What A Dem Landslide Could Mean

Cross-posted from Patterns That Connect

As the once-fringe idea that Democrats could sweep to power in the House becomes the new conventional wisdom, the closing days of the campaign will be partly informed by what people think this could mean.  Naturally, those who were the last to see this coming will hog the airwaves and printspace telling us what it all could mean.  But online reality-based community is used to that noise.  So what should we be thinking instead?  My tentative answer involves a brief review of some scholarly theorizing, as well as a good hard look at election numbers since 1892, aided by a nice clean graph.

First off, of course, "don't take anything for granted" remains as true as ever.  But increasingly, people are realizing that the prospect of a massive "wave" victory can be just as motivating as fear of defeat.  Perhaps even moreso.  But what is this "wave" we speak of?  Some tell us it is rare event, that comes only once or twice in a lifetime ("water flowing underground").  This raises three questions: (1) What do they mean by that?  (2) Is it true?  (3) If so, what does that mean?

The first-take answers are:

(1) They are talking about so-called "critical" or "realigning" elections.
(2) They are relatively rare, but more like once-every-10-to-20 year events, if we count "sub-critical" elections the experts don't all agree on, but are noticeably not run-of-the-mill.
(3) This is a huge opportunity, and Dems should make the most of it.

There's more...


1. MT-Sen (Rasmussen, 7/6, 500 LV, 5/11 results in parenthesis):
Tester: 50 (44)
Burns: 43 (48)

Tester is facing a huge monetary deficit, so even with numbers this good and one of the nation's best local people-powered movements behind him, the race cannot be considered a likely pickup yet. This is still a toss-up.

2. MO-Sen: (Rasmussen, 6/27, 500 LV, 5/8 results in parenthesis)
McCaskill: 42 (40)
Talent: 42 (43)

As good as these numbers look, again I have to caution against considering this race anything but a toss-up. While undecideds usually break to the challenger, McCaskill has a high name ID since she has held statewide office and since she was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2004. Thus, in this case, the incumbent rule does not apply.

3. MA-Gov (State House News 6/28-30. Registered voters. MoE 5% overall, 7% for Democratic primary subsample. 3/16-28 results in parenthesis).
Democratic Primary
Patrick 35 (15)
Gabrielli 22 (25)
Reilly 19 (37)

General election matchups
Healey (R) 31 (31)
Patrick (D) 40 (29)
Mihos (I) 9 (15)

Deval Patrick is clearly a movement candidate, and these numbers are very good for him. A victory for Patrick would allow the progressive movement to (gasp!) actually govern with a trifecta. The only other state where that is a possibility is New York, since Spitzer is a movement candidate too (you can be supported by the movement even if you are not necessarily a product of the movement). In New York, however, that would require taking back the State Senate. Difficult, but not impossible.

4. CT-Sen: No poll, but Mystery Pollster has a great piece up on the difficulty of polling the race.

And check out this encouraging analysis: Rick Santorum remains far behind in Pennsylvania. Conrad Burns is in trouble in Montana. Jim Talent trails in Missouri. Mike DeWine is threatened by a noxious Republican atmosphere in Ohio. Lincoln Chafee is endangered in Democratic Rhode Island. Jon Kyl faces a surprisingly tough race in Arizona. Despite excellent candidates in Minnesota and Washington state, no Republican challenging for a Democratic-held Senate seat is in the lead. Thus, a six-seat takeover capturing the Senate is possible.

This is of special concern for Republicans because the third of Senate seats contested in 2006 is more favorable to their party than what will follow. The long-term outlook troubles Graham, who sees a bleak GOP outlook north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in Maine and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania may be the last Republican senators from their states. The rising Hispanic-American population not only has transformed California into a Democratic state; freshman Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar looks like the new political face of Colorado, and Arizona is no longer safe for Kyl conservatives.

These demographic changes suggest an end to the gradual political realignment that began in the late '60s and produced consistent electoral success for Republicans. As a South Carolinian, Graham must worry about his party suffering the fate of Democrats in the 1920s. Democrats elected only 20 House members and won no presidential electoral votes outside southern and border states in 1920. The author? None other than Robert Novak. Maybe that is one of the reasons I remain very cautious.

CA-50: 36, 35, 34, 33, 32... realignment?

Gallup, 4/13: 36% -- 59%
Pew, 4/16: 35% -- 57%
Fox, 4/19: 33% -- 57%
ARG, 4/21 34% -- 60%
CNN, 4/23: 32% -- 60%

The CNN poll (their first with a new polling outfit, post-Gallup) gives Bush a net -28% approval, 3% short of the worst ever recorded for either his father or for Jimmy Carter. In the past, whenever a President has fallen to a net approval worse than that held by Bush (1952, 1974, 1980, 1992), the elections that year proved to be a decisive victory for the party in opposition to the President. Given this, I do not really care if Bush's approval rating goes any lower or not, as long as it remains low. As I have written in the past, the endgame against Bush is not for his approval to be 20% or some other number, but rather for his low approval to result in political realignment.

As I wrote earlier today, this summer, the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial primary is the most important election facing progressives. A very close second is the CA-50th special election to replace Duke Cunningham on June 6th. If Francine Busby wins that election, it will be a sign that realignment, which is a step well beyond simple Democratic control of Congress, is most definitely in play in 2006. I have written extensively about my worries concerning turnout and a generally inadequate democratic electoral machine, but a win in CA-50 would go a long way toward putting those fears to rest.

The Republican spin on CA-50 is that Republicans only fared 1% worse in the April 11th run-off than Bush fared in the district in 2004. Like most Republican spin, it does not hold up to scrutiny. CA-50 is much more Republican in non-Presidential elections than it is in Presidential elections. Democratic congressional candidates should not be performing at the same level as Democratic Presidential candidates in this district for some time, there is a typically long lag period between voters switching parties in presidential elections and switching parties in local elections (see The South, Democrats In). For Busby to reach Kerry's totals despite voters having 14 Republican options to choose form (which basically meant that generic Republican was on the ballot, a tremendous advantage for Republicans) and $5M behind those candidates (much more than any Republican will be able to spend in any district this fall), is, for my money, a very encouraging sign. I like her chances on June 6th

However, if Busby fails to win on June 6th, no matter how low Bush's approval numbers are nationwide, we can probably put our hopes of realignment to rest. While in a normal year Busby should have no business competing in this district, this is not supposed to be a normal year, and on June 6th the cards will not be stacked against her like they were on April 11th. If we want realignment, we have to win in CA-50.

Republicans know this too, and are looking to make a stand in CA-50. To date, the NRCC has spent $800K in this district, and are currently running a $400K ad buy with Swift Boat type ads that include the following outrageous claim:Busby even praised a teacher reported to have child porn, saying he was 'always willing to lend a hand.' That's dangerous." Of course, Busby actually said: "He is a teacher who put in a lot of extra time. He was always willing to lend a hand. I was shocked about the investigation." How dare she be surprised and shocked that a teacher might have been involved in child porn! No one should be shocked by something like that! How dare anyone ever put quotes in context!

This is what Francine Busby is up against: large, slanderous advertising buys form the NRCC. If we want realignment, this is an election we have to win. This is where we determine if our turnout will be good enough, and our machine is good enough to pull it off.

Support Francine Busby. YearlyKos is two days after the election, which makes it entirely possible that the election narrative will dramatically shift in our favor with a victory. This is one where your resources are critical. Oviously, we are going to need to do some better work with absentee voters, but please help out anyway you can.

Volunteer for Francine Busby, no matter where you live.
Contribute to Francine Busby, no matter where you live.

The Situation Seven Months From the Elections

If we have won independents, we have won the election. --Chuck Schumer on a March 29th conference call with bloggers.This election will be a referendum on Bush. --Rahm Emmanuel on a March 29th conference call with bloggers. Most members will be elected with between 80% and 100% of their support coming from Republicans. --Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen in a March 3rd memo to RNC Chair Ken Mehlman.The difficulty for President Bush here is that he is noticeably less popular among independents than one would expect of a president with a 38% overall approval rating. Instead, his approval among independents is some 9-10% below what we might expect based on other presidents. --Political science professor Charles Franklin, March 4"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"Independents: 28% Approve, 62% Disapprove --CBS News Poll. March 9-12, 2006. N=1,136 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults) Among independents, the number approving of Bush's job performance has fallen from 47% in January 2005 to 26% today/ --Pew Center for People and the Press, March 151. Bush's overall approval rating is 79 percent among Republicans and 14 percent among Democrats-a gap of 65 points. But his rating is also just 29 percent among independents, producing a very sizable gap of 50 points relative to GOP identifiers. Put another way, independents are 50 points away from Republicans, but just 15 points away from Democrats. 2. Only 20 percent of independents believe the country is going in the right direction, a mere 12 points more than the comparable figure among Democrats-but 37 points less than the figure among Republicans. 3. Twenty-six percent of independents approve of Bush's handling of the economy (66 percent disapprove), 14 points more than the number of Democrats who approve-but 44 points less than the number among Republicans. 4. Twenty-six percent of independents approve of Bush's handling of the Iraq situation-15 points more than Democrats; 43 points less than Republicans. 5. On handling the campaign against terrorism, 38 percent of independents approve of the job Bush is doing. That's 11 points more than Democrats, but 45 points less than Republicans. 6. How about whether Bush has "the same priorities for country as you have"? Sixty-nine percent of Republicans agree, but just 11 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of independents. 7. Was removing Saddam Hussein from power worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq? Only 30 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats say yes, compared to 70 percent among Republicans. 8. And what should the US do now? Just 24 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents believe we should "stay in Iraq as long as it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy" (the administration position), compared to 61 percent of Republicans. --Ruy Teixeira, October 13th 2005, in coining the term IndycratsHere is an eye-opening fact about the Survey USA 50-state tracking released today: in every single state, Independent approval of Bush was closer to Democratic approval of Bush than Independent approval of Bush was to Republican approval of Bush. That was the case in every state. Fifty out of fifty. Massachusetts and Utah. California and Alabama. New York and Idaho. In every single state in the country, Independents were more in line with Democrats than they were with Republicans. In fact, in thirty-three states, the difference between Democratic approval of Bush and Independent approval of Bush was less than half the difference between Republicans and Independents. In twelve states, the difference was three times as great. Nationwide, Democrats were more than 25 points closer to Independents than were Republicans. --Chris Bowers, August 17, 2005It's an alignment I've not seen in many years, since '98 probably. What it says is that Independents and Democrats have a potential new majority, apart from the lockstep Republicans. Post Sept. 11th's upswing of non-partisanship, and then all through 2004, the Independents remained in the 50-50 range in reaction to Bush. Now they've shifted, and further, have aligned with Democrats. Rove's got to do something, because this puts Bush in dangerous territory. Gone are the 50-50 days, and approaching are the 40-60 days. --Jerome Armstrong, June 24, 2005 For the 2006 elections, Democrats cannot increase their advantage among independents any further than they already have. This is the largest Democratic lead among independents in 24 years, and historically is only clearly surpassed by the advantage they held among independents in 1974. Given this lead among Independents, there has to come a time when Democrats realize that success in this election depends less on continuing to target and appeal to Independents, and more on building a political machine that can make their current appeal and potential majority into a reality at the ballot box. At the same time, there needs to come a point within the progressive activist base when we realize that in our lifetimes it is entirely possible that there will never be a better opportunity than 2006 to wreck permanent damage on the conservative movement and all for which it stands. Pass up this chance, and the next time an opportunity of this level comes around there is a good chance you will be either dead or retired. I do not doubt that the 2005-2006 election cycle has seen a significant increase in progressive grassroots and netroots electoral activism over previous cycles, as Schumer indicated yesterday. However, considering the degree to which progressive grassroots electoral activism was all but dead in the 1990's, that really isn't saying much. The potential for progressive netroots and grassroots electoral activism is much, much larger than its current level. For this to happen, there needs to be a reinvigorated belief among all Democrats that we can in fact win. For this to happen, there needs to be at least some increased transfer of resources away from constantly appealing to Independents, and toward invigorating progressive activists. For this to happen, there needs to be a greater embrace among congressional Democrats of at least the courage and the bravery of people like Murtha and Feingold, even if they don't want to embrace their particular stances. For this to happen, there needs to be action on the part of people like Murtha and Feingold to become leaders of the activist base, and regularly speak to their concerns in a way that will keep them motivated for 2006. For this to happen, there needs to be a strategy for Democrats beyond just watching, and assisting in, Republican implosion. For this to happen, there need to be a wider recognition among progressive activists as to just how rare and precious this opportunity actually is.

House Recruiting Notes, Post-California Edition

Over in Breaking blue, Dave Kowalski writes:Filing deadlines have past for 187 House seats. Filing for the remaining 248 seats stretches out through August. To date, 107 Republican-held House seats have filed and five or six remain unopposed (depending on the status of CA-44). That's about 5%. Of the remaining 248 seats, 125 are held by Republicans. Thirty-eight of these seats are currently unopposed. That's 30.4%. We may not be filing on every seat but at this pace Democrats will file on 422 to 424 seats. Much better than the recent high, per Chris Bowers, of 409 This is really great information, but I want to point out two small changes. First, it is still possible for Democrats to run candidates in PA-09 and PA-15. As Politics1 noted last week:PENNSYLVANIA. Major party candidate filing closed on Tuesday with no real surprises.... several congressional incumbents currently have no major party opposition -- although state laws allow the parties to file designated nominees later in the year. So we are actually only down three or four seats, not five or six, since we can still run candidates in PA-09 and PA-15. If we can manage 183 of 187 seats, we are still on pace for 425 or 426 seats overall. That would still break the record of 419 set by Republicans in 1994. Our recent high is 403, set in 2000. While we seem certain to best that mark, as long as 432 is still possible, that should be our goal.

According to Barry Welsh, the remaining seats we have to fill are as follows:
  • Iowa, 3/17. Unsure: IA-04.
  • Missouri, 3/28. MO-07, MO-08
  • South Carolina, 3/30. SC-02, SC-04
  • Arkansas, 4/4. AR-03.
  • Tennessee, 4/6. TN-02
  • Alabama, 4/7. AL-01, AL-02, AL-03, AL-04, AL-06.
  • New Jersey, 4/10. NJ-02, NJ-04
  • Virginia, 4/14. VA-04, VA-06, VA-07.
  • Georgia 4/28 . GA-09, GA-10, GA-11. Unsure: GA-03
  • Florida, 5/12. FL-12, FL-14. Unsure: FL-07
  • Michigan, 5/16. MI-03 Unsure: MI-06
  • Oklahoma, 6/7. OK-01, OK-03.
  • Arizona, 6/14. AZ-06.
  • New York, 7/13. Unsure: NY-03, NY-13, NY-26
  • Minnesota, 7/18. MN-03
  • Washington, 7/28. WA-05.
  • Louisiana, 8/11. LA-04, LA-05, LA-06, LA-07.
That makes thirty-one additional seats where we definitely do not have a challenger, and seven additional seats where we are unsure if we have a challenger. Overall, this puts us at 391 seats where we definitely have a challenger, and 399 seats where we might have a challenger (pending CA-44). There are only three seats where we definitely will not have a challenger in this cycle--though I wonder if we can still pull off some run-off magic in the primaries to change that.

We also have some very interesting news coming out of CA-24. From Politics1:Congressman Elton Gallegly (R) gets the award for the "worst choreographed" retirement in years. Gallegly waited until just before the close of candidate filing in California on Friday to release a statement announcing he was quitting his race for re-election due to an undisclosed health concern. The statement came without notice even to Gallegly's own district staff, who learned of it from media calls. Apparently, Gallegly mistakenly believed his public statement would serve to "un-file" his candidacy and allow filing to remain open for one additional week because he was an incumbent unexpectedly withdrawing. It didn't, however, because Gallegly had previously filed the paperwork to run. According to the Secretary of State's office, a candidate cannot legally remove his name from the ballot once he qualified and the filing deadline passed. Former California GOP Executive Director Jon Fleischman speculated on his FlashReport blog that Gallegly's bizarre timing was likely intended to thwart the ambitions of rival Republican Tony Strickland. Strickland, a former State Assemblyman, is running for State Controller. The timing apparently locked Strickland into the statewide race without giving him the opportunity to jump into the newly open CD-24 contest. Gallegly was the only Republican to file in CD-24. What does all of this mean? Most likely, Gallegly will need to remain on the primary ballot so that -- once he officially becomes the nominee after the June 6 primary -- the party will be allowed to select a replacement nominee. Two Dems also filed for the seat, but the district is safely Republican. While this means there is still a method for Republicans to put a name on the ballot, it is yet another unexpected Republican retirement in this cycle.

I would also be interested to know how many seats Republicans have field for so far. Since 1994, Democrats have never had more House candidate than Republicans. We came close in 2000, as our 403 was only one shy of their 404. However, this time around, I get the strong feeling that we are well ahead on the number of seats we are challenging. I would love to challenge 20-25 more seats than Republicans, since in 1994 they challenged 18 more seats than Democrats. Blowing Republicans out in this front would be both a sign of, and a contributing factor to, the 2006 Indycrat realignment.


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