Morning Jay: Underestimating Republicans, Newsweek Strikes Again, and Time To Purge!
6:30 AM, Oct 25, 2010 • By JAY COST
1. Are State Polls Underestimating Republican Strength? Yes, says Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics. He writes:
The most relevant question is thus: what mix of Republicans and Democrats are the pollsters finding? Trende continues:
Why is 2004 an important year? It was a year in which both party bases were – to borrow a phrase – “fired up, ready to go.” In contrast, 2006 and 2008 were years in which Democratic enthusiasm outpaced Republican enthusiasm. This suggests that Republican strength could be systematically underestimated in these polls. On average, if you reweight recent polls in the top Senate contests using the 2006 party spreads, a Republican advantage of 0.24 percent expands to 1.38 percent. Reweight to the 2004 party spreads, and it grows to 2.73 percent.
On the other hand, some pollsters that don’t make assumptions that ultimately favor Democrats have been getting criticized at establishment media outlets. In general, it seems to me that polling itself is increasingly becoming politicized this cycle. This is something to be aware of.
2. 54-40 or Fight! Bad news, gang. Newsweek says the Republican rout is off:
Wow-wee! Somebody better tell the president, as he is visiting deep blue Rhode Island today. He needs to start pressing into conservative territory -- the GOP might be set to lose seats!
In all seriousness, though, look again at Obama’s job approval in Newsweek: 54-40. Meanwhile, the average of the other polls of adults in the RealClearPolitics average shows President Obama’s job approval slightly under 45 percent. It is possible that random variation alone could produce this Newsweek result, but it is quite unlikely. This poll is not just an outlier. It is an outlier among outliers.
3. Blame the Blue Dogs? Ari Berman of The Nation takes to the pages of the New York Times to urge a purge:
Franklin Roosevelt tried to orchestrate a purge of conservative Southern Democrats in the 1930s, but he waited until after his triumph in 1936, when the Democratic congressional caucus expanded to an unprecedented size. The Democrats are set to go from a majority to a minority this cycle, which seems to me to be the exact wrong time to start booting the moderates who manage to survive.
The math is pretty straightforward, and it doesn’t favor Berman’s argument. The liberals’ biggest problem is the Senate, where small states hold the balance of power. In 2000, a year in which the parties were split nationwide, George W. Bush won a majority of states. In 2004, he won a super majority, 30 out of 50 states. Thus, on average, a Democratic majority in the Senate will depend upon Democratic senators who can appeal to Republican presidential voters. The same is true in the House of Representatives, by the way. Bush and Gore split the presidential vote in 2000, but Bush won 240 of 435 districts. He won 255 districts in 2004. If Berman wants to drill the Democratic caucus down to members who can reliably vote the liberal line, he’ll have fewer than 200 representatives and 40 senators on his side.
This strikes me as more about affixing blame for the Democratic party’s impending defeat than forging a path forward for the left. The consistent theme I have read from liberals is that their problem is that they have not been partisan or liberal enough. That, as well as the occasional blame for a lack of a good “narrative,” accounts for the Democratic party’s poor position. Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, accept and promote what we might call “creation myths,” or stories that account for the standing of both sides over time. Usually, these stories are at most half true – and right now the story the left seems to be telling itself is less than that.
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