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Morning Jay: Goodbye to the Clinton Majority, Those Lucky Dems, and More!

6:30 AM, Sep 24, 2010 • By JAY COST
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2. The Democrats’ Lucky Break In The Senate.  Just about everybody now recognizes that 2010 is going to be a political wave election.  It looks very likely that the Democrats are going to lose the most seats in the Midwest, where Gallup has the president’s job approval at just 43 percent.  President Obama is also very weak in the South – Gallup has him at just 39 percent - but Republican gains will be muted there because the GOP is already dominant in Dixie.  Interestingly, Gallup has president Obama’s job approval at 47 percent in the West, but he is generally thought to be above 50 percent in the more populous Pacific West (especially California), which means he must be doing terribly in the Mountain West states.

The president’s poor standing in these three regions – the Midwest, the South, and the Mountain West – should be sufficient to tip the House to the Republicans, as this is where the battle for Congress is usually fought.  But the Democrats are very lucky in the Senate because so many of their senators from this region are not up this cycle.

Look at the terrible position in which Russ Feingold finds himself – that is a sign that pretty much any Democratic incumbent from the Midwest would find himself in grave danger this cycle, regardless of how well she or he has performed in office.  Similarly, the pathetic condition of the Blanche Lincoln campaign in Arkansas is a signal that any Southern Democrat would also be in jeopardy.  Ditto the paltry poll positions of Michael Bennet in Colorado and Harry Reid in Nevada, which point to Democratic doldrums throughout the Rockies.

But only a handful of these Democrats are up this cycle.  Indeed, I count a whopping twenty-four Senate Democrats in seats in the South, the Midwest or Mountain West who are not up for reelection in 2010.   Instead, the Democrats are mostly defending seats in the Northeast and Pacific West, where their position remains strong.  Those lucky Democrats get to defend seats in Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington in the Pacific West; then Maryland, Delaware, New York (twice!), Connecticut and Vermont in the Northeast.  Really, they could not have been more fortunate.  The fact that they are struggling to lock down several of these states – and, indeed, that the GOP might win a handful of them – is a testimony to just how brutal the national political climate is for the Democrats this year.  If the 2012 class of Senate seats were up this cycle, pundits would have written off the Senate months ago.  

3. A Tale of Two Polls.  Earlier this week, both SurveyUSA and Siena were in the field in New York state, polling the Senate race.  SurveyUSA found a one-point race, with Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand ahead of Joe DioGuardi by just one point, 45-44.  Meanwhile, Siena found her running away with things, ahead 57-31.

Two reputable polling outfits in the field at the same time.  What gives?

Most likely answer: Siena polled registered voters while SurveyUSA polled likely voters.  That probably does not explain all of the differences, but it accounts for a lot of it. 

I mention this not simply because it’s an interesting polling deviation in an important state.  I also point it out to remind readers that most of the generic ballot numbers are still of nationwide registered voters, which are probably over-reporting Democratic strength just as the Siena poll is.  In your average midterm year, there is going to be a notable difference in the Democratic position in registered voter polls versus likely voter polls, but it is probably greater this year because Republicans are much more enthusiastic about voting. 

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