Bush Approaches All-Time Worst Approval; Realignment Back In Play

The last nine days have resulted in polling numbers for Bush nearly equal to his historic lows of early November, 2005 (source for most polls):

Bush Job Approval, 2/21-3/1
Poll      Date       Approve    Disapprove    Gap
Fox        3/1         39         54        -17
Gallup     3/1        38           60        -15
LATimes   3/1        38           58        -20
Q-poll     2/28       36           58        -23
Cook      2/26       40           54        -22
CBS       2/26         34        59        -22
ARG       2/21       38           58        -20
Mean      ----         37.6      57.3       -19.7

And here was Bush's previous low stretch:

Bush Job Approval, 11/1-11/15
Poll      Date       Approve    Disapprove    Gap
Hotline   11/15      39           59        -20
Gallup    11/13      37           60        -23
News      11/11      36           58        -22
Gallup    11/10      40           55        -15
Fox      11/9         36       53        -17
AP      11/9         37       61        -24
NBC      11/7         38       57        -19
Pew      11/6         36       55        -19
ABC      11/2         39       60        -21
Zogby      11/2         39       61        -22
AP      11/2         37       59        -22
CBS      11/1         35       57        -22
Mean      ----         37.4      57.9       -20.5

This is exactly what we need to order to achieve endgame on Bush's job approval. For those of you who have forgotten my opinion on this subject, here is a reminder:

So where does all this lead? We busted through the 40 point floor a long time ago. We have now busted the 60% disapproval ceiling. What's next--29% disapproval? Is that our goal? And after that, is it another arbitrary number? Or is Bush's resignation / impeachment our goal?

In a word, no. Now that we have passed 60% disapproval, there are no more numeric goals when it comes to Bush's disapproval. Sub-35 would be nice, but it is not necessary. The goal now is realignment. Bush's disapproval is so high, and his position as the face of the Republican Party is so assured, that it is now possible to envision a vast national realignment away from the Republican Party based primarily on backlash against Bush-ism (aka, contemporary conservatism). Bush Sr.'s extended period of disapproval at this level led to the Perot and 1994 realignment, which helped us greatly in 1992 but on which we utterly failed to capitalize in 1994. Carter's extended period of disapproval led to the 1980 realignment, which saw Republicans sweep the senate and the White House, as well as the first serious defections of Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party. Johnson's extended struggles from 1966-1968 also led to a realignment in 1968

Bush's approval is now low enough for a realignment to take place in 2006 and 2008. A realignment is far more important to Democrats and progressives than Bush's impeachment or resignation could ever be. This is a generational event and, considering the timing of previous realignments, 1968, 1980 and 1992-4, the timing also suggests that the opportunity is ripe. Also, the realignment will clearly come from Independents, not disaffected Republicans, as Jerome first envisioned several months ago, and as I have also documented as well. As Ruy Teixiera has called it, the opportunity before us is the Indycrat realignment.

The key to realignment, of course, is not just that Bush's approval rating remains at this historic low. The key is that is stays at this low long enough in order to dislodge a large number of voters from the Republican coalition. But how long is long enough? With the exception of a few outlines in December and January, Bush's approval has been this low, or very close to this low, since the end of September. That means we have put in about five months thus far. Compare this to bad stretches for other Presidents that preceded realignment:

Bush I: It went bad for the first Bush in mid-March of 1992, and stayed bad until the election. Eight months.

Carter: Two bad stretches. First, six months from mid 5/79 until late 11/79. Second, another six months from 5/80 until the election.

Johnson's disapproval never reached the lows of Carter or Bush I, but his realignment was primarily regional anyway. It didn't have to be as low--it just had to be low in the South.

With five months already under our belts, we are clearly getting close to the length of time necessary for the realignment. In fact, the latest Democracy Corps poll actually suggests that we may already be there:

We have entered a new stage in the 2006 election campaign, where Republicans now have become part of the problem too. These are voters that Republicans can potentially reclaim, but that effort to reconsolidate the base will be difficult, take time and be watched across the electorate. As we can see in this latest Democracy Corps poll, Democrats can run a campaign to change Washington so it works for ordinary Americans and can offer an agenda that dominates any Republican claims on progress.

But the starting point is George Bush, who every day is nationalizing this election on our terms. Other polls show breathtaking drops on job approval, but even more so for specific areas, like the war on terrorism and Iraq. He was already low on the economy. In this survey, he hits historic lows on the country's direction and specifically, on changing Bush's direction. With his personal approval hitting new lows here, we very much want 2006 to be about Bush's stewardship for the country. For sure, as we saw this past week, the Republicans will seek to make this about something else.(...)

If Democrats win the 2006 election by 11 points, as in this survey, that would represent a 13 point swing from the actual vote in 2004, when the Republicans won by 2.5 points. This is identical to the level of vote swing the Republicans achieved between 1992 and 1994 - view conventionally as a landslide election.

Importantly, the latest fallout has produced the first major drop in the standing of the Republican Party. The percentage giving warm/favorable responses dropped 6 points to only 36 percent. The attempts to distance themselves from the president on these various issues has produced less confidence in the Republicans overall, who have depended on their show of unity and strength. There are a lot of pieces that have to be put back together.

They own a war that has reached its low point in popularity and an economy that is producing little joy among ordinary voters. The Democrats could watch these unfolding events with some awe, but we recommend that they be heard. Voters are dislodged and dissatisfied, and as we shall see in this survey, extremely critical of what the Republicans have done and very open to a Democratic agenda.

The opportunity is ripe. Voters are dislodged. Confidence in Bush is dropping, and the combined effect of Bush's low approval and Republican efforts to distance themselves from Bush is having the effect of lowering the opinion of the Republican party. This shouldn't come as a surprise to really any Democrats, as the image of our party has been consistently lowered in this manner over the past two decades.

Realignment is back. The extended period of extremely low disapproval for Bush has resulted in large numbers of voters becoming dislodged form the Republican coalition. This is really the first time this has happened since 1994. We should remember, of course, that large numbers of voters were dislodged from both coalitions in the early 1990's, but in the end, Republicans claimed those voters and scored the 1994 realignment. Dislodging voters is only the first part of the process. We have to claim the vast majority of these voters for the Democratic coalition. That is a process that will be equally, if not more difficult, than dislodging the voters in the first place.

There's more...

Continuing to Push for 434

Already in 2006, Democrats have filed to challenged Republicans for more seats (385-395) than they did in 1998 (380). We are looking very good to break the recent record of 419, held by Republicans in 1994. Today, North Carolina become another success in our recruiting goals, as all thirteen districts now have a Democratic challenger.

Even with all of our successes, a lot of work remains to be done. The next six weeks are perhaps the most crucial we have ever faced in our push for 434. Here are the remaining 40 districts where there is definitely no Democratic challenger, and the 10 districts where there may or may not be a Democratic challenger. As you can see, most of them need to file in the next six weeks:
  • Texas. Filing deadline has passed. TX-11, the district that shall live in infamy.

  • Mississippi, 3/1. MS-01, MS-03. Gotta come through tomorrow.
  • Pennsylvania, 3/7. Unsure: PA-05, PA-09
  • California, 3/10. CA-21. Unsure: CA-22, CA-42
  • Iowa, 3/17. IA-04.
  • Utah, 3/17. UT-01, UT-03
  • 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-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, MI-06.
  • Oklahoma, 6/7. OK-01, OK-03.
  • Arizona, 6/14. AZ-06.
  • Wisconsin, 7/11. WI-06
  • New York, 7/13. NY-03, NY-13. Unsure: NY-26
  • Minnesota, 7/18. Unsure: MN-03
  • Delaware, 7/28. Unsure: DE-AL
  • Washington, 7/28. WA-05.
  • Louisiana, 8/11. LA-04, LA-05, LA-06, LA-07.
We are getting close now. With 20-24 districts to fill before tax day, our hopes of a sweeping realignment rest significantly in fielding challengers in these districts. I am very worried about Mississippi tomorrow. I am also worried about CA-21, and the two Utah seats. I feel pretty good about our chances to fill that seat in Iowa.

Realignment requires many factors, and challenging every seat is one of them. Big congressional ballot leads, low approval ratings for Bush, the generic advantage, voters knowing that Republicans control congress, fundraising, and big state level opportunities are all among the factors, but so is leaving no seat uncontested. 2006 will not be our 1994 unless every single one of these and other factors are in place. We have to make this happen.

How Can We Create A Change Election in 2006?

I have been following an email discussion on this topic, but I thought I would present my response to the entire MyDD community, because I would like to hear your feedback and ideas. The important thing to remember in this discussion is that we are looking not at different tweaks and temporary adjustments that would just lead to victory, but that would actually lead to a significant, long-term change in the electorate.

This is a big and important question that we need to try and develop an answer for. Using a wide selection of my post-2004 election writings, I have placed my rundown of the most common ideas in the extended entry. In the comments, I would like to hear your ideas (and so would quite a few other powerful netroots progressives).

I am going to post one idea above the fold because, unlike everything else I discuss, it is based upon something I have never posted on in the past:

1. Clearly differentiating ourselves from Republicans. I'm all for this idea and for its sibling, "moving to the left." I actually believe that it is absolutely necessary in order to create a change election. After all, how can there be a big change if the electorate doesn't think that a big change is possible?

The problem with this is, I think it has already happened in the mind of the electorate. Long term NES data shows that more than any time since the start of public polling, the country believes there is in fact a clear difference between the two parties (see here), and that it matters which party wins any given election (see here and here).

Conclusion: If voters believe now, more than at any other time in history, that there are important differences between the two parties, and that it matter which party wins any given election, then maybe clear differentiation isn't the Holy Grail many have long thought it was. I still think it is good that it happened, because I'm not sure how a change election would be possible otherwise. But I don't think we need to do something in 2006 that already appears to have been accomplished in the mind of the electorate.

In the extended entry I consider several other ideas, including talking more about values, the "Culture of Corruption" frame, the 50-state strategy, running on national security, running on any issue besides national security, pointing out that Republican control congress and moving to the right / center.

There's more...

The GOP Train to Realignment

I was riding DC's subway the other day and saw why Republicans may well solidify their electoral realignment in the next couple of years.

An advertisement in the subway car was making the pro-life case. I wondered why was this ad up now in January, when abortion is not the issue du jour (even though it never goes away).  There was no big media campaign focused on abortion during the month, no big message to get out to the public. The ad, unlike many political ads, was not connected to any one immediate need, no immediate advocacy to change minds for a vote or an election. The only thing I could come up with was that this ad was planting the seed for a longer term, more strategic effort to change hearts and minds on abortion.

The same thing is going on in Spartanburg, South Carolina is going on with homosexuality.

There's more...

Shift towards Democrats in Northeastern N.Y.?

Since my last diary, some have asked to see more maps and a further analysis of voting trends in New York State. The first will begin with the area I am most familiar with, the Northeastern region of the state.

Analyzing voting trends, Northeastern New York, long a rock-ribbed Republican bastion since the Civil War, is trending Democratic in federal elections faster than any other region of the state.

There's more...

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