Two Stories and Two Primaries

First, from Gallup (emphasis mine):The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 1, finds the Democrats holding a substantial lead over the Republicans as the party more registered voters currently support in this fall's elections for Congress. More than half of registered voters (53%) favor the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in their district; only 39% favor the Republican.

Gallup's recent trends on this "generic ballot" question -- from October 2005 through early February 2006 -- found a smaller six- to seven-point lead for the Democrats. However, the current 14-point Democratic lead is similar to a 12-point Democratic lead recorded last August. It is also among the highest seen since the Republicans came into power more than a decade ago.Next, from the front-page of the Washington Post:Democrats Struggle To Seize Opportunity
Amid GOP Troubles, No Unified Message
By Shailagh Murray and Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 7, 2006; Page A01

News about GOP political corruption, inept hurricane response and chaos in Iraq has lifted Democrats' hopes of winning control of Congress this fall. But seizing the opportunity has not been easy, as they found when they tried to unveil an agenda of their own. So, according to Gallup, Democrats are currently in their best position ever to retake the House of Representatives. Yet, despite this, for some reason we are subjected to front-page stories from the Washington Post about how we are failing to seize the opportunity.

I have a question for Murray and Babbington: how large does our lead in the polls have to be before we are "seizing the opportunity?" 20 points? 40?

The truth is that at this moment, there are two major congressional primaries taking place down in Texas, one on the Republican side, and one on the Democratic side. The Democratic primary, in TX-28, is hotly contested by two candidates (with a decent effort from a third), all of whom are in the district as we speak, running strong campaigns based almost entirely on ideas, and receiving loads of activist support from a variety of outside groups. Further, there isn't even a Republican challenger for the winner of this primary to face in November. Republicans were too scared to even run a candidate here.

By contrast, in the Republican primary in TX-22, the leading candidate, Tom DeLay, is spending the day in Washington with lobbyists because he is too afraid to actually go meet the voters in his district.

In this environment, you tell me who is scared of the upcoming elections. You tell me who is seizing an opportunity, and who is hiding under a pile of lobbyist's coats hoping everything will somehow magically get better. Right now, Republicans are too weak to face the voters, but that the Washington Post felt obligated to run a front-page story saying otherwise was the easiest prediction ever.

Support Ciro

The Texas primary is tomorrow. Ciro needs money in the fairly likely event of a run-off. If there is no runoff, the money will be donated back to ActBlue itself. Also, check out Charlie Cook's take on the race.

Of course, MyDD will feature live returns and commentary on the race tomorrow night.

The Most Useful 2008 Poll To Date

I am a big fan of the importance of activist straw polls, as is Hotline, but activists alone do not reveal the potential direction of a Presidential primary season. In the past, I have argued that before the actual primary season begins after the 2006 elections, polling firms should release national and statewide favorable / unfavorable polls of all potential candidates rather than trial heats, since such polls reveal a lot more about the potential of the various candidacies than any trial heat could ever do this far out. Fortunately, one of my favorite polling organizations, Quinnipiac, has now gone and done this for the majority of the potential Democratic field. The actual poll the released is a warm / cool thermometer rating, but really it is close enough.

The poll asked responders to rate candidates on a scale of 1-100, with 1 being the "coldest" and 100 being the "warmest." On the Dem side, they polled people on both Clintons, Kerry, Edwards, Gore, Obama, Feingold, Warner, Edwards and Biden. I wish they would have also done Clark, Richardson and Bayh, but oh well (had they done so, I think I could have done an early, first, crude cattle call). Here were the results of the potential Democratic candidates among Democrats:

High Name Iders among Dems
          Clinton    Kerry    Gore    Edwards
1-20         5         7        9        5      
21-40        4         8       11        6
41-60       19        29       28       27
61-80       30        33       31       30
81-100      39        18       17       12

<50         10        17       21       13
50          10        16       17       15
>50         78        62       59       52
DK           2         5        3       20
Mean      73.1      63.1     60.5     63.0

The Gore supporters around here didn't believe me when I argued that his favorables among Democrats were lower than Kerry's (many even made a sad version of the conservative argument that I was somehow aiding "the enemy" by even mentioning the idea), but maybe you will believe me now. Of the well-known potential Democratic candidates, Al Gore is the last popular among Democrats. He is certainly not unpopular, as he receives positive marks from Democrats almost three times as often as receives below average marks. However, among Independents, his numbers are terrible:

High Name Iders among Inds
          Clinton    Kerry    Gore    Edwards
1-20        29        24       29       14      
21-40       11        17       19       12
41-60       20        27       26       28
61-80       21        20       17       19
81-100      18         8        7        7

<50         39        43       51       29
50          12        14       15       16
>50         47        37       32       36
DK           2         5        3       20
Mean      50.2      45.4     41.9     49.8

I want to point out something about all of the high name Ider's here. First, the notion that Clinton is somehow "unelectable" because she is too polarizing a figure is clearly bunk. She has a higher favorability among both Democrats and Independents than John Kerry and John Edwards, which shows that she would clearly have room to grow on their vote totals. Second, I am pretty stunned to see that John Edwards only has an 80% name ID nationwide. People might just remember him as the guy who ran for Vice-President. Third, Gore's low favorable rating among Independents shows just how difficult any project to recuperate his image nationwide would actually be. The guy has been thoroughly trashed by the Mighty Wurlitzer. Of course, one of the main reasons Gore has suffered an image problem is because since 2002 he has become a far less cautious speaker, which is also the main reason why he has grown popular online (and one of the main signs that he doesn't plan on running again). The Republican Noise Machine will seek to viciously discredit any Democratic truth-teller, even though it is the same act of truth telling that will make someone popular online (not ideology, as reporters and even many people in the netroots like to believe. Hitting Republicans hard is what most netroots activists seem to really want above all else. Of course, ideology is a factor, just not the main factor.)

The lesser known potential candidates tell an equally interesting story:

Low Name Iders among Dems
          Warner     Biden   Feingold
1-20         2         4         3
21-40        5         8         4
41-60       11        15        11
61-80        8        15         8
81-100       2         4         4

<50          8        12         7
50           7         9         7
>50         13        25        15
DK          71        53        70
Mean      54.7      56.2      56.9

None of the Democrats listed here have a warm / cool ratio equal to any of the high name ID Dems. All of their numbers are lower, as are their "over 50" / "under 50" ratios. In the primaries, it will thus take a lot of work for any low name ID candidate to emerge as a strong alternative to any high name ID candidate. Of course, Feingold and Warner have a serious leg-up on Biden in this regard, Feingold because of his very strong online support and Warner because of his strong online support and tremendous fundraising potential.

I should note that while he isn't listed here, according to this poll Barack Obama has emerged as a Democratic figure equal in popularity to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. In fact, Obama has higher Dem and Ind numbers than even Clinton, and even has higher numbers among Independents than the low name ID people have among Democrats (he even has a higher score among Republicans than Gore has among Independents). Given this, even though he is not going to run in 2008, it is imperative that we work to defend Obama's image, and that we encourage Obama to become a stronger voice for the Democratic Party. Republicans have long worked to trash every single leading Democratic voice, with the aim that we will have no good choices for Presidential candidates or national spokespeople. Clearly, they have not succeeded in trashing Barack Obama yet, even though they have started to try. He needs to be a successful leading voice for the party for a long time to come, so that one day he, or some Democrat of equal popularity, can bring an end to our national divisiveness, and operate as the leader of a new natural, national governing coalition.

There's more...

Useful and Not Useful Information About 2008

Nine months out from the start of the 2008 Presidential race, I thought I would produce this little guidebook for readers to sort out the useful information on 2008 from the not useful information.

Useful: Polls that examine the size of the anti-Clinton vote
We all know that Clinton is the frontrunner for 2008, and that she is going to top any poll among Democrats in every state in the country. Duh. What we don't know is the degree to which the people who are currently not opting for her in these polls are seeking another alternative. Some of the first information I have seen on this subject comes from Dick Bennet of ARG, and was posted earlier today on Political Wire (emphasis mine):Clinton may be the front-runner, but it is more in the sense of the 1976 or 1992 primaries. A large field will help her, but one candidate becoming the "anti-Hillary" will hurt her because she does not gain additional support as the field narrows. Our interviewers report that the intense negatives for Clinton reach across party lines as there are some Democrats with as strong reactions against her as Republicans, so the real race will be who can become the anti-Hillary the fastest. This is useful information about the potential campaign dynamic. That Clinton's support does not rise among voters even as the number of non-Clinton choices decreases tells us that 30-40% might be something of a limit to her "easy" support. Even as candidates drop out or fade, support for Clinton may not increase. This seemingly indicates that 60-70% of the Democratic electorate would seriously consider another candidate. Hillary might be vulnerable.

Not Useful: National telephone surveys
Here is some totally useless information about 2008:WNBC/Marist Poll. Feb. 13-15, 2006. Asked of Democrats and Democratic leaners nationwide. MoE ± 5.

"If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary were held today, whom would you support if the candidates are [see below]?" This is so useless I am not even going to show you the results here. There is no national primary. Why did Marist publish a national poll on the Democratic nomination this far out? For that matter, why did they publish a national poll at all when they have never conducted state polls of either Iowa or New Hampshire? Everyone knows that national polls before and after Iowa and New Hampshire are almost unrecognizable. Several candidates will drop out after those two primaries. Others will receive large boosts from the news coverage they will receive for doing well. It would have cost Marist the same amount of money to conduct an Iowa or New Hampshire poll as this national poll cost. The sad fact is that WNBC probably commissioned Marist to conduct this useless national poll instead of a useful statewide poll because a national poll has higher entertainment value. It wouldn't be the first case of poll whoring by MNBC / Marist.

Useful: Activist Straw Polls
Too large and too quick to be effectively stuffed, by far the best way to get a sense of how the progressive activist base is thinking is to check out the semi-monthly Dailykos 2008 straw polls. And if you want to get your finger on the pulse of the conservative activist base, then check out the 2008 straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

These polls do not give an accurate picture of national public opinion, but they do give some real insight into the potential dynamic of the 2008 campaign. These are polls of the people who will actually donate to, and volunteer for, Presidential campaigns. These are polls of people who pay attention to politics every day or every year, and who are highly influential among their family and friends when it comes to political discussions. These polls show us which candidates have the most upward potential in the 2008 campaign. They don't tell us what the campaign is like right now, but they do give us strong indications of what the campaign will look like in the future.

Not Useful: Trial Heats Without Favorables
"Not useful" might be a bit of a strong term here, but certainly favorable / unfavorable numbers would be a lot more useful right now in determining the possible dynamic of 2008 than would trial heats. The reason for this is that at this point in time, trial heats are basically measuring name recognition. The candidates with high name recognition, Clinton, Edwards, Gore and Kerry, (or McCain and Giuliani) will always do better in these polls than candidates with low national name recognition, such as Warner, Bayh, Feingold, and others.

Since trial heats are basically just measuring name recognition, wouldn't it be more useful to actually conduct a poll that measures the quantity and quality of name recognition? Knowing, for example, that Clinton has an 80 / 18 favorable / unfavorable rating among Dems, that Kerry has a 52 / 47, that Warner has a 12 / 3, and that Feingold has a 5 / 2 would tell us a lot more than any trail heat ever would (note: I'm just making these numbers up for the sake of argument). We would learn, for example, that Kerry would have no chance at all. We would also learn just how much work Warner and Feingold would have to define themselves. In other words, we would actually learn about hwo the campaign could potentially unfold, rather than just where it stands before it has even begun. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, to date there has not been a comprehensive favorable / unfavorable survey of the potential Democratic or Republican candidates. Instead, we are treated to a regular diet of empty-calorie trial heats.

Useful: Cash on Hand and PAC fundraising
If you are not a big netroots candidate, you are going to need a strong, already developed fundraising base in order to succeed in 2007-8. Hell, even if you are a netroots candidate, you are still going to need a strong donor base outside of the online community in order to make a strong campaign. However, since no one is "officially" raising money for a presidential run yet, it is best to get a sense of what donor base s/he has lined up.

On that front, here are two good sources for information on the shadow money race: Demcoratic PAC fundrasing and Open Secrets.

Not Useful: Congressional Vote Rankings
Some people may be into these, and I even have my own, but quite frankly there are so many of them from so many different organizations and they are all so opaque and riddled with questionable methodological issues that I just don't find them all thr>at useful. This is especially the case when considering that the Senate, the congressional chamber that produces by far the most Presidential candidates, is notoriously Byzantine in its rules and procedures.

But if you are one of the rare few for whom this is really your thing, go ahead and check out some of the latest from National Journal.

PA Assembly 175th District

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Welcome to :

Since my State Representative, Marie Lederer, has announced she will not be seeking another term, the upcoming Democratic primary in May is likely to nominate the next seat holder in this vastly Democratic district.


As such, I'll be posting news and information about the potential candidates for the Democratic nomination. I'll add any info I get about other parties, too.

But to get us started, here's a PDF file map of the PA General Assembly districts in Philadelphia from the fabulous Committee of Seventy ( ): ilahouse.pdf

There's more...


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