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Morning Jay: Brutal Generic Ballot Numbers for Dems, Van Hollen Fires Back, and more ...

6:30 AM, Sep 7, 2010 • By JAY COST
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1. Latest Sign of the Dempocalypse.  CNN's generic ballot numbers are just rotten for Democrats.  The GOP leads 52-45 among registered voters.  Republicans even have a lead of 49-44 among "adults."  Unfortunately, there are no cross-tabs breaking down support by party affiliation, but you can't produce numbers like this in a poll of registered voters without the Democrats getting crushed among Independent voters.

Morning Jay: Brutal Generic Ballot Numbers for Dems, Van Hollen Fires Back, and more ...

Chris Van Hollen

That, I think, will be one of the biggest stories of the 2010 midterm -- the bolt of the Independents from the Democratic coalition.  Independents were pro-GOP in 2002, slightly Democratic in 2004, then strongly Democratic in 2006 and 2008.  This year they are trending back toward the Republican Party.

Even the ABC News/WaPo poll, usually the best poll for Obama and the Democrats among the major outlets, puts the GOP at +2 among registered voters.  Among likely voters, it's ... +13.  

ABC News/WaPo has Republicans at +13?!

Meanwhile, Rasmussen has the GOP at +12 among likely voters in the generic ballot. Democrats and their pals in the media like to write Rasmussen off as a pro-GOP pollster, but that gets harder to do as the major pollsters are moving toward Rasmussen's results on both Obama's job approval and the generic ballot.   Plus, Rasmussen has a not-so-friendly warning for Republicans:

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, notes that “voters are ready to deliver the same message in 2010 that they delivered in 2006 and 2008 as they prepare to vote against the party in power for the third straight election. These results suggest a fundamental rejection of both political parties.”

This is quite similar to points that Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen have made, and I think it is spot on.  What's the template for the 2006-2010 cycles?  I think it is something like the 1890s: There is great turmoil that the two political parties have been (so far) incapable of handling, and the public is still casting about in search of competent leadership.  I think something similar happened between 1974 and 1982.  The country is unsatisfied with the state of the nation and has so far disapproved of both parties' performances. But in a two party system, there is no choice but to swing back and forth until folks finds leaders who are up to the job. 

2. Is All That Money Worth It?  Typically, conventional Beltway wisdom holds that the candidate with the most money has the biggest advantage. Not so. As I've argued, what matters most is whether the challenger has raised enough money to introduce him/herself to the electorate.  This piece from The Hill speaks to that point:

A handful of political experts tracking the 2010 election cycle say that incumbency has become enough of a liability this year to trump the conventional advantage of money in the bank.

Longtime campaigns and elections observer, Brookings Institute Vice-Chairman of Governance Studies Darrell West said “money cannot trump message.”

The analysts say that the message resonating this cycle has been: Throw the incumbents out...

Claremont-McKenna political science professor Jack Pitney said, “Victory doesn’t necessarily go to the candidate that spends the most. What matters is whether the challenger has enough resources to reach the voters, to get a message out, and those resources don’t have to be as great as their better financed candidate.”

This point has special salience this year, I think, because congressional leaders forced their rank and file to take controversial votes on health care, cap-and-trade, stimulus, and deficit spending.  It seems to me that, with health care polling at such a miserable level, one ad blasting Incumbent X for voting for health care reform is worth two gauzy bios about how Incumbent X represents "Real, Common Sense [Insert Locality] Values!"

3. Patty Murray Is In Trouble, Says ... DSCC?  You know it is going to be a bad year for Democrats when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee touts a poll showing Patty Murray -- the senior senator from Washington who has been in the Senate for 17 years -- up just 5 points over Dino Rossi, 50-45.   

4. Van Hollen Fires Back.  Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, didn't much care for the New York Times story about Democratic triage:

Van Hollen released a statement saying that the story "erroneously" said that the DCCC would redirect resources to two dozen viable campaigns if a review in the next two weeks showed that vulnerables weren't gaining ground.

"The Members of Congress referenced in the article are all running strong campaigns focused on their solid records and drawing sharp distinctions between themselves and their opponents on the key issues at stake in this election," Van Hollen said. "The DCCC is heavily invested in these campaigns. In each campaign mentioned, the DCCC has provided and continues to provide support for field operations and other key campaign activities."

What else is he going to say?  Democratic leaders cannot come out and admit that they are in bad shape. Otherwise, they risk depressing their voting and donor bases and really losing badly. It's similar to what the spokesmen for all those banks said before their companies failed: "We're not failing!"  They had to say that to prevent a run on the bank.  Between now and Election Day, we should see Democratic party leaders out there repeating the same basic points: (a) we're going to localize these races; (b) each race is an individual battle; (c) the Republicans are too extreme; (d) we'll lose seats but we'll hold the House.  Republicans in 2006 basically sang the same tune.  

5. Predicting the 2010 Midterm.  At the American Political Science Association conference, plenty of statistical models were unveiled that forecast the 2010 midterm results.  Mark Blumenthal of Pollster summarizes the results: three models predict the GOP will control the House and two predict it won't. 

Well, I guess that settles it.  Thank goodness for the experts.  We'd be lost without them!

I'll have more on these models later in the day.

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