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Morning Jay: Special “Bruce Banner Versus The Incredible Hulk” Edition!

6:30 AM, Oct 26, 2010 • By JAY COST
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(a) It’s unprecedented. This is a terribly weak argument. Just because something hasn’t happened is not evidence that it will not happen.

(b) The Dems are amping up enthusiasm. But what’s the source on this? As best Hulk can gauge, most of this talk comes from (i) Democratic operatives, (ii) partisan pollsters and (iii) mainstream media outlets that are clearly partial toward the Democrats. Not compelling to Hulk.

Gallup’s “traditional” model projects turnout at 40% of the vote. What’s the highest it’s been in a midterm since the country gave teenagers the right to vote? Just 39.9%, in 1982. How far beyond 40% can we possibly expect it to go, even if we assume the Democrats solve their enthusiasm problem? 45%? Is that enough to inject an unprecedented level of pro-Republican bias into the Gallup likely voter numbers? Hulk thinks no. 

After all, we’re talking about the marginal voters here – the 25% or so of the country that can be brought into the political process via a high-profile presidential campaign that gets saturation coverage – like 2004 and 2008 – but doesn't get drawn into statewide campaigns. And in most states there are not really interesting or compelling statewide campaigns, anyway. In fact, there are just fifteen states with either toss-up gubernatorial or senatorial contests (according to RealClearPolitics), and a third of them have no more than one genuinely competitive House race. 

So what draws the marginal voters out in a state like Iowa, Michigan, or North Carolina? To Hulk's disappointment, these people don’t read Morning Jay. They don’t watch Fox News Sunday. They have never heard of Politico. Midterms just don’t penetrate their consciousness in the way that really competitive presidential races do, and so this 20% or so stays on the sidelines. That’s the way it’s been for 40 years. Hulk wants to know why he should believe that 2010 will be different.

And if the Democratic turnout problem has been solved, why is Obama visiting deep-blue Rhode Island and California, and encouraging Hispanics to “punish (their) enemies?”  Hulk thinks the collateral damage from this kind of campaign – short term and long term – could be extraordinary. It’s bound to turn Independents off in the short term, and it is sure to ruin any hope of amicability in the 112th Congress. The White House is full of smart people who would only push such a slash-and-burn message if they were at DEFCON 1.

Who’s Right?  My innate sense of caution induces me to side with Bruce Banner, at least for now. At this point, my honest guess is a popular vote victory of 8-9 points with a 60-seat gain in the House, just as I wrote last week.  That being said, I have moments when I start hearing the voice of the Hulk. Yesterday, after Battleground found the "most likely voters" going Republican by +12, Rasmussen by +9, and the Gallup traditional by +14, the Hulk was talking really loudly to me. Next Monday around 5 PM, Gallup will release its final generic ballot numbers. If those numbers are in line with the numbers from this week, I am going to start turning very, very green!

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