2010: Will Dems be saved by those awful, awful, AWFUL Republicans?
posted at 12:00 am on October 21, 2009 by Karl
The tide of bad polling data for Pres. Obama continues to roll in, with people disapproving of his handling of every major issue. Allahpundit, ever the skeptic, wonders if some of the data is simply too grim to be true.
The establishment media and the Leftosphere certainly thinks so. The WaPo’s Chris Cillizza emphasizes that the newest WaPo/ABC News poll suggests “the GOP still faces serious perception problems in the eyes of the American public”:
And, perhaps most troubling for GOP hopes is the fact that just 20 percent of the Post sample identified themselves as Republicans, the lowest that number has been in Post polling since 1983. (No, that is not a typo.)
These numbers, coming roughly one year before the 2010 midterm elections, show that any celebration on the GOP’s behalf is premature as the party has yet to convince most voters that it can be a viable alternative to Democratic control in Washington today.
Ed Morrissey explains why he thinks the new WaPo poll is a bit fishy. He is right that Democrats winning the generic Congressional ballot by twelve points (51%/39%) is way out of line with other polls. Pollster.com’s poll of polls currently has Dems +2.9%. However, Ed also complains about the WaPo/ABC News sample (33% Dems, 20% GOP) — which is close to the Pollster.com average for adults, though the average for registered and likely voters shows a much smaller gap, with the GOP gradually gaining on the Dems. (Larry Sabato thinks the Party ID totals in WaPo/ABC poll are very misleading, though that’s because he knows that voting behavior is more important.)
Regardless of the merits of the WaPo poll, Cillizza’s indictment of the GOP it is what the Leftosphere wanted to hear, and they lapped it up. Indeed, it is the continuation of a hypothesis developed in the Leftosphere — perhaps most articulately by Brendan Nyhan — that the GOP brand is so damaged that the 2010 Congressional campaign will not end as badly for the Dems as the 1994 campaign. The current net negatives of the GOP should be cause for concern, though the lefty fans of this theory tend to gloss over that the trend is increasingly negative for the Dems, too. Moreover, as Nyhan himself admits, the generic Congressional ballot should (in principle) take much of this difference into account.
Furthermore, when Nyhan first floated his theory, Charlie Cook pointed out how this ignored the actual political terrain on which the 2010 campaign will be waged, and Nyhan’s response is weak. Similarly, Cillizza’s assessment of the GOP’s poll numbers does not match up so well with his current analyses of Senate and House campaigns.
There is not much disagreement across the political spectrum that the GOP needs to get its act together, and that most the polling data now reflects disapproval of Pres. Obama and the Democrat-led Congress, as opposed to approval of the GOP. However, the notion that all of the data showing the GOP gaining near-parity with the Dems on the generic ballot (not to mention the recent WSJ/NBC poll showing re-elect numbers for Congress as bad as in 1994) should be discounted due to the GOP’s poor poll numbers on issues is wishful thinking. The hypothesis does not account for the scenario in which people disapprove of both parties and thus vote GOP to create gridlock. Moreover, the hypothesis it is not borne out in the current polling for actual 2010 campaigns.
Update: Kellyanne Conway has a deeper look at the WaPo/ABC News poll. It turns out there is a problem with the sample that emerges when you look at the composition of Republican and Democrat “leaners.” However, that does not affect the generally poor numbers for the GOP across a range of polls, or the main points of this post.