Polls do not predict outcomes—they tell you where things are. This is complicated by the fact that it is often extremely hard to predict turnout. In New Hampshire, you had an election with multiple candidates, and the two Democratic frontrunners are the first African-American with a realistic chance of being president and the first woman in the same position. There is also the fact that New Hampshire also has a very large contingent of independent voters, who can vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary. For starters, Obama was just weeks ago polling half of Clinton’s numbers. He broke out only recently and moved ahead only after Iowa. Even with New Hampshire’s big turnout, it only takes moving 2,600 people from one side to the other, including moving off Edwards or Richardson, or a move of independents to McCain to change the outcome by a point. Similarly an increase or decrease in turnout for a candidate also changes the outcome.
The Iowa caucus has not always figured into the presidential race as centrally as it does in this cycle, in fact until the New York Times’ Apple went out to Iowa during the Carter campaign to see what was happening, no one bothered to cover it in the old days. This presidential election season what happens in Iowa casts a large shadow over the entire campaign. Iowa, however, is not a mirror for America; at just under 3,000,000 people it is about 93% white, mostly German then Irish, English and Norwegian. And it’s a caucus not a primary, which is a whole separate conversation. The caucus is an after dinner meeting with no secret ballot and candidates are dropped off subsequent ballots if they do not get 15%—it is decidedly different from other states primaries. And polling is very difficult since it is hard to determine who will show up. Pollsters on average use a 15% turnout model even though historic turnout is about half that. Moreover, voters historically tended to make up their mind for the old January 24 meetings in the last two weeks (mostly the last week) of the campaign well after the holiday season was over. And there was also more time between each of the subsequent early state races.
Going into the presidential campaign there is a new must read: David Paul Kuhn, The Neglected Voter: white men and the Democratic dilemma, October 2007 MacMillan. Mr. Kuhn is currently at The Politico. A quote from the book, “Between Harry Truman’s narrow victory in 1948 and George W. Bush’s victory in 2004, every strata of white male vote shifted in the Republicans’ favor. For the poorest third of Americans, white women’s support for Democratic presidential candidates went up 3 percent. For white men in the same income bracket, there was a 25% decline! The much-discussed success of the GOP in reaching poor whites over half a century is a story of men. Within the middle third of white Americans, the Democratic Party saw a decline of 15 percent among white females. But white men left Democrats at twice that rate. Their support for Democratic presidential candidates declined 29 percent between 1948 and 2004. A third of white middle-class men left the Roosevelt coalition in the past six decades. Even within the wealthiest third of whites, a group that is traditionally Republican, Democrats lost 6 percent of white men since 1948, while they earned the support of 3 percent more women.”
The new political must read book is Microtrends: the small forces behind tomorrow’s big changes by Mark Penn just out this week. Hillary’s pollster and senior advisor identifies the 70 or so Microtrends that are making an impact on our culture. Look for many of them to alter the outcome of the next presidential election. Not much in the way of memoir or war stories, but a dream book for political numbers people from field operatives to media specialists. From the dust jacket: In 1982, readers discovered Megatrends. In 2000, The Tipping Point entered the lexicon. Now, Microtrends…
There is a new tome from senior pollster Dug Schoen called The Power of the Vote William Morris 2007. This is a good read and a must read from a guy who was there from the early days of the business and invented with his partners some of the innovative things political pollsters do today. He has been very successfully in the business of toppling governments and promoting democracy here and abroad. His story and his views are worth hearing. He mentioned his start in politics when at sixteen he meet now Congressman Jerry Nadler who introduced him to Dick Morris and the band of young West Side political activists called The West Side Kids where he began as a canvasser for now Assemblyman Dick Gottfried’s first race for the state Assembly. Yes, that Dick Morris as Dug said in the book. Dick promised that if he did a good job on the campaign he would become a district leader, and when Gottfried moved to become City Council President, he could become an Assemblyman and even a State Senator. There goes Morris making promises. Dug says he did not stay in the city and go to Columbia as Morris suggested, but went to Harvard and the rest is history memorialized in the book. Good thing he chose Cambridge to Manhattan since Gottfried never ever wanted to run for City Council President (now called Public Advocate) and I was in line for Gottfried’s district leader slot, which I got when Dick went to the Assembly. For a brief run down of the West Side Kids there are a few pages in Michael Tomasky’s fine book Hillary’s Turn The Free Press 2001, which is a good book to go back to at the start of this presidential race.
Now that a new administration is starting in Albany, watch dogs and goo-goos are on the look out for the next round of indictments and forced resignations. This is a good time to pause and read up on big time government scandals of the past. You don’t have to go back to the excesses of the Forty Thieves of the 1850s or the Tweed Ring of the 1860. Check out: The Man Who Rode the Tiger, The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury, 1963 by Herbert Mitgang for a look at the infamous Jimmy Walker years; and City for Sale, 1989 by the late Jack Newfield and the relentless government critic Wayne Barrett for a rundown on the later Koch years. Both are good studies of what real corruption is like and how ethics prevailed.
A strong win blew across the country and lots of Republicans fell, especially more conservative Republicans. In New York State, the Republican defeat was so big that Assemblyman Denny Farrell stepped down as State Democratic Party Chair, saying that he could not top the positive change that occurred on his watch. The new governor will likely appoint a successor form Long Island or the Erie County area. For the first time in most people’s memories, the states Democrats have all five statewide elected officials.
As big as the win for Democrats was, it could have been bigger. Partisan gerrymandering and the fabled Republican micro-targeted 72 Hour GOTV (get out the vote) Plan cut into the victory in Congressional races nationally and in the state. Nonetheless, the Democrats reversed the margin of control in the House, took control of the Senate, picked up six governors and the Republicans lost control of 10 state legislative houses.
The Democratic Party is at the beginning of a new 50 state party building campaign. Election Day, the Democrats will pick up additional governors, as well as a pile of state legislators and legislative houses. This will be important not only for governing at the local level, it will also, with additional gains in the next round of state races, be an important factor in undoing the partisan gerrymandering that occurred in recent years.
Hopefully reformers will choose non-partisan reapportionment. Though the mood of the country is decidedly against Bush and the image of his failed prosecution of the war in Iraq, the Republican reapportionment has dampened the number of seats the Democrats can pick up. Add to that the cleaver placement on select state ballots of propositions and referendums on social issues to aid conservative turnout, the expertly planned 72 Hour GOTV (get out the vote) operation using micro-targeting “true believer,” “dependable voter” and “birds of a feather” type lists from the RNC’s Voter Vault, placement of negative commercials and free media stories in key races, and a centrally controlled surrogate program and you have an effective fire wall. This, however, will only limit the damage.
From today's Cook Political Report: NY-20 Sweeney Lean Republican to Toss Up Latest attack has effect.
Results in key House races: Reuters poll WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats lead Republicans in 12 of 15 key races in the November 7 election to decide which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives.
This from The Hotline, “There aren't too many shake-ups this week. Focus mainly on races ranked 17 to 36; they are among the closest contests in the country right now. The first 10 are all but gone for the majority party, and districts ranked 11 through 16 are teetering but still in play. There aren't too many shake-ups this week. Focus mainly on races ranked 17 to 36; they are among the closest contests in the country right now. The first 10 are all but gone for the majority party, and districts ranked 11 through 16 are teetering but still in play.”
NY 24 the open R seat moved down to 13 it had been number 17.
The Cook Political Report reported improved chance for a Democratic takeover in the open seat NY 24:
NY-24 Open Seat Toss Up to Lean Democratic
Bloomberg's press secretary has said that his principal is not running for president, but this quote in today's NY Times makes it sound like they are at least road testing the framing for a run.
“There is no independent network,” said Stu Loeser, Mr. Bloomberg’s chief spokesman, who played the same role in the re-election effort. “To a certain extent, we were the last independent campaign.”
And perhaps the next one?
Let’s start out by saying that this election is nothing like 1994 or any other wave mid-term election, whether or not it has been nationalized by events or issues. In reality, to think of ’94 as a wave caused by a couple of bad years for the Clinton presidency combined with a revolution involving a shift of ideology in the electorate to a more conservative agenda is too simple.
Those two factors were a part of the reason so many seats changed sides, but reapportionment of district lines and party organization were more responsible for making the win so big; and those later two facts are making it hard for the Democrats to repeat the Republican success in this year’s election. It also exposes a continuing problem for the Democrats.
Recent New Jersey US Senate polls:
Kean (R) Menendez (D)Quinnipiac 48% 45%
Rasmussen 44% 39%
Fairleigh Dickinson 43% 39%