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Morning Jay: Obama's Unsustainable Strategy, Hulkamania, the Dempocalypse, and More!

6:30 AM, Oct 27, 2010 • By JAY COST
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1. An Unsustainable Strategy.  It’s become increasingly clear that one strategy of the White House this midterm is to amp up African-American and Hispanic turnout, and this has occasionally gone so far as to include pitting ethnic groups against each other.

This might help the White House stave off some losses next week, but sooner rather than later President Obama is going to have to pull back from this approach, and try to get back to the "post-racial" dynamic of his campaign. At least, he will if he wants to be reelected to a second term. 

The latest Gallup job approval numbers by racial and ethnic groups finds President Obama’s job approval among whites at just 35%.  This is no outlying result, as this graph indicates:

His average this month (so far) is 36%. In comparison, he won 43% of the white vote in November 2008.  If he had instead won 36%, with everything else being constant, he would have won just 48% of the overall popular vote, and we’d be humming Hail to the Chief whenever John McCain walks into the room.  Relatedly, if you re-run the 2006 midterm election with the Democrats winning 36% of the white vote (rather than the 47% they actually carried) and performing the same with all other groups, they would have gotten 45% of the vote, the party's worst showing since 1946.

2. Hulkamania! Yesterday, I made the case for why the 2010 midterm could be very, very bad for House Democrats.  I called it my “Incredible Hulk” argument.  I don’t buy it just yet, but I have to acknowledge it.  It seems that I am not the only one.

Nate Silver. Silver projects a 52-seat pickup.  He adds: “[E]rrors could also work in Republicans’ favor, potentially enabling gains in excess of 60 or even 70 seats. And much of the data released within the last day suggests that, if anything, they are strengthening their position.”

Cook Political. Charlie Cook projects a range of 48-60 pickups.  He adds: “It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.”

Stuart Rothenberg. Rothenberg projects a range of 45-55 pickups. He adds: “With a week to go until Election Day, House Democrats face the potential of a political bloodbath the size of which we haven’t seen since the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The largest midterm House loss for the president’s party during the last 50 years was 52 seats in 1994. The previous largest losses were 55 seats in 1942 and 71 seats in 1938.”

What’s going on here?  Everybody seems to cluster around roughly the same numbers, then offers a caveat like, “but it could get a hell of a lot bigger!”  Why is that?

I can only speak for myself, and my thinking is that there is just so much uncertainty.  There is the uncertainty of turnout.  There is the uncertainty of the independents and how they break.  There is the uncertainty of the generic ballot and whether it will be next week what it is today.  There is the uncertainty that comes with analyzing 435 discrete congressional districts with precious little data.  And this uncertainty is multiplicative.  If I’m 80% certain that Event A is going to happen and I’m 80% certain that Event B is going to happen, I’m only 64% certain that Event A and B are going to happen. 

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