I have been a strong advocate for the Democratic Party's western strategy for some time, both because the Democrats performed relatively better in the region in 2004 than they did elsewhere and because the issues facing the region, like conservation and dealing with growth, might make voters in the region more amenable to Democrats than Republicans. Indeed, Democrats across the Mountain West performed well in 2006, with Democrats being elected or reelected governor in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming; Democrats picking up congressional seats in Arizona and Colrado; Democrats winning a close Senate race in Montana; and Democrats increasing their share of state legislative seats throughout the region, as well.
But for as well as the Democrats did in 2006 by those metrics, new polling indicates that the Mountain West might not be quite as ready to swing Democratic as many, including myself, had thought. Taking a look at the new survey from the Cook Political Report and RT Strategies some interesting points jump out. Among registered voters around the country, Democrats hold a striking 16-point lead -- 52 percent to 36 percent -- on the generic congressional ballot question. Breaking down that number region by region, the numbers work out as follows:
Interestingly, the Democrats actually perform better in the South than they do the West. Certainly the difference is within the margin of error. But at the same time, according to the poll, the only region of the country in which the Democrats do not receive a majority on the generic congressional ballot question is in the West. But the story does not end there. Taking an even deeper look into the crosstabs of the poll at the internals of the West, some very important questions come up about the potential for Democratic Party performance in the region.
I must note as clearly as possible that the margin of error for these subsamples is very high, particularly for the Mountain West, which only had 78 respondents. As such, a large grain of salt must be taken before reading too much into these numbers. Still, it's worth noting that, at least according to this poll, Republicans perform their best in the Mountain West while the Democrats perform their worst in the region. These numbers, in fact, are much worse than they are for the Democrats in the South or even in the "Farm Belt" where the Democrats maintain a 42 percent to 36 percent lead (though, again, with a very high margin of error with just 76 respondents).
Certainly we should not fret too much over numbers that come with such a high margin of error. What's more, I'm not, by any means, advocating that the Democrats give up on the strategy of focusing on the Mountain West in favor of, say, going back and trying to win back the South in 2008. That said, these numbers should at least throw a splash of cold water on to those who believe that the Democrats are bound to win in the Mountain West in 2008, both because of the trend in the region and because of the party's focus there (with the Nevada caucuses and the party's 2008 convention being held in Denver), and cause folks on this side of the aisle to redouble their efforts and outreach in states across the region.