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Morning Jay: Why Hillary Won't Run, Generic Ballot, Gaming Out The Senate, And More!

6:30 AM, Oct 1, 2010 • By JAY COST
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1. Obama’s Best PickYesterday, Gallup found that Barack Obama has just a 15-point lead over Hillary Clinton for the 2012 Democratic nomination, with 10 percent undecided.  Yikes.  Gallup accurately notes:

Presidents with relatively low job approval ratings heading into a possible re-election bid are vulnerable to intra-party challenges. As two examples, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were challenged for their respective parties' nomination as sitting presidents -- Ford by Ronald Reagan, and Carter by Edward Kennedy and Jerry Brown. Ford's job approval rating had reached as low as 37% in 1975, the year before he ran for re-election, and Carter's had reached 28% in 1979. Obama's current weekly job approval rating is 44%, albeit with more than two years until the next presidential election.

It was a really inspired political move to appoint Clinton to the State Department, for I think it essentially nullifies the odds she would challenge him in 2012. What’s she going to do?  Resign her position in the government, with all the crises worldwide, to run against her boss? That would be like James Monroe resigning in 1812 to challenge James Madison right when the War of 1812 is about to start. It’s just unthinkable. Obama gave Clinton an integral position in the administration, which means she is on his team. 


2. Generic Ballot.  Gallup is waiting an unusually long time to put out its likely voter generic ballot model, but it's nevertheless teasing next week’s results:

Our latest measure for the week of Sept. 20-26 shows Republicans with a 20-percentage-point lead over Democrats in terms of the percentage of voters who are “very” enthusiastic about voting. Additionally, preliminary modeling of the likely electorate using Gallup’s traditional likely voter questions (more on this next week) suggests that if current patterns persist, Republicans could have a double-digit lead in the national House vote on Election Day, which would translate into Republicans gaining well above the number of seats necessary to control the House.

It is a bit of an understatement to say that a GOP lead of more than 10 points would translate to gains “well above” 218.  In fact, it would be the best GOP performance since the Great Depression.  It’s hard to estimate exactly how many Republican seats a +10 result would produce – predictive models can be particularly dodgy when estimating unprecedented results – but if the Republicans win 55 percent of the two-party House vote, I think they’d beat their haul from 1946, when the party won a total of 245 seats.

3. Is The Senate in Play?   Stuart Rothenberg says yes, and that “Senate Democrats can't take their East Coast/West Coast firewall for granted.”

This is how I see it playing out.  The RealClearPolitics averages of the polls show the GOP on track for eight pickups, with West Virginia as the latest addition.  Harry Reid has held a nominal lead for the last couple months, but he’s still under 45 percent of the vote.  That looks like a very gettable seat for the GOP.

That leaves Republicans needing one more seat, and having to pick one up from one of four Democratic states: California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington.  Any is possible, but it is Washington that looks the wobbliest to me.  The Evergreen State does not typically have a larger share of Democrat voters than the national average.  Instead, the Democratic advantage in the state is due to the large number of independents, who have been breaking heavily against the GOP for the last several cycles. 

But not this cycle.  Polls show the GOP has a big advantage with independents nationwide, and that could be enough to tip the Rossi-Murray contest if the pattern shows up in Washington.  For instance, the recent SurveyUSA poll of Washington found Patty Murray with a two-point lead over Dino Rossi, but its estimated electorate is about as pro-Democratic as 2008.  If you re-weight the poll according to the 2004 party ID breakdowns, you’d find Rossi winning because he dominates the independent vote. 

So, two things need to happen for Rossi to win in Washington, both of which look very possible: he wins independents by the kind of margin SurveyUSA is suggesting, and the Republican enthusiasm gap nudges the party spread back to at least where it was a few cycles ago.

The Democratic firewall in the Senate looks as though it depends upon anti-Obama Democrats in West Virginia, Harry Reid in Nevada somehow finding his way to 50%, and ornery independents in Washington state.  That’s not much of a firewall, if you ask me.   

4. The Latest Sign of the Dem-PocalypseBob Shrum predicts the Democrats will hold the line in both chambers:

Maybe I’m wrong.

In fact, maybe I’m really, really wrong, which is the reaction I hear when I dare even to broach this notion to commentators and political strategists in both parties. So let me state it plainly: I now think the Democrats will hold the Congress—yes, the House as well as the Senate—and turn back high profile Republican challengers in California and elsewhere.

Bob Shrum is 0-8 in presidential campaigns going back to 1972.  If he thinks the Democrats will retain the Congress, I’d say that is strong evidence that the Democrats are in big time trouble.

Plus, Shrum's column might very well be the world's worst pep talk evah.  Who leads off with "Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm really, really wrong..."?!

5. The Ohio Enthusiasm Gap.  Earlier this week, I had some fun goofing on some (unintentionally) ironic comments from Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who told a crowd of 250 people in downtown Cleveland that there is no enthusiasm gap in the Buckeye State.  Well, kidding aside, there really is a gap, and it’s a big one:

A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats in Ohio's three largest counties have asked for absentee ballots this year -- an ominous sign for the party hoping to repel GOP forces on Election Day. 

Roughly three out of 10 registered Ohio voters live in Franklin, Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties.

With early voting under way this week, Republican voters in Franklin and Hamilton counties have requested more absentee ballots than their Democratic counterparts -- hard evidence of a much different environment than 2008 when an avalanche of Democratic absentee ballot requests dwarfed Republican requests in both counties.

In Cuyahoga County, registered Democrats have requested 60,960 absentee ballots compared with 28,888 for voters registered as Republicans, according to the county Board of Elections figures through Tuesday....

Consider that Democrats hold an almost four-to-one edge in voter registration in Cuyahoga County, according to Ohio Secretary of State office statistics. Once that ratio is taken into account, the numbers show 33 percent of the Republicans in Cuyahoga County have requested an absentee ballot thus far compared with 18 percent of Democrats.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat..."

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