Politics

Stock Rising: Bachmann and Perry

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June 9, 2011, 2:22 p.m.

A Suf­folk Univ. poll; con­duc­ted 10/4-6; sur­veyed 500 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.4% (re­lease, 10/7). Party ID break­down: 39%D, 31%R, 28%I.

Obama As POTUS

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom Ap­prove 46% 85% 6% 35% 42% 49% Dis­ap­prove 48 10 88 55 50 46

Fav/Un­fav

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom H. Clin­ton 60%/33% 91%/ 8% 28%/62% 52%/35% 55%/36% 64%/29% B. Obama 48 /46 84 /10 15 /81 36 /55 45 /48 51 /43 G. Voinovich 39 /33 39 /36 39 /27 41 /36 37 /35 41 /32 S. Brown 38 /32 59 /13 13 /53 35 /35 37 /33 38 /31

Dir­ec­tion Of OH

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom Right dir. 31% 58% 11% 20% 28% 34% Wrong dir. 56 30 80 63 58 53

Do You Think The Fed­er­al Stim­u­lus Plan Has Been Ef­fect­ive In OH?

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom Yes 27% 51% 8% 19% 31% 24% No 59 28 84 77 60 59

House Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom Gen­er­ic Dem 48% 96% 6% 30% 45% 51% Gen­er­ic GOP­er 41 2 86 43 45 37 Un­dec 10 2 5 26 9 10

(For more from this poll, please see today’s OH SEN and OH GOV stor­ies.)

When speak­ing with me about polit­ics, one of my good friends will some­times fol­low up with the ques­tion, “OK, now, Charlie, if you are wrong, why are you wrong?” For well over 40 years, this friend has been in­volved in mar­kets, polit­ics, and policy on Wall Street and in­side pres­id­en­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions. This in­di­vidu­al knows that no mat­ter how closely any­one watches Wash­ing­ton and polit­ics, and no mat­ter how ob­ject­ive one tries to be, any­one can be and is oc­ca­sion­ally wrong. Call it a pro­fes­sion­al haz­ard.

But ask­ing your­self, “if I’m wrong, why am I wrong?” is a very use­ful ex­er­cise. It makes someone ex­am­ine his as­sump­tions and evid­ence, look­ing for weak spots and cre­at­ing a self-im­posed alert sys­tem. The in­di­vidu­al is forced to care­fully watch if an as­sump­tion is look­ing less con­vin­cing and if the evid­ence starts point­ing in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion. My as­sump­tion is for a much, much closer pres­id­en­tial elec­tion than the latest In­trade odds (cur­rently giv­ing Pres­id­ent Obama a 59.6 per­cent chance of win­ning) or the av­er­ages of ma­jor polls, which gen­er­ally show Obama with a low single-di­git lead over pre­sumptive GOP nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney. (Poll­ster.com has Obama up by six-tenths of a point, 46.8 per­cent to 46.2 per­cent; Real­clear­polit­ics.com shows a 3.3 per­cent Obama lead, 47.5 per­cent to 44.2 per­cent; and Gal­lup’s track­ing sur­vey through Sunday night shows a 1-point dif­fer­ence, 47 per­cent to 46 per­cent.)

The fight for a ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate looks very much to be a 50-50 pro­pos­i­tion (there’s no chance of either party reach­ing any semb­lance of op­er­a­tion­al con­trol of the cham­ber.) Re­pub­lic­ans could pick up as few as two seats or as many as five. A gain of three or four seems most likely. Keep in mind that with so few states ac­tu­ally in play — roughly a dozen — a party could and of­ten does win three or four close seats by a com­bined total of 100,000 votes or few­er, cre­at­ing an al­most ran­dom­ness to the out­come. The closest Sen­ate races also of­ten break in the same dir­ec­tion: One party dis­pro­por­tion­ately wins most of the closest races, in a way that polls in in­di­vidu­al races can nev­er pre­dict.

The pres­id­en­tial elec­tion and the Sen­ate out­look both ap­pear quite close. Either party do­ing well in one or both is en­tirely pos­sible, but not pre­dict­able at all. Keep in mind that even when Richard Nix­on and Ron­ald Re­agan won 49-state land­slides in 1972 and 1984, re­spect­ively, their party in each case suffered a net loss of two seats. There is no guar­an­tee that the pres­id­en­tial and Sen­ate ar­rows will be point­ing in the same dir­ec­tion.

In the House, Re­pub­lic­ans look to have about a 75 per­cent chance of re­tain­ing their ma­jor­ity. The odds are very high, ac­tu­ally high­er, though, that they will lose a few seats, prob­ably in the five to 10, maybe in the 15, range. Hav­ing scored his­tor­ic, al­most bib­lic­al gains of 63 net seats in 2010 (the most for either party since 1948 and the most in a mid-term elec­tion since 1938), Re­pub­lic­ans are some­what over­ex­posed, with some losses be­ing in­ev­it­able. GOP losses won’t likely be nearly pro­por­tion­al to their 2010 gains. Two years ago, some of their wins were, in ef­fect, the re­claim­ing of seats that they lost in back-to-back hor­rif­ic elec­tions for them in 2006 and 2008. Also, the re­tire­ment of a num­ber of con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats, not­ably Blue Dogs in the South, bor­der South, and in dis­pro­por­tion­ately rur­al and small-town dis­tricts, will off­set po­ten­tial sub­urb­an gains else­where.

Vet­er­an Demo­crat­ic poll­ster Stan Green­berg of­fers up an al­tern­at­ive view. Not­ing the polls of his own firm and plenty of oth­ers, Stan points to signs that, while the Demo­crat­ic Party’s brand has it’s own is­sues with fa­vor­able-un­fa­vor­able and pos­it­ive-neg­at­ive gaps (dif­fer­ent poll­sters test these things in vari­ous ways), in­vari­ably, the GOP has high­er un­fa­vor­ables and neg­at­ives than fa­vor­ables and pos­it­ives. Like­wise, this ap­plies to com­par­is­ons of “Demo­crats in Con­gress” and “Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress.” It would seem that, in the minds of in­de­pend­ents (and to a less­er ex­tent in those of oth­ers), Demo­crats have not covered them­selves in glory. The GOP brand has taken on con­sid­er­ably more wa­ter.

Green­berg’s the­ory is that it is not one thing but the com­bin­a­tion of factors. In some states, not­ably in Wis­con­sin and Ohio, ac­tions by Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors and state le­gis­latures pushed way too far. They took po­s­i­tions and pushed policies that looked ex­treme to many non-ideo­lo­gic­al in­de­pend­ent voters, some­times rub­bing mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans the wrong way as well. Then there is Wash­ing­ton, where Green­berg ar­gues that Re­pub­lic­ans — par­tic­u­larly Budget Chair­man Paul Ry­an and his budget, nearly uni­ver­sally em­braced by fel­low party mem­bers in Con­gress — come across as too ideo­lo­gic­al or too harsh. Fi­nally, there was the over­heated rhet­or­ic in the 20 or 21 Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial de­bates. It was a con­ver­sa­tion clearly aimed at the party base but over­heard by oth­er voters, who found much of the talk more than a little exot­ic for their tastes. Each of the eight GOP pres­id­en­tial con­tenders, in an Au­gust de­bate sponsored by Fox News, said they would not go along with a budget pro­pos­al that in­cluded $10 in spend­ing cuts for every $1 of tax in­creases. Po­s­i­tion­ing that far to the right is way too out there for most in­de­pend­ent voters, who re­spond well to the sug­ges­tions of bal­anced ap­proaches to de­fi­cit re­duc­tion.

While I don’t buy in­to Green­berg’s ar­gu­ment of a po­ten­tial Demo­crat­ic wave, if any kind of par­tis­an wave is likely to de­vel­op — bar­ring some cata­clys­mic polit­ic­al, mil­it­ary, or eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment at home or abroad — it sure seems more likely to break in fa­vor of the Demo­crats, as he’s sug­gest­ing, as a res­ult of a back­lash against Re­pub­lic­ans go­ing too far to the right. I don’t yet see signs that the Re­pub­lic­ans’ ob­ses­sion with their con­ser­vat­ive base has reached a tip­ping point that will cre­ate a Demo­crat­ic wave. But if I were a Re­pub­lic­an lead­er, I’d at least con­sider the pos­sib­il­ity.

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