Thursday, April 15, 2010

Generic Trouble

We keep saying the Democrats are in trouble. Duh, right? Well, it could be much worse than anyone has thought. Indeed, there was an interesting article the other day at RealClearPolitics, along with some other recent poll results, which suggest huge losses for the Democrats in November. . . much bigger than previously expected. Let’s consider the evidence.

1. The Generic Ballot.
The generic ballot is a highly unreliable way to determine how the parties will fare come election time because it measures the national mood, rather than the mood locally in each district. But it can be very telling, especially when combined with other evidence. Consider this.

For starters, we need to realize that the generic ballot is biased toward the Democrats. By “biased” I mean that it overstates the Democrats’ electoral chances. The reason is that Democrats are concentrated in relatively few districts. Indeed, the median Congressional district is slightly pro-Republican -- meaning the districts are not evenly balanced and the Democrats tend to be grouped into fewer districts. Consequently, the generic ballot over-sells the Democrats’ chances because much of their support is wasted in these concentrated districts.

Thus, any lead by the Republicans in the generic ballot must be considered significant. And this year, the Republicans are leading the generic ballot. Gallup gives them a 4% lead -- only the third time they’ve ever led the generic ballot according to Gallup (1994 and 2002). Rasmussen, who polls likely voters, gives the Republicans a 9% lead. An NBC/WSJ poll found that Republicans lead by 13% among “energized” voters.

What does this translate into? The RCP average of polls gives the Republicans a 2.8% lead. This translates into a roughly a 225 seat majority for the Republicans, i.e. a 50 seat pick up. The Rasmussen numbers would translate into a 70 seat pick up! A 13% difference would be unprecedented and could exceed 100 seats.

Historically, such swings are not uncommon. Since 1874, there have been 34 mid-term elections. Thirteen of those involved losses of 44 seats or more. Five were above 70 seats, and the high was 129 seats. Moreover, these larger swings happened when there was a convergence of factors similar to today -- bad economic conditions, controversial President, and prior elections leading to large majority for the President's party.

The Democrats counter that there hasn’t been a 60 seat swing in 60 years. But these three factors haven't converged in 60 years either. And more importantly, there is one more huge fact that needs to be considered: the Republicans can pick up 70 seats without winning a single Democratic-leaning district.

What this tells me is that you should look for Republican gains in the 70 seat range.
2. Additional Evidence.
If we only had the generic ballot to work with, I would be much more cautious about suggesting a 70 seat gain. But that’s not the only evidence.
• The Democrats are in trouble like never before. Almost every Democrat except those in the deepest blue areas has been polling below 50% in the polls. That is extremely significant. Incumbents who poll below 50% are very likely to lose. Add in that 70 of those Democrats are sitting in red districts, and that spells serious trouble for the Democrats.

• Moreover, for their chances to improve, Obama’s poll numbers need to rise. But he’s only getting worse. Each of the major polling organizations is reporting Obama at record lows, and week after week he seems to keep on sinking. Even groups like the AP and Gallup, both of which are heavily weighted to favor Democrats, show Obama below 50% support now. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that Obama only beats Ron Paul by 1% (42% to 41%) in a national match up. . . Ron Paul. Good grief!

• And, as predicted, ObamaCare is becoming a lead albatross. Polls show that the public is getting more and more angry about it now that it’s passed. Even the Associated Press now admits that its own polls show 50% of the public opposes it. More reliable polls show much higher opposition numbers (Rasmussen has it at 58%). And try as they might to sell this thing, between now and November is too short of a time to change minds.

• They are losing (or have lost) everyone they’ve gained in recent elections. They poll worse with whites and males than at any time ever. They have lost suburbanites and what used to be called Reagan Democrats. Indeed, there’s little left in their support except blacks, young single women, and socialists.

• The Democrats are relying on an “excite the base” strategy. But they keep selling their base out -- look for the next sell out to come with the Supreme Court nominee. And even if they could excite their base, their base already supports them at the 95% level, i.e. there is no more base to excite, and still it's not enough to avoid a crushing defeat.

• Finally, Democrats are praying for an improved economy. But the people aren’t responding to improved consumer and producer numbers because of unemployment and fears about policy. Indeed 76% rate the economy as “poor”. Moreover, if you want a real indication of how people are feeling, watch where they put their money. “Retail investors” -- that’s fancy speak for “average people” -- are withdrawing money from the market, not adding. That’s a true vote of no confidence.
So putting all of this together, I am starting to suspect a 70+ seat swing in the House is likely, with a possibly much higher swing possible if the Democrats don’t start learning some lessons very quickly. But based on the course they are charting, it's rather obvious they’ve learned nothing. And that’s going to make November very, very interesting.

Indeed, it looks like Obama and Pelosi finally really might make history.


Tennessee Jed said...

I truly hope so. Perhaps an equally compelling question might be "what potentially is out there that might improve the Dem's chances. We know outright lying is usually in the playbook. I suspect the administration will put out tons of crap about the improving economy and the old media will eat it up. I just wonder, though.

Joel Farnham said...


I was right about HealthCare being a dead albatross and the Dems putting it around their neck. It is getting more interesting.

Jed, they already are putting out crap that the economy is rebounding, but the American people aren't buying it this time. With the MSM going all in for a demagogue with socialist tendencies and insisting he isn't, with the MSM going all in for Global Warming and it isn't warming at all, with the MSM lying and being exposed daily as liars and with the speed of the internet well the American people will only listen to them for so long.

Plus with analysts like LawHawk and Andrew and contributers like WriterX, Bev and Scott, we get to see much more clearly what is really going on and how to decide for ourselves.

LL said...

It would be interesting to see (and it's only hypothetical) what the results would have been if:

The Democrats had pushed for rational healthcare reform (tort reform, portability, dealing with pre-existing conditions, opening the market to competition, etc.), had been transparent as they promised they would be and if they hadn't been quite so blatantly socialist.

barack hussein obama might have been able to restrain himself from alienating ever-single US ally and he and his side-kick Joe (Slow Joe) Biden hadn't played the fools from Jerusalem to Bangkok.

And the list goes on.

A moderate Democratic congress and a moderated President rather than the "barack hussein obama regime".

StanH said...

I tend to agree with one caveat, how will the Republicans act? With few exceptions they are all Washington politicians and have shown a remarkable propensity to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

Example: Jim Corker working with Chris Dodd on financial reform. Lindsey Graham working on immigration, and climate change with various democrats. Jim Coburn admonishing FOX News. John McCain in ’08 telling us that Barry’s a swell guy. When the MSM reported racial epithets being leveled at the Congressional Black Caucus, and like trained seals Michael Steele and John Boehner instantly repudiating statements which were not made…you get my point.

Joel Farnham said...


Why, that sounds almost like a McCain presidency!!!! ;-)

Tennessee Jed said...

I am not so down on Senator Corker to the extent Big Government is. I don't begrudge him for trying to get involved in defining the financial oversite legislation, and I do believe there needs to be reform and some government oversite of the derivatives market. That oversite must be crafted to avoid government policy promoting "too big to fail," and which keeps pension funds from investing in inherently high risk financing.

Last I heard from Senator Corker, he could not support the amount of invasive government oversite in the Dodd bill.

CrisD said...

Great post.

I agree with the responses about the wiley Democrats and the gutless Republicans.

Heard a tape of Mitt Romney complimenting Obama on his great work in Afganistan. Mmmmm. Mitt have any idea about the President's foreign policy idiocy?
Trying to be statesman-like? Romney is complimenting a very horrid administration and is not capturing mood of nation.

Must add that I have seen news stories about rebounding economy but it is not what I see. I see prices going up, less stock in stores and smart people cutting up credit cards. Hopefully some of the media will stay on top of that issue.

TJ said...

Interesting analysis Andrew. We can only hope and pray it turns out that way. And in 2012, hopefully there won't be any third party candidates to spoil things.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, They will try a lot of things. But I think the problem right now for the Democrats is that they don't understand why the people have turned on them.

Look at the issue of financial reform. As I said the other day, no one really cares about that. The people care about the debt, our security, their jobs, their health care and their taxes. And those are all areas that the Democrats are either trying hard to ignore or they are on the wrong side.

I have no doubt that they will trumpet the "improved economy" -- they already are. If a Republican had been President, we would be hearing about the end of America right now. Instead, we hear about every improvement no matter how meaningless. But the people aren't buying it. I honestly think they've stopped listening.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think you put your finger on the problem for the Democrats. Before the internet became as powerful as it is today, the Democrats could rely on the fact that the MSM would lie and distort everything to make the Democrats look good. But those days are over. The MSM is still up to its same old tricks, but the people don't trust it anymore.

Instead, people have turned to other sources they trust. And fortunately, there are many excellent sources out there that do a great job of explaining what is really happening. Sometimes it's even as simple as just reading a bill for yourself. Seriously, before the internet, could anyone have read the health care bill? No, but they can now. . . and they did. So when the Democrats showed up for their lie-fest townhalls, they ran right into people who could point to specific section of the bill and demand answers -- answers they didn't have. This is something the Democrats have never had to deal with before.

Joel Farnham said...


To be fair, this time around, it is the Democrat Politicians who are on the receiving end of voter anger. It should have been the Republicans 5 years ago.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, My biggest fear with Obama when he came into office was that he sounded very rational and he sounded a lot like he'd learned the lessons of Clintonism -- moderate Democratic policies can be very popular.

If Obama had been as intelligent as he likes to think he is (and he obviously isn't), then he would have gone with the approach you mention -- careful, rational reform that makes sense to the public, that doesn't over-reach, and which sounds like it really could make the system better. The public would even have forgiven an expansion of government coverage as part of that, so long as everyone benefited. But instead, he chose to let his left flank make a total mess of it -- interest group handouts, filling the bill with pork and pet peeves, and ideology over effectiveness.

Because of this, they've doomed themselves. Ironically, I think that if they'd gone the smart root, they could have doomed the Republicans. As it was, they could have kept the Republicans out of power for several generations, now its the Democrats who are facing being tossed out for several generations.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, That is the question. I think the Republicans need to come up with a small, effective platform so that they can show that they stand for something. Beyond that, they need to go on the attack. They can't just hope that the Democrats implode on their own.

Like Jed, I'm not worried about Corker. Graham is a problem though.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. The Republicans are doing a great job getting out the word that Dodd's financial bill is nothing more than a huge bail out. Obama has even had to deny that recently.

AndrewPrice said...

CrisD, Romney annoys me to no end for that very reason (as do others). He is playing by "old-school Republican rules", i.e. the Charlie Brown/Lucy Van Pelt and the football rules, where Republicans play nice no matter what the Democrats do over and over and over.

Any Republican who wants to remain in office better realize very quickly that the electorate is sick of that and that they aren't going to accept that from their Republican representatives anymore. That's why marshmallows like Crist and McCain are in such trouble.

As for the economy, I think the MSM is going to spend as much ink as they can afford telling us how the economy is miraculously better between now and November. But that doesn't make it so, and the people aren't believing it. As long as the unemployment rate stays above 9% and the under-employment rate stays around 20% people will know better -- as evidenced by their unwillingness to invest and business's unwillingness to hire.

Moreover, the MSM is forgetting that the economy always improves in the summer (because of temporary summer hiring), but then sinks again in September/October. So trumpeting success now, will only make the fall in September/October look all the worse.

BevfromNYC said...

Elections are won and lost by the Independent voter. Both parties must spend most of their time to convince the Independent ones to vote for their candidate. Their bases are their bases and will vote straight party tickets no matter what. However, Democrats have lost the Independant voters in droves. Have the Republicans pick up those voters?

Writer X said...

Great analysis, Andrew!

What is an "energized voter"? Is that someone likely to vote? I don't see the groundswell ending any time soon either, especially as people can't find jobs, spend more for less, and find out (especially the Dems who were so excited for Healthcare) that the Healthcare Bill is smoke and mirrors and is really code for higher taxes, more debt, less choice, and decreased medical care/quality. It's like when you think you purchased a Cadillac but really only got a broken scooter.

Go Dems!

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, November does seem a long way away and things can change. But right now, this is how it looks. I don't see anything that is likely to change in the meantime -- especially as summers tend to be slow news time. But you never know. Sooooo let's keep our fingers crossed!

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, True. And the electorate handed the Democrats the chance to put the Republicans away forever, just as we got that chance in 1994. We blew it over 10 years, they blew it over one year.

Now we need to hope the Republicans can follow through and do it right this time.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I agree. And I think that the Republicans are making moves in the right direction by associating themselves with the Tea Party people. If they run on a platform of fiscal sanity, getting the debt under control, lower spending, lower taxes, and lower regulation, then I think they can easily attract the middle of the road types.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Although they didn't give a real definition of "energized voter," it appears to be people who said they intended to vote -- as compared to "likely voters" which usually means people who voted in prior elections.

I think what this is getting at are the very people who are out there protesting and calling Congress. All the polls show right now that these people overwhelmingly intend to toss the Democrats out on their rear ends.

You're right about the Cadillac turning into the scooter. And right now there are a lot of upset scooter owners.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: The rosy picture that Obama is trying to paint about the economy "rebounding" is a false hope for them. Most of the results of his socialist policies haven't yet affected the economy, and they haven't even begun to eat the rich. There has unquestionably been a small uptick in the market, but volatility is a far more dangerous factor as investors hold their breath waiting to see what crazy scheme will emerge next.

Still, the big factor that could save the Democrats, but is much more likely to sink them, is unemployment. All the stimuli and grandiose government hiring programs are not fooling the public, and unlike Reagan, who survived the continuation of high unemployment in his first two years, Obama has no ability to convince Americans that there is genuine hope that high unemployment is a temporary condition that will turn around. While Reagan was encouraging business that creates wealth and hires millions, Obama encourages dependence on government which eats wealth and costs thousands more jobs than it creates.

All the Democratic programs simply increase unemployment and weaken take-home pay for those lucky enough to still have a job. The economy "rebounding" means very little to the unemployed and the underemployed. Every new program the Democrats create means higher taxes and less money for businesses to hire new employees and re-hire their old employees. And now, the Democrats are having to admit that to fill their massive debt-hole, a value-added tax (VAT) would likely be necessary. I'm sure that will thrill all the unemployed who are already counting every penny just to survive.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Not only are the policies bad, but the expectation that they are coming is keeping people from hiring as well. It's like the worst kind of combination -- "we may do something really stupid to you soon."

And you're right, the economic numbers mean nothing if they don't translate into increased income and more jobs. And that, they are not doing at the moment. Indeed, income continued to shrink last year and unemployment hasn't budged.

BevfromNYC said...

Just in case you haven't seen this - Contract From America

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Seen it. . . liked it!

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