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Morning Jay: Generic Ballot, NRCC, DCCC, and Catch a Wave!

6:30 AM, Sep 21, 2010 • By JAY COST
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1. A Note on the Latest Generic Ballot Numbers. Gallup just released its latest generic ballot number, still of registered voters, and finds the Democrats up one over the Republicans.  Generally speaking, the RealClearPolitics generic ballot average has shown some tightening in the last week.  Is this real movement?

Morning Jay: Generic Ballot, NRCC, DCCC, and Catch a Wave!

Maybe not.

For starters, Gallup is bouncy.  That’s just the way it is.  If you look at the other polls in the RCP average right now, you find Rasmussen and Fox basically where they were in their last polls and the AP/GfK poll showing Republican improvement relative to its last poll.  In addition, you have the CBS News/New York Times and Politico/GWU/Battleground Poll, neither of which has been in the field recently, so there is no way to tell whether their relatively tight numbers are a trend or just house effects. 

Then you have the PPP poll, which deserves special comment.  Last month, PPP switched from its “Voter” model to a “Likely Voter” model for its polls of specific races.  The “Voter” model sampled Americans who voted in the previous couple elections, which meant that relative to the 2010 midterm, it was probably over-sampling Democrats to some degree.  It’s good that PPP switched to a “Likely Voter” model for its individual races, but its generic ballot number is still using the “Voter" model.  Unsurprisingly, it finds the Democrats with a 5-point partisan edge over Republicans, which basically mimics the D+7 2008 electorate.  Now, PPP has proven itself to be a reliable pollster, most recently nailing the Delaware Republican primary battle, but a “Voter” model such as this should be approached with great caution.  It’s quite unlike the other polls in the RCP generic ballot average, and it is probably over-sampling Democrats.

2. Historical Perspective on the Generic Ballot. Let me make another point about the generic ballot numbers.  They cannot be read naively.  The fact that the Democrats are up one in the Gallup registered voter generic ballot strongly suggests they are not actually up by one! The generic ballot has a long history of over-sampling Democrats, occasionally by a large margin.  At this point in 2004, the generic ballot average was pointing to a Democratic lead of between 2 and 3 points, and on Election Day the Republicans won the House popular vote by about 3 points.  The same story is true for 2002.  At this point, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found the Democrats with a 5-point lead among registered voters, which was generally in line with generic ballot polls from mid-September of that year.  The Republicans went on to win the House popular vote by 5 points.  In 1994, the Gallup generic ballot bounced around in the summer between a tie and a Republican lead, just as it has this summer, and the GOP won the House popular vote by 7 points.

Much of this has to do with the bias toward Democrats in registered voter models.  Per Gallup's Frank Newport:

Any edge for the GOP among registered voters has unique danger signs for Democrats, because Republicans have a high probability (although not absolute) of turning out in higher numbers than Democrats on Election Day.

That’s exactly what happened in 1994. In the last three polls conducted by Gallup before Election Day, the Republican leads over Democrats among likely voters were higher than the leads among registered voters by margins of 9, 13, and 7 percentage points. To be specific, the registered voter gaps were +3 Republican, + 3 Democrat, and dead-even in Gallup's final three polls in 1994. The likely voter gaps were +12, +10, and +7 Republican. The last such numbers are from Gallup’s final pre-election poll, in which Republicans and Democrats were at 46% each among registered voters, but in which Republicans were ahead by 51% to 44% among likely voters.

Sean Trende has more on the generic ballot here, persuasively arguing that the most recent numbers are pretty stable when viewed in broader context.

3. NRCC On Offense, DCCC On Defense. Courtesy of Swing State Project, we have the latest NRCC Democratic targets.  Races in bold are those that Charlie Cook has as toss-up.  Races in italics are lean Democratic races:

AL-2 (Bright)

AZ-01 (Kirkpatrick)

CA-11 (McNerney)

FL-2 (Boyd)

IL-10 (Open / Kirk / GOP-Held)

IL-11 (Halvorson)

IL-14 (Foster)

IN-2 (Donnelly)

KY-6 (Chandler)

MI-1 (Open / Stupak)

MI-7 (Schauer)

MS-1 (Childers)

NC-7 (McIntyre)

NJ-3 (Adler)

PA-3 (Dahlkemper)

PA-7 (Open / Sestak)

PA-8 (Murphy)

PA-11 (Kanjorski)

VA-9 (Boucher)

WI-7 (Open / Obey)

TN-8 (Open / Tanner)

TX-23 (Rodriguez)

VA-5 (Perriello)

Meanwhile, Hotline OnCall is reporting that more than a third of the DCCC’s “Red To Blue” program, originally intended to highlight top pickup opportunities, is now touting Democrats running for Democratic-held seats:

The latest example are the two newest members of the program. On Monday, the DCCC added Ann McLane Kuster (D), who is running for Rep. Paul Hodes' (D) seat in NH 02, and Bill Keating, who is running for retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt's (D) seat in MA 10. Both emerged from primaries last week to become the Democratic nominees.

With Kuster and Delahunt, 12 of the 29 members of the Red to Blue program this year are Democrats seeking to hold on to Democrat seats.

The numbers are yet another indication of just how few pick up opportunities Democrats have this year. Democratic strategists acknowledge privately that at most they have 5 pick up opportunities this fall: DE AL, IL 10, LA 2, FL 25 and HI 1. The Democratic candidates in each of these races is included in the program.

At this rate, they’ll have to rename it the “Blue, Please Stay Blue” program…

4. Catch a Wave… You don’t see items like this in anything but a wave year:

At 84, John Dingell, D-Mich, is seeking his 23rd term as a congressman, and it appears voters are still on the line as to whether to support his campaign or elect a fresh face, according to the latest poll conducted by WDIV-TV and the Detroit News.

On behalf of WDIV and the Detroit News, Glengariff Group Inc. conducted a statewide poll of registered, likely general election voters in Michigan’s 15th Congressional District on Sept. 15 and 16, 2010. A total of 400 people were polled.

Dingell is an institution in the United States House, and an independent poll has him under 50 percent.  That’s extraordinary. 

 So is this:

A Public Policy Polling survey in Wisconsin -- which will be released tomorrow by DailyKos -- will show Sen. Russ Feingold (D) trailing challenger Ron Johnson (R) by double-digits due to a "massive" enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.

This is not shaping up to be a D+1 year.  Not even close.  Let’s close this Morning Jay out with a classic from America’s most underrated music group:

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