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Morning Jay: House Polls, Senate Battles, Full Dinner Pail, NV, CT, and More!

6:30 AM, Oct 7, 2010 • By JAY COST
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1. The Latest Sign of the Dem-Pocalypse.  Today’s sign of Democratic doom comes from the Penn Schoen Berland polling outfit, which is conducting a series of polls sponsored by The Hill and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (huh?). The first round of polling is of freshmen House Democrats, and the numbers are brutal:

The Hill’s writeup dutifully notes a “glimmer of light for Democrats; not one of the 12 Republican challengers has reached 50 percent,” which is a good point because in anti-incumbent years such as this, late breaking undecided voters are known to break heavily to the incumbent party.

Sarcasm aside (and I understand the need the media has to make it seem like a tight race), these numbers are just plain awful for the Democrats. These are moderately Republican to moderately Democratic districts, and the incumbent Democrats, who supposedly knew the Category 5 Hurricane was coming and built up their levies (and all the other appropriate “wave” metaphors) average less than 40 percent of the vote with four weeks to go

Surely, however, reinforcements from the DCCC are on the way, correct?  I mean, the base is fired up, contributions to the party have reached an all time high, and the pure political muscle of Organizing for America is going to come out and will these vulnerable Democrats to victory!

Err…

The DCCC has shaved the size of its ad reservations in 6 districts where Democrats are running behind their Republican challengers in polls. These include CO 04, where Rep. Betsy Markey has consistently trailed state Rep. Cory Gardner (R). Similarly, the DCCC has moved its ad reservations a week later in NM 02, where Rep. Harry Teague (D) is facing an uphill fight against former Rep. Steve Pearce (R).

In Rep. Chet Edwards's (D) TX 17, the DCCC reduced the size of its reservations for Oct. 19 to Oct. 25, scaling back 600 points. Edwards has trailed businessman Bill Flores (R) in most public polling, and this district gave John McCain 67% in '08….

Similarly, the DCCC has shaved the size of its reservations on behalf of Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) in FL 24 from Oct. 19 to Oct. 25…

Democrats have also made changes in a couple open seats in conservative territory that were previously held by Democrats. In IN 08, the seat vacated by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D), the DCCC has cancelled its reservations from Oct. 19 to Oct. 25….The DCCC has also cancelled its reservations during the same week in KS 03, where nurse Stephene Moore (D) is trying to hold on to her husband's seat in congress against state Rep. Kevin Yoder (R)…

2. Dust Off Your History Books!  John Fund writes over at the Wall Street Journal:

Michael Barone, co-author of the Almanac of American Politics, says either of the Gallup turnout models would produce "a Republican House majority the likes of which we have not seen since the election cycles of 1946 or even 1928." Mr. Barone says the historical parallel might no longer be 1994, when the GOP gained 54 House seats, but instead 1894, when Republicans gained more than 100 House seats in the middle of the economic downturn that engulfed Democratic President Grover Cleveland.

I totally agree with Barone’s assessment of the Gallup poll numbers.  In fact, I think the first decade of the 21st century has a lot in common with the last decade of the 19th.  The 1890s saw a severe economic recession come in 1893, which drove the 100-seat swing in the 1894 midterm.  But even prior to the Panic of 1893, the farmers in the Midwest and South were suffering terribly.  Overexpansion and a highly competitive global market pushed the prices of wheat, corn, and cotton down to unsustainable levels, and in the midterm of 1890 the country swung heavily to the Democrats, and the Populists won a majority of seats in Nebraska and Kansas.

Combine the swing in 1890 with the tumultuous election of 1894, as well as the drama of the McKinley-Bryan presidential contest in 1896, and you had an electorate that was swinging wildly back and forth between the two political parties, neither of which appeared capable of handling the problems Americans faced.

I think there is something similar happening this decade.  2006, 2008, and now 2010 are all going to be major “wave” elections, and the country is about to re-install the political party it just drove from power 24 months ago.  Dissatisfaction with the political process as well as both parties is at an all-time high, and there is a definite sense that neither party is capable of handling the problems of today.

Republicans need to bear this in mind.  It is my strong belief that 2010 is not going to be a “realigning” election.  This is not an electorate that is rediscovering its long-lost Republicanism.  It is a frustrated, angry electorate turning back to the GOP simply because there are only two parties to choose from.  Republicans thus need to study up on William McKinley – the least appreciated American president – and his “Full Dinner Pail” coalition.  His election in 1896 was the beginning of 33 years of Republican political dominance that was built fundamentally on economic prosperity.  If the GOP wants its 2010 midterm boost to be long lasting, the party has to find a way to bring prosperity back to the United States.

3. Reid Fading in Nevada?  Since July, Harry Reid has clung to a very small lead in the Nevada Senate race, and has not managed to hit 50 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.  Now, two polls released in October show Republican challenger Sharron Angle with a small lead over Reid.  CNN/Time has her up two points, 42-40.  Fox News shows her up three, 49-46. 

While anything is possible, I have a hard time seeing Reid pulling this one out.  I think it will be close, but I think this election is ultimately a referendum on his performance in office, and his job approval numbers have been negative for some time.

4. What’s Really Happening in Connecticut?  Mixed signals from the Nutmeg State.  Two polls – CNN/Time and Rasmussen – have Democrat Richard Blumenthal with a healthy, double-digit lead.  And yet:

The DSCC has for months now insisted that the Connecticut Senate contest is firmly within the Democratic column. And for a time the polling validated that rhetoric. The problem for the committee, now, is that both polling and their spending betrays that notion. After reserving roughly $500,000 in television advertising a couple days ago, the DSCC added yesterday $1.2 million to its ad buy for the remaining three weeks, according to the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

How do we square this circle?  My guess is that Blumenthal’s lead, as sizeable as it may appear, isn’t solid yet, and the DSCC is worried about the millions that the self-funding McMahon can dump into the race in the last four weeks. 

5. Quote for the Day.

[A] staggeringly high number of Democratic incumbents are below the 50 percent mark, including members in much of the polling conducted by Democratic firms released to counteract the GOP narrative. House Race Hotline editor Tim Sahd compiled an invaluable database of all the House race polling conducted this cycle and found 66 Democratic incumbents sitting below that magic 50 percent number.

-Josh Kraushaar, Hotline OnCall.

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