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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Sunday | June 02, 2002

Dems chances in Nov. better than pundits admit

I don't think I have read a more flawed political analysis of the 2002 elections than this piece by the SF Chronicle's bureau chief. He argues that the GOP is poised for gains in November. Below is a point by point rebuttal of his arguments:

Republican governors preside over six of the seven largest states (California is the exception) and have just drawn new legislative boundaries that will last for the rest of the decade.
The seven largest states are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illiniois. It's true that only California has a Democratic governnor, but redistring efforts in those states haven't been the GOP landslide that was expected (other than in PA). In large part, the author makes the amateurish mistake of assuming that the governor has final say over redistricting efforts. In reality, redistricting is a process pitting all three branches of state government with oversight from the US Justice Department and the federal courts.

But aside from that, it is uncertain why the author attaches such significance to the redistricting efforts of the biggest states. What matters is the overall effects of redistricting, and on this count, the GOP only has a two-seat advantage, with another 6 districts competitive for both parties.

President Bush, even as his numbers fall back to earth, remains the most popular president of modern times. The top drawing mavericks on the fund- raising circuit -- former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and U.S. Sen. John McCain -- are both on the Republican team.
Democrats had attained parity with Republicans in soft money donations -- now banned by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law (unless the courts decide otherwise). Republicans have the edge on hard money donations, true, but Democrats can counter with stronger grass roots support from unions. In any case, Republicans have always massively outspent their Democrat counterparts. Indeed, Bush spent $66 million more than Gore ($186 million to Gore's $120 million), and still managed to lose the popular vote. Truth is, Republicans can only remain competitive by buying elections. In a battle of messages, the Democrats win hands down.

As for the president's popularity, it's been dropping at a pace of 2-3 points a month. The latest 9-11 revelations, as well as Enron's resurgance, can only chip Bush's lead at a faster clip. Finally, Bush's popularity was at, what, 176 percent in November 2001, less than two months after 9-11. Yet the Democrats staged a near-sweep of races in that off-year election, including the two gubernatorial contests in Virginia and NJ (both previously held by Republicans). The Dems captured over a dozen mayorships from the GOP in some of the nation's largest cities (including LA, San Antonio and El Paso), as well as two state legislatures (NJ and WA). The Dems did not lose a single office they controlled. Indeed, the only race of national import Republicans were able to win was the NYC mayor's office. Then there was the embarrassing loss of Bush's handpicked gubernatorial candiate in California, Richard Riordian. It is clear that Bush's popularity gives no traction to other candidates.

The field of Democrats lining up to challenge Bush in 2004 appears so unlikely to prevail that the Washington Monthly and the New Republic both published essays this month on why McCain ought to switch parties and become the Democratic nominee.
This statement clearly ignores recent political history. Bush the Elder had a commanding lead in the polls two years prior to his reelection battle. GHWB seemed so unbeatable that pundits annointed him his second term, pointing to the lackluster field of Democratic hopefuls (none hailing from the Dems "A" list). We all know what Clinton was able to accomplish.

But aside from that, the Democrat field is shaping up to be a who's who of the best Democrats have to offer. Lieberman remains popular (if mistrusted by Democrat activists), NC Sen. John Edward is the second coming of Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Daschle is solid, so much so that intense GOP efforts to demonize him have failed miserably (unlike Dem efforts against Newt Gingrich), MA Sen. John Kerry is a Vietnam War hero and marquee name in Democratic Party circles. Heck, even VT Gov. Dean is an effective campaigner and powerful voice for the party's left wing. As for McCain, he's evolved into a true RINO (Republican in name only). A McCain party switch would inflict a grevious wound on the GOP.

Political handicappers expect the GOP to retain, if not expand, its House majority, defying a historical trend dating back to the Civil War in which the president's party in all but two elections has lost seats in the House and Senate in nonpresidential election years.
This is perhaps the craziest of all statements in this SF Chronicle piece. As this Business Week article notes, early Republican confidence is starting to erode. The latest Gallup poll shows that on a generic congressional ballot, voters prefer Democrats to Republicans 50-43 percent. Democrats also maintain huge leads in domestic issues such as health care. Republicans hold strong leads on foreign affairs and national security. Again, the latest 9-11 revelations, as well as the fatalistic "we're going to get hit again, and there's nothing we can do about it" warnings, can only damange the GOP on those categories.
The Democrats only need six pickups to retake control of the House. I'm predicting 12 house pickups by the Dems, as well as three Senate seats. The Democrats are going to massacre Republicans in governorships.
More Americans identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats, albeit by a tiny margin, for the first time in polling history.
This poll was released months ago (January, I believe). As the latest version of the same poll shows, Democrats are reestablishing their historical lead over Republicans. The brief assension of the GOP was based entirely on 9-11. As the administration's handling of the crisis takes a beating, so will their poll numbers.

Posted June 02, 2002 08:54 PM | Comments (0)


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