious sort of admission: “I was duped by the president.” It isn’t the sort of confidence builder that gives voters faith that he can put the brakes on the next bad idea to come out of the White House, is it?

And the editors seem suspicious about his devotion to “repeal and reform”: “If discerning voters decide to send [Republican John] Raese to Washington and keep Mr. Manchin in his current job as Governor, perhaps Mr. Manchin can act upon his new convictions and join the 19 states that are supporting Florida’s lawsuit against ObamaCare’s constitutionality. So far West Virginia has stayed on the sidelines.” Ahh.

Unfortunately for Manchin and other Democrats from less-than-deep-Blue states, the credibility of “moderate” Democrats is low. Recall that each and every Senate Democrat was the 60th vote in reaching cloture, thereby ushering in ObamaCare. They all voted for the original stimulus plan. If voters are looking for a reliable “no” vote on Obamanomics, they may wonder why they should reward the party that rubber-stamped each item on the Obama checklist.

The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has become the first Senate Democratic candidate to call for the repeal of ObamaCare, never mind that at the time it was being voted on he said he was for it. Now amid a tight Senate race, Mr. Manchin’s campaign says that, “knowing what he knows now,” he would not have voted for the bill in its final form.

It’s a curious sort of admission: “I was duped by the president.” It isn’t the sort of confidence builder that gives voters faith that he can put the brakes on the next bad idea to come out of the White House, is it?

And the editors seem suspicious about his devotion to “repeal and reform”: “If discerning voters decide to send [Republican John] Raese to Washington and keep Mr. Manchin in his current job as Governor, perhaps Mr. Manchin can act upon his new convictions and join the 19 states that are supporting Florida’s lawsuit against ObamaCare’s constitutionality. So far West Virginia has stayed on the sidelines.” Ahh.

Unfortunately for Manchin and other Democrats from less-than-deep-Blue states, the credibility of “moderate” Democrats is low. Recall that each and every Senate Democrat was the 60th vote in reaching cloture, thereby ushering in ObamaCare. They all voted for the original stimulus plan. If voters are looking for a reliable “no” vote on Obamanomics, they may wonder why they should reward the party that rubber-stamped each item on the Obama checklist.

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Like Magic!

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling seems shocked to find tremendous unity in the GOP ranks. He writes:

The biggest story of the primary season this year was the deep divisions within the Republican Party. When it comes to the general election though the party’s voters are showing a pretty remarkable degree of unity around their candidates.

Since switching to polling likely voters in mid-August PPP has polled 21 Senate and Gubernatorial races where each party’s nominee had already been set. In 16 of those contests the Democratic candidate is polling in single digits with GOP voters. With just a few exceptions Republicans have put aside their ideological differences in the primary to fight the greater evil of the Democrats.

Could it have been that the “biggest story” was an overblown concoction of the mainstream media? The presence of competitive primaries, many of us on the right argued, was not a sign of an impending “civil war” but a healthy expression of interest and excitement. Those primaries by and large produced viable candidates who all Republicans could get behind (e.g. Marco Rubio, Ken Buck). It was only the hysterical GOP “insiders” and pundits who fretted that outsiders with strong popular support might “ruin” the Republicans’ chances in the general elections. But then these were the same people who ignored or sneered at the Tea Party movement.

I would suggest that the “biggest story” of the primary season was the degree to which the Tea Party movement and the GOP confirmed that the “differences” between them were minimal. From Rand Paul to Dan Coats, the GOP field is running on a unified message of fiscal conservatism and anti-Obamaism. That’s no surprise to those of us who have learned to ignore the purveyors of wrong, conventional wisdom.

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling seems shocked to find tremendous unity in the GOP ranks. He writes:

The biggest story of the primary season this year was the deep divisions within the Republican Party. When it comes to the general election though the party’s voters are showing a pretty remarkable degree of unity around their candidates.

Since switching to polling likely voters in mid-August PPP has polled 21 Senate and Gubernatorial races where each party’s nominee had already been set. In 16 of those contests the Democratic candidate is polling in single digits with GOP voters. With just a few exceptions Republicans have put aside their ideological differences in the primary to fight the greater evil of the Democrats.

Could it have been that the “biggest story” was an overblown concoction of the mainstream media? The presence of competitive primaries, many of us on the right argued, was not a sign of an impending “civil war” but a healthy expression of interest and excitement. Those primaries by and large produced viable candidates who all Republicans could get behind (e.g. Marco Rubio, Ken Buck). It was only the hysterical GOP “insiders” and pundits who fretted that outsiders with strong popular support might “ruin” the Republicans’ chances in the general elections. But then these were the same people who ignored or sneered at the Tea Party movement.

I would suggest that the “biggest story” of the primary season was the degree to which the Tea Party movement and the GOP confirmed that the “differences” between them were minimal. From Rand Paul to Dan Coats, the GOP field is running on a unified message of fiscal conservatism and anti-Obamaism. That’s no surprise to those of us who have learned to ignore the purveyors of wrong, conventional wisdom.

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Where Else Should He Go?

Obama is running out of places to go. There are just so many college campuses, and even his advisers must know that only a fraction of those kids are going to turn out to vote. He can’t go into swing districts for mega-events, because he’s likely to generate as much (if not more) opposition as support for his Democratic candidate. So it wasn’t unreasonable for him to go to small, supposedly friendly audiences. He wants to be shown “relating” and “empathizing” with ordinary Americans. But that, too, has gone very, very wrong. It seems they are quite miffed with him.

The Washington Post reports on his trip to Iowa:

Standing in the back yard of a resident, Obama stood patiently as one woman described, at length, her fears that the U.S. health-care system will soon resemble that of Great Britain. Next, a man spent several minutes describing the way his small business works – and his unhappiness with the prospects of a tax hike.

When the man veered off into his thoughts on Chinese currency, Obama interrupted.

“Okay, we’re going way afield now,” Obama said, jumping in to address part of the man’s earlier observations.

Too far afield, or he wasn’t briefed on it? And as for the rest, it’s about time Obama heard some unfiltered, unspun public reaction.

But Obama is still ambling down memory lane, recalling better days (“it was also a little bit of a nostalgia tour: Obama dropped by Baby Boomers Cafe, the restaurant that serves a chocolate chip cookie made popular by Obama and his campaign staff in 2008″). It is hard to see how any of this is helping Obama or Democratic candidates, and it is a measure of how far his political standing has fallen that it is hard to come up with a better alternative.

Obama is running out of places to go. There are just so many college campuses, and even his advisers must know that only a fraction of those kids are going to turn out to vote. He can’t go into swing districts for mega-events, because he’s likely to generate as much (if not more) opposition as support for his Democratic candidate. So it wasn’t unreasonable for him to go to small, supposedly friendly audiences. He wants to be shown “relating” and “empathizing” with ordinary Americans. But that, too, has gone very, very wrong. It seems they are quite miffed with him.

The Washington Post reports on his trip to Iowa:

Standing in the back yard of a resident, Obama stood patiently as one woman described, at length, her fears that the U.S. health-care system will soon resemble that of Great Britain. Next, a man spent several minutes describing the way his small business works – and his unhappiness with the prospects of a tax hike.

When the man veered off into his thoughts on Chinese currency, Obama interrupted.

“Okay, we’re going way afield now,” Obama said, jumping in to address part of the man’s earlier observations.

Too far afield, or he wasn’t briefed on it? And as for the rest, it’s about time Obama heard some unfiltered, unspun public reaction.

But Obama is still ambling down memory lane, recalling better days (“it was also a little bit of a nostalgia tour: Obama dropped by Baby Boomers Cafe, the restaurant that serves a chocolate chip cookie made popular by Obama and his campaign staff in 2008″). It is hard to see how any of this is helping Obama or Democratic candidates, and it is a measure of how far his political standing has fallen that it is hard to come up with a better alternative.

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Running on Empty

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

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Can Paladino Be New York’s Paladin?

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”

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The 2010 Electorate

You recall awhile back that Obama made a crass plea to his base — women, young, and minority voters — to get pumped up about the 2010 elections. It didn’t work. Gallup reports:

Minority and young voters made a significant mark on the 2008 presidential election with their high turnout; today, however, these groups appear to have reverted to previous levels of interest in voting in the context of midterm elections. Most notably, in contrast to 2008, when whites and blacks were about equally likely to say they were giving “quite a lot of” or “some” thought to the presidential election, whites are much more likely than blacks to be thinking about the 2010 elections: 42% vs. 25%, a gap exceeding those from recent midterm elections.

So much for the notion that measures unpopular with the rest of the electorate (e.g. ObamaCare) could stir up the base in sufficient numbers to offset the opposition that Obama was creating.

Recall also that the punditocracy has been saying that Republicans need to run on a specific platform to win. There is good reason to have a conservative reform agenda (especially if Republicans get control of one or two houses of Congress), but it doesn’t at this stage appear to be critical to beating the Democrats. Again, Gallup tells us:

The Republicans’ lead in the congressional generic ballot over the past month may be due as much to voters’ rejecting the Democrats as embracing the Republicans. Among voters backing Republican candidates, 44% say their preference is “more a vote against the Democratic candidate,” while 48% say it is “more a vote for the Republican candidate.” …

The 44% of Republican voters who say they are voting more against the Democratic candidate exceeds the level of negative voting against the incumbent party that Gallup measured in the 1994 and 2006 elections, when party control shifted (from the Democrats to the Republicans after the 1994 elections and from the Republicans to the Democrats after the 2006 elections).

In short, Obama’s extreme agenda has whipped up a ferocious backlash without exciting his own supporters. (Just as conservative critics warned.) The result will be a more conservative electorate with one goal in mind: kick the Democrats out. There is simply no way Republicans could have achieved this on their own.

You recall awhile back that Obama made a crass plea to his base — women, young, and minority voters — to get pumped up about the 2010 elections. It didn’t work. Gallup reports:

Minority and young voters made a significant mark on the 2008 presidential election with their high turnout; today, however, these groups appear to have reverted to previous levels of interest in voting in the context of midterm elections. Most notably, in contrast to 2008, when whites and blacks were about equally likely to say they were giving “quite a lot of” or “some” thought to the presidential election, whites are much more likely than blacks to be thinking about the 2010 elections: 42% vs. 25%, a gap exceeding those from recent midterm elections.

So much for the notion that measures unpopular with the rest of the electorate (e.g. ObamaCare) could stir up the base in sufficient numbers to offset the opposition that Obama was creating.

Recall also that the punditocracy has been saying that Republicans need to run on a specific platform to win. There is good reason to have a conservative reform agenda (especially if Republicans get control of one or two houses of Congress), but it doesn’t at this stage appear to be critical to beating the Democrats. Again, Gallup tells us:

The Republicans’ lead in the congressional generic ballot over the past month may be due as much to voters’ rejecting the Democrats as embracing the Republicans. Among voters backing Republican candidates, 44% say their preference is “more a vote against the Democratic candidate,” while 48% say it is “more a vote for the Republican candidate.” …

The 44% of Republican voters who say they are voting more against the Democratic candidate exceeds the level of negative voting against the incumbent party that Gallup measured in the 1994 and 2006 elections, when party control shifted (from the Democrats to the Republicans after the 1994 elections and from the Republicans to the Democrats after the 2006 elections).

In short, Obama’s extreme agenda has whipped up a ferocious backlash without exciting his own supporters. (Just as conservative critics warned.) The result will be a more conservative electorate with one goal in mind: kick the Democrats out. There is simply no way Republicans could have achieved this on their own.

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Gallup Poll Results in Perspective

Yesterday I referenced the Gallup survey showing that Republicans lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The poll is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, put the results in context:

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup’s history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

As a further reference point: in August 1994, Republicans and Democrats were tied in Gallup’s generic ballot (46/46). And in the final pre-election poll in 1994, when asked if the elections for Congress were held today which party’s candidate (Republican or Democrat) would you vote for in your congressional district, the public preferred the Democratic candidate by a two-point margin (43 v. 41).

The GOP gained 54 seats in the House.

(A caveat: the data do not appear to have Gallup’s likely-voter screen applied to them, a practice the organization now employs starting in October. Data of national adults, rather than likely voters, usually will add several points more to Democratic candidates.)

Now, the generic ballot question, though significant, is not dispositive. The problem for Democrats is that almost across the board, the polling news is awful. President Obama is witnessing a hemorrhaging of support from among independent voters. And the enthusiasm gap, which favors the GOP by 20-25 points, is also an ominous sign for Democrats.

“The intensity gap is the biggest I’ve seen in 30 years,” the Republican pollster Bill McInturff told Bloomberg News’s Al Hunt. “This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” according to McInturff. In 1974 Democrats, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal (Nixon resigned in August), took 49 seats from the Republican Party and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark (from 242 to 291).

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville in the wake of 2008 Obama’s victory, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.”

It looks like Carville’s Democratic majority may fall around 38 years short of his prediction.

Yesterday I referenced the Gallup survey showing that Republicans lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The poll is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, put the results in context:

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup’s history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

As a further reference point: in August 1994, Republicans and Democrats were tied in Gallup’s generic ballot (46/46). And in the final pre-election poll in 1994, when asked if the elections for Congress were held today which party’s candidate (Republican or Democrat) would you vote for in your congressional district, the public preferred the Democratic candidate by a two-point margin (43 v. 41).

The GOP gained 54 seats in the House.

(A caveat: the data do not appear to have Gallup’s likely-voter screen applied to them, a practice the organization now employs starting in October. Data of national adults, rather than likely voters, usually will add several points more to Democratic candidates.)

Now, the generic ballot question, though significant, is not dispositive. The problem for Democrats is that almost across the board, the polling news is awful. President Obama is witnessing a hemorrhaging of support from among independent voters. And the enthusiasm gap, which favors the GOP by 20-25 points, is also an ominous sign for Democrats.

“The intensity gap is the biggest I’ve seen in 30 years,” the Republican pollster Bill McInturff told Bloomberg News’s Al Hunt. “This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” according to McInturff. In 1974 Democrats, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal (Nixon resigned in August), took 49 seats from the Republican Party and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark (from 242 to 291).

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville in the wake of 2008 Obama’s victory, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.”

It looks like Carville’s Democratic majority may fall around 38 years short of his prediction.

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Democratic Senate Candidates vs. Harry Reid and 68% of America

Harry Reid was trying to save himself, and perhaps some of his colleagues, when he broke with Obama over the Ground Zero mosque. But some Senate contenders simply can’t be helped and have doubled down.

In Illinois:

Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday during a visit to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield that he supports the mosque site. He says while he sympathizes with those who lost loved ones, Americans must stand up for freedom of religion even when it’s difficult.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Mark Kirk’s campaign said in a statement that he thinks placing the mosque near Ground Zero causes relatives of the victims “undue pain” and the mosque should move to a “less controversial site.”

In Pennsylvania:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled Tuesday to Pennsylvania to endorse Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Sestak, bringing along with him the politically volatile controversy surrounding the proposed mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. . .

In Philadelphia this morning, [Joe] Sestak … said he wasn’t too troubled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement on Monday opposing the location of the proposed Islamic center. “As you know, I haven’t taken very good direction yet from party leadership,” he said.

When asked if he’s sensitive to the families of those who died on 9/11, Sestak spoke passionately: “When I walked out of that Pentagon, 30 people who I knew never walked out of that building.”

“My 9/11 is that Pentagon,” he said. “Am I sensitive to (the family’s) desires? Sure, I am.” But Sestak said the concept of religious freedom is what is “most important” in this debate.

Now that’s interesting. At the Pentagon, contrary to the claims of  some mosque supporters (including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes Ground Zero), there is no mosque. ABC News clarifies:

Sometimes misidentified as the “Pentagon Mosque,” the non-denominational Pentagon Memorial Chapel maintained by the Pentagon Chaplain’s Office is where department employees who practice Islam can meet to pray. Located at the site where the hijacked American Airlines flight 74 struck the Defense Department headquarters, the chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack. The 100-seat chapel is available to Pentagon employees of all faiths to come in prayer as they wish throughout the day. …

Dedicated in November 2002, after the reconstruction of the section of the building struck in the Sept. 11 attack, the Pentagon chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims who were killed there or were passengers aboard the hijacked jetliner. Behind the chapel’s altar is a lit stained-glass window, in the shape of the Pentagon, that bears the inscription, “United in Memory, September 11, 2001.” No religious icons or pictures are on display at the chapel. Religious symbols are brought in for religious services. A Torah, for example, housed in an ornate ark, is brought from behind curtains for use in the weekly Jewish service.

You’d think a Pentagon man would see a place of worship of this sort, rather than a 13-story monument to Islam, as the appropriate model for a 9/11 site.

Will the Ground Zero mosque be the defining issue in the 2010 campaign? Maybe not, but it’s the last thing Democrats (some of whom are trying to shed the image that they are too far left even for Blue States) needed. Meanwhile, Obama’s disapproval rating in Gallup’s poll ticked up to 51 percent, a new high. Might it be a better strategy for Democrats not to follow Obama over the political cliff?

Harry Reid was trying to save himself, and perhaps some of his colleagues, when he broke with Obama over the Ground Zero mosque. But some Senate contenders simply can’t be helped and have doubled down.

In Illinois:

Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday during a visit to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield that he supports the mosque site. He says while he sympathizes with those who lost loved ones, Americans must stand up for freedom of religion even when it’s difficult.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Mark Kirk’s campaign said in a statement that he thinks placing the mosque near Ground Zero causes relatives of the victims “undue pain” and the mosque should move to a “less controversial site.”

In Pennsylvania:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled Tuesday to Pennsylvania to endorse Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Sestak, bringing along with him the politically volatile controversy surrounding the proposed mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. . .

In Philadelphia this morning, [Joe] Sestak … said he wasn’t too troubled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement on Monday opposing the location of the proposed Islamic center. “As you know, I haven’t taken very good direction yet from party leadership,” he said.

When asked if he’s sensitive to the families of those who died on 9/11, Sestak spoke passionately: “When I walked out of that Pentagon, 30 people who I knew never walked out of that building.”

“My 9/11 is that Pentagon,” he said. “Am I sensitive to (the family’s) desires? Sure, I am.” But Sestak said the concept of religious freedom is what is “most important” in this debate.

Now that’s interesting. At the Pentagon, contrary to the claims of  some mosque supporters (including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes Ground Zero), there is no mosque. ABC News clarifies:

Sometimes misidentified as the “Pentagon Mosque,” the non-denominational Pentagon Memorial Chapel maintained by the Pentagon Chaplain’s Office is where department employees who practice Islam can meet to pray. Located at the site where the hijacked American Airlines flight 74 struck the Defense Department headquarters, the chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack. The 100-seat chapel is available to Pentagon employees of all faiths to come in prayer as they wish throughout the day. …

Dedicated in November 2002, after the reconstruction of the section of the building struck in the Sept. 11 attack, the Pentagon chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims who were killed there or were passengers aboard the hijacked jetliner. Behind the chapel’s altar is a lit stained-glass window, in the shape of the Pentagon, that bears the inscription, “United in Memory, September 11, 2001.” No religious icons or pictures are on display at the chapel. Religious symbols are brought in for religious services. A Torah, for example, housed in an ornate ark, is brought from behind curtains for use in the weekly Jewish service.

You’d think a Pentagon man would see a place of worship of this sort, rather than a 13-story monument to Islam, as the appropriate model for a 9/11 site.

Will the Ground Zero mosque be the defining issue in the 2010 campaign? Maybe not, but it’s the last thing Democrats (some of whom are trying to shed the image that they are too far left even for Blue States) needed. Meanwhile, Obama’s disapproval rating in Gallup’s poll ticked up to 51 percent, a new high. Might it be a better strategy for Democrats not to follow Obama over the political cliff?

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A Historically Extraordinary Gap

The collapse of the Democratic Party continues, according to Gallup:

Gallup’s latest update on 2010 congressional voting preferences finds 50% of registered voters saying they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, and 43% for the Democratic candidate, if the elections were held today. Republicans have led in each of the past three weeks, and their current 50% vote share and seven percentage-point lead represent their best showings thus far in 2010.

Between now and the election, I suspect this seven-point gap — which by historical standards is extraordinary — won’t end up being the GOP’s best showing.

The collapse of the Democratic Party continues, according to Gallup:

Gallup’s latest update on 2010 congressional voting preferences finds 50% of registered voters saying they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, and 43% for the Democratic candidate, if the elections were held today. Republicans have led in each of the past three weeks, and their current 50% vote share and seven percentage-point lead represent their best showings thus far in 2010.

Between now and the election, I suspect this seven-point gap — which by historical standards is extraordinary — won’t end up being the GOP’s best showing.

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Democrats Panic over Israel

Former Journolist participant, now Politico reporter Laura Rozen was deployed to send around talking points for House Democrats defending themselves against — shocker! — the accusation that they and Obama have been less-than-stalwart-friends of Israel. (Have you noticed that she gets documents, blind quotes, etc. only from the left? Nothing to do with her Journolist background, mind you. Nothing to see. Move along.)

It is clear that this clumsy attempt at damage control is a matter of domestic politics, not foreign policy. (Ben Smith might well have had a jaundiced take on it, so he’s not the ideal reporter to give the lead if you need an uncritical release of your talking points.) Rozen’s comrades on the left are in a knot over the appearance of the Emergency Committee for Israel (my comments in brackets):

“I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the president are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” [Howard] Berman wrote. [Not a good case, but a case. Really, didn’t the administration have to launch a charm offensive to abate the anger in the ranks of American Jewry?]

Among the points the memo highlights, Obama has “repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing the quote ‘Jewish’ state of Israel,” as well as the U.S. leading the international effort to pressure Iran about its nuclear weapons program. [If all he can proffer as evidence for Obama’s Israel bona fides is that the president talked about the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel, you get the idea how weak the case really is.] …

The memo comes after a new conservative pro-Israel group has formed and criticized Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and associated him with Obama’s Middle East policy. [The ECI folks are no doubt high-fiving each other. She doesn’t mention that J Street’s ad also did a bang-up job of tying Sestak to Obama.]

Well, panic is the highest form of political flattery. And getting arguably the top House Democrat on the issue to take on the ECI suggests hysteria. At any rate, it’s plain that Democrats feel vulnerable after shilling for Obama’s Israel policy. They should have thought about that before they put partisan loyalty above principle. That’s water under the bridge, but now they really do need better talking points.

Former Journolist participant, now Politico reporter Laura Rozen was deployed to send around talking points for House Democrats defending themselves against — shocker! — the accusation that they and Obama have been less-than-stalwart-friends of Israel. (Have you noticed that she gets documents, blind quotes, etc. only from the left? Nothing to do with her Journolist background, mind you. Nothing to see. Move along.)

It is clear that this clumsy attempt at damage control is a matter of domestic politics, not foreign policy. (Ben Smith might well have had a jaundiced take on it, so he’s not the ideal reporter to give the lead if you need an uncritical release of your talking points.) Rozen’s comrades on the left are in a knot over the appearance of the Emergency Committee for Israel (my comments in brackets):

“I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the president are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” [Howard] Berman wrote. [Not a good case, but a case. Really, didn’t the administration have to launch a charm offensive to abate the anger in the ranks of American Jewry?]

Among the points the memo highlights, Obama has “repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing the quote ‘Jewish’ state of Israel,” as well as the U.S. leading the international effort to pressure Iran about its nuclear weapons program. [If all he can proffer as evidence for Obama’s Israel bona fides is that the president talked about the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel, you get the idea how weak the case really is.] …

The memo comes after a new conservative pro-Israel group has formed and criticized Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and associated him with Obama’s Middle East policy. [The ECI folks are no doubt high-fiving each other. She doesn’t mention that J Street’s ad also did a bang-up job of tying Sestak to Obama.]

Well, panic is the highest form of political flattery. And getting arguably the top House Democrat on the issue to take on the ECI suggests hysteria. At any rate, it’s plain that Democrats feel vulnerable after shilling for Obama’s Israel policy. They should have thought about that before they put partisan loyalty above principle. That’s water under the bridge, but now they really do need better talking points.

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Bipartisan on Israel Means Accountability, Not Silence

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

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Congressional Hypocrisy Watch

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill Congressional Democrats are putting forward to get around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free-speech rights in the Citizens United case, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) pushes the limits of not only partisan demagoguery but also hypocrisy.

Johnson claims that a failure to pass this flimsy bill will mean that “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” That should help build a bi-partisan coalition for the bill.

Even worse, he claims that the failure of campaign-finance “reform” schemes, such as the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — that were rightly deemed unconstitutional by the high court — will allow “big business” to dominate American politics and thus benefit the GOP. The two examples of bad big businesses that he cites are the villainous BP and Goldman Sachs. But in doing so, he fails to mention that the head of his party, President Barack Obama, and not a Republican, got the most money of any politician from BP. As Politico reported back in May just after the Gulf oil spill began to gush, “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

As for Goldman Sachs, it ranked second on the list of organizations or companies that bundled the most money for Obama in 2008. Its PACs and its individual employees donated a stunning $994,795 to the Democratic candidate.

But while Rep. Johnson and his colleagues attempt to revive restrictions on free speech in the name of electoral “reform,” there remain no laws on the books about Congressional hypocrisy.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill Congressional Democrats are putting forward to get around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free-speech rights in the Citizens United case, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) pushes the limits of not only partisan demagoguery but also hypocrisy.

Johnson claims that a failure to pass this flimsy bill will mean that “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” That should help build a bi-partisan coalition for the bill.

Even worse, he claims that the failure of campaign-finance “reform” schemes, such as the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — that were rightly deemed unconstitutional by the high court — will allow “big business” to dominate American politics and thus benefit the GOP. The two examples of bad big businesses that he cites are the villainous BP and Goldman Sachs. But in doing so, he fails to mention that the head of his party, President Barack Obama, and not a Republican, got the most money of any politician from BP. As Politico reported back in May just after the Gulf oil spill began to gush, “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

As for Goldman Sachs, it ranked second on the list of organizations or companies that bundled the most money for Obama in 2008. Its PACs and its individual employees donated a stunning $994,795 to the Democratic candidate.

But while Rep. Johnson and his colleagues attempt to revive restrictions on free speech in the name of electoral “reform,” there remain no laws on the books about Congressional hypocrisy.

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Another Senate Candidate in Trouble

Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul (with Blanche Lincoln and perhaps Joe Sestak close behind) have gotten most of the attention in the “embattled Senate candidates” media coverage, but let’s not forget the Mob’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias:

His family’s business, Broadway Bank, was seized by regulators last month. He’s had trouble getting robust support from a White House that originally preferred another candidate. And political writer Stu Rothenberg devoted a column last week to asking “Is it time for Democrats to shove Giannoulias out?”

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election.

And he might not be the only one: Bobby Rush is down on Rezko’s banker as well. (He told the Hill “in December 2009 that he was ‘afraid’ of a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup. ‘The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,’ he told the paper.”)

The rumblings have started about how to shove Giannoulias out of the way. But, as Rothenberg explained, it won’t be easy to dump him:

Democrats who worry about Giannoulias’ viability in the fall have a problem, though. Since the nominee isn’t running far behind Kirk in trial heats, it won’t be easy to persuade him to leave quietly. And if there is something Democratic insiders don’t need, it’s a messy food fight with a nominee they are trying to dump (especially after Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania went public that White House insiders had offered him a job to get him to pass up a primary challenge to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter).

Yes, one candidate’s scandal makes it harder to toss another scandal-plagued candidate overboard.

Republicans should take note for 2010 and 2012. The reason the Democrats are in disarray and the race is competitive is not merely because the Democratic nominee has a load of problems; it is because the Republicans were wise enough to select a top-notch candidate well-suited to the state. (Politico notes: “Kirk already is popular in the politically competitive Chicago suburbs he represents and has a strong relationship with the state’s pro-Israel voters and donors.”) It’s really not enough in a deep Blue State to luck into a flawed Democratic candidate. For Republicans to win, they need smart candidates well-attuned to the electorate. Otherwise, golden opportunities will slip through their fingers.

Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul (with Blanche Lincoln and perhaps Joe Sestak close behind) have gotten most of the attention in the “embattled Senate candidates” media coverage, but let’s not forget the Mob’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias:

His family’s business, Broadway Bank, was seized by regulators last month. He’s had trouble getting robust support from a White House that originally preferred another candidate. And political writer Stu Rothenberg devoted a column last week to asking “Is it time for Democrats to shove Giannoulias out?”

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election.

And he might not be the only one: Bobby Rush is down on Rezko’s banker as well. (He told the Hill “in December 2009 that he was ‘afraid’ of a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup. ‘The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,’ he told the paper.”)

The rumblings have started about how to shove Giannoulias out of the way. But, as Rothenberg explained, it won’t be easy to dump him:

Democrats who worry about Giannoulias’ viability in the fall have a problem, though. Since the nominee isn’t running far behind Kirk in trial heats, it won’t be easy to persuade him to leave quietly. And if there is something Democratic insiders don’t need, it’s a messy food fight with a nominee they are trying to dump (especially after Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania went public that White House insiders had offered him a job to get him to pass up a primary challenge to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter).

Yes, one candidate’s scandal makes it harder to toss another scandal-plagued candidate overboard.

Republicans should take note for 2010 and 2012. The reason the Democrats are in disarray and the race is competitive is not merely because the Democratic nominee has a load of problems; it is because the Republicans were wise enough to select a top-notch candidate well-suited to the state. (Politico notes: “Kirk already is popular in the politically competitive Chicago suburbs he represents and has a strong relationship with the state’s pro-Israel voters and donors.”) It’s really not enough in a deep Blue State to luck into a flawed Democratic candidate. For Republicans to win, they need smart candidates well-attuned to the electorate. Otherwise, golden opportunities will slip through their fingers.

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Enthusiasm Gap Widens

Gallup brings more bad news for the Democrats: “Although U.S. registered voters are closely divided in their 2010 congressional election preferences, those who say they are ‘very enthusiastic about voting’ this year show a strong preference for the Republican Party.” In the ‘very enthusiastic’ about voting category, Republicans lead Democrats by 20 points — 57 to 37 percent. As the pollsters explain:

Gallup has consistently found Republicans expressing a higher level of enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in this year’s election campaign. Theoretically, those who are enthusiastic about voting would be more likely to turn out to vote than those who are not enthusiastic. This fall, Gallup will be better able to measure the potential impact of turnout on the vote by applying its “likely voter” model to the generic ballot results. That model takes into account a more complete set of factors related to voting, including interest in the election, intention to vote, and past voting behavior.

There is also a combined gender and marriage factor at work: “There is a combined effect between gender and marriage, such that married men are decidedly Republican and unmarried women strongly Democratic. Marital status seems to be the more important of the two factors, since married men and married women prefer the Republican candidate, and unmarried men and unmarried women prefer the Democratic candidate.” (Note to Peter Beinart: a married woman on the Supreme Court would be a wasted token for Obama.) And one more troubling nugget for the Democrats: independents favor Republicans in the congressional race by eight points.

No wonder Obama is madly playing to his base. His party is in deep trouble, the opposition is pumped up, and the Democrats will be pointing fingers directly at the White House if the present trends continue.

Gallup brings more bad news for the Democrats: “Although U.S. registered voters are closely divided in their 2010 congressional election preferences, those who say they are ‘very enthusiastic about voting’ this year show a strong preference for the Republican Party.” In the ‘very enthusiastic’ about voting category, Republicans lead Democrats by 20 points — 57 to 37 percent. As the pollsters explain:

Gallup has consistently found Republicans expressing a higher level of enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in this year’s election campaign. Theoretically, those who are enthusiastic about voting would be more likely to turn out to vote than those who are not enthusiastic. This fall, Gallup will be better able to measure the potential impact of turnout on the vote by applying its “likely voter” model to the generic ballot results. That model takes into account a more complete set of factors related to voting, including interest in the election, intention to vote, and past voting behavior.

There is also a combined gender and marriage factor at work: “There is a combined effect between gender and marriage, such that married men are decidedly Republican and unmarried women strongly Democratic. Marital status seems to be the more important of the two factors, since married men and married women prefer the Republican candidate, and unmarried men and unmarried women prefer the Democratic candidate.” (Note to Peter Beinart: a married woman on the Supreme Court would be a wasted token for Obama.) And one more troubling nugget for the Democrats: independents favor Republicans in the congressional race by eight points.

No wonder Obama is madly playing to his base. His party is in deep trouble, the opposition is pumped up, and the Democrats will be pointing fingers directly at the White House if the present trends continue.

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Polls: Bad Times Ahead for Democrats

The latest Gallup Poll shows that the party affiliation gap is at the narrowest it has been since 2005, when the GOP was at its high-water mark in terms of political power (holding the presidency, the House, and the Senate). According to Gallup:

The advantage in public support the Democratic Party built up during the latter part of the Bush administration and the early part of the Obama administration has all but disappeared. During the first quarter of 2010, 46% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 45% identified as or leaned Republican. The latest results, based on aggregated data from Gallup polls conducted from January to March of this year, show the closest party division since the first quarter of 2005, when the parties were tied at 46%. Democrats enjoyed double-digit advantages in party support in 11 of 12 quarters from the second quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2009.

By the end of last year, the Democratic advantage had shrunk to five points (47% to 42%), and it narrowed further in the most recent quarter.

The six-point rise in Republican support since the first quarter of 2009 is due entirely to a growing proportion of independents who lean to the Republican Party, rather than an increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans outright…  Those who are independent or express no party preference are then asked whether they lean more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party.)

In fact, the 28% of Americans who initially identify as Republicans today is identical to the figure Gallup measured in early 2009, when the Democrats still had a double-digit advantage in support. Since then, there has been a three-point reduction in the proportion of Democratic identifiers, and a three-point decline in the percentage of Democratic-leaning independents.

Democrats maintain an edge in initial party identification over Republicans, 32% to 28%. That advantage has also shrunk over the last year, from a 35% to 28% Democratic edge in the first quarter of 2009.

What this shows is that the Democratic Party is in the process of a meltdown (the 13 point gap Democrats enjoyed at the beginning of last years has virtually vanished), and the GOP, while slowly making progress, still has work to do. The GOP’s “brand” still hasn’t fully recovered. But the loss of confidence in the Democratic Party is clearly the key development of the last 15 months. And in terms of practical outcomes, meaning election results, things could hardly be looking better for the Republican Party. Although many people may not identify themselves as Republicans outright, they certainly appear to be voting that way. It isn’t simply that all the intensity is with voters who call themselves Republican; it is that independents who are highly dissatisfied with government overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates and are much more likely to vote.

According to the most recent Pew poll:

Perhaps more troubling for Democrats, the link between dissatisfaction with government and voting intentions is at least as strong among independent voters. Independents who are highly dissatisfied with government are far more committed to voting this year than are independents who are less frustrated (78% vs. 58%). Overall, independents voters slightly favor the GOP candidate in their district by a 41% to 34% margin, but those who are highly dissatisfied with government favor the Republican candidate by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin. Independents who are less dissatisfied with government favor the Democratic candidate in their district (by 49% to 24%), but are much less likely to say they are certain to vote.

It appears as if the more people are exposed to Obama and Obamaism, the further and faster the Democratic Party falls. But they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The first Tuesday in November is when Democrats stop falling and really begin absorbing the damage from the fall. It will be, for them, an immensely painful experience. Comeuppances often are.

The latest Gallup Poll shows that the party affiliation gap is at the narrowest it has been since 2005, when the GOP was at its high-water mark in terms of political power (holding the presidency, the House, and the Senate). According to Gallup:

The advantage in public support the Democratic Party built up during the latter part of the Bush administration and the early part of the Obama administration has all but disappeared. During the first quarter of 2010, 46% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 45% identified as or leaned Republican. The latest results, based on aggregated data from Gallup polls conducted from January to March of this year, show the closest party division since the first quarter of 2005, when the parties were tied at 46%. Democrats enjoyed double-digit advantages in party support in 11 of 12 quarters from the second quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2009.

By the end of last year, the Democratic advantage had shrunk to five points (47% to 42%), and it narrowed further in the most recent quarter.

The six-point rise in Republican support since the first quarter of 2009 is due entirely to a growing proportion of independents who lean to the Republican Party, rather than an increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans outright…  Those who are independent or express no party preference are then asked whether they lean more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party.)

In fact, the 28% of Americans who initially identify as Republicans today is identical to the figure Gallup measured in early 2009, when the Democrats still had a double-digit advantage in support. Since then, there has been a three-point reduction in the proportion of Democratic identifiers, and a three-point decline in the percentage of Democratic-leaning independents.

Democrats maintain an edge in initial party identification over Republicans, 32% to 28%. That advantage has also shrunk over the last year, from a 35% to 28% Democratic edge in the first quarter of 2009.

What this shows is that the Democratic Party is in the process of a meltdown (the 13 point gap Democrats enjoyed at the beginning of last years has virtually vanished), and the GOP, while slowly making progress, still has work to do. The GOP’s “brand” still hasn’t fully recovered. But the loss of confidence in the Democratic Party is clearly the key development of the last 15 months. And in terms of practical outcomes, meaning election results, things could hardly be looking better for the Republican Party. Although many people may not identify themselves as Republicans outright, they certainly appear to be voting that way. It isn’t simply that all the intensity is with voters who call themselves Republican; it is that independents who are highly dissatisfied with government overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates and are much more likely to vote.

According to the most recent Pew poll:

Perhaps more troubling for Democrats, the link between dissatisfaction with government and voting intentions is at least as strong among independent voters. Independents who are highly dissatisfied with government are far more committed to voting this year than are independents who are less frustrated (78% vs. 58%). Overall, independents voters slightly favor the GOP candidate in their district by a 41% to 34% margin, but those who are highly dissatisfied with government favor the Republican candidate by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin. Independents who are less dissatisfied with government favor the Democratic candidate in their district (by 49% to 24%), but are much less likely to say they are certain to vote.

It appears as if the more people are exposed to Obama and Obamaism, the further and faster the Democratic Party falls. But they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The first Tuesday in November is when Democrats stop falling and really begin absorbing the damage from the fall. It will be, for them, an immensely painful experience. Comeuppances often are.

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