2010 Bigger than 1994? Ctd.
To piggyback on James’ comments below, it’s important to point out some other important metrics that make a Republican takeover of Congress in November pretty unlikely.
1. The hard right turn in the primaries cuts against the GOP.
The biggest group of voters who are angry and anti-incumbent can be found among the most conservative GOP voters. This is producing some interesting conundrums, like Charlie Crist in Florida, Bennett’s fight for his life in Utah, and McCain’s struggles against J.D. Hayworth. These are all pretty conservative folks losing to very conservative candidates. But here’s the thing–the polling for those favorite conservative candidates is terrible. Let’s say, for example, that J.D. Hayworth beats McCain in the GOP primaries (a very possible outcome). Hayworth, who is very well known due to the hard-fought primary, right now trails the virtually unknown Democratic candidate Rodney Glassman. And Charlie Crist has a really good shot of winning a three-way race in Florida. The numbers in Nevada are, I think, trending back towards Harry Reid thanks to the ultra-conservatives on the GOP side there, too. Which is shocking, because a few months ago I counted Reid out entirely.
2. The public prefers Democrats to Republicans. On almost everything.
The ABC News-WaPo Poll that James cites below is really illuminating on this score, and it’s in lines with the trends that I’ve been following for the past few months. For one thing, the voters in this survey prefer Republicans to Democrats by 5 points. And this, in particular, is revealing:
In a party-to-party measure, Americans by 46-32 percent said they trust the Democratic Party over the Republicans to handle the main problems the country faces during the next few years. That slipped for the Republicans from a 43-37 percent division in February.
You’ve got that right–since February, more voters trust Democrats and fewer voters trust Republicans to govern responsibly. That’s not a good trend for those who believe in a GOP takeover.
3. The public blames Republicans for the economy and the deficit.
While it’s definitely true that, historically, economic indicators can drive the incumbent party out of power, there’s a huge backstop against the flow in 2010. That backstop is this: the public is pissed about the economy. The public is pissed about the deficit. And they’re pissed at Republicans for it.
For one, many more Americans chiefly blamed the economy and the federal deficit alike on George W. Bush rather than on Obama, by 59-25 percent on the economy, by an almost identical 60-22 percent on the deficit.
While it’s true that this is a Bush v. Obama metric and that some of that 59% almost certainly consists of some of the conservative anti-Bush backlash of the past two years, that’s still a really rough metric for Republicans who, like it or not, are going to be associated with Bush.
4. Obama is more popular than Republicans.
One advantage that the Republican Party had in 1994 in successfully taking over Congress was that Bill Clinton was at a very low point in his popularity and approval. By contrast, though, Obama’s approval has been steady and is slowly trending up, and he compares very well to the Republican Party.
Still, while Obama’s ratings on top issues were underwhelming, politics are comparative, and he continued to outpoint the GOP head-to-head. Even with 49 percent approval on handling the economy, he led the Republicans in Congress by 49-38 percent in trust to deal with it. The numbers are almost identical on health care overhaul, on which Obama’s approval, also 49 percent, is up 6 points from its February low, given approval of the Democrats’ legislative package.
As reported Monday, Obama led the Republicans by 17 points in trust to handle financial regulatory overhaul, despite his own modest 48 percent approval on the issue. And he runs numerically (plus-4 points) ahead in trust to handle the deficit, even while his approval on the deficit is a weak 40 percent.
Even with voters angry as they are. Even with anti-incumbent fervor at its peak. Even with all of those factors–Obama is still more trusted by the public to handle governing than the Republicans. Which makes running an “anti-Obama” campaign as a national goal for Republicans quite difficult.
5. The bottom line: voters don’t like the alternative.
Here’s the thing. It is an absolute, 100 percent certainty that the Republican Party is going to gain seats in both the House and the Senate. That, you can take to the bank. The demographics of the seats at most isssue in this election cut against Democrats. But not by enough for the GOP to take either the House or the Senate. And quite frankly, given the high levels of unpopularity that the GOP faces right now, I’d say this election looks a lot like elections in England since Tony Blair took office as Prime Minister, where the public may have hated Labour, but they really hated the Tories, and offering up a viable non-Tory alternative in the form of Nick Clegg is changing the shape of their current election.
Similarly, the public in the United States may be anti-incumbent. They may not like the Democrats right now. But by and large right now they hate the Republicans a lot more than they hate the Democrats. And unless that changes in the near future, and I have no reason to suggest that it will, I think we can safely count on another two years of the Democratic Party controlling the Congress.