Having it both ways

Tom Jensen on PPP's latest Montana polling, showing Baucus with shrinking support from Democrats, and popularity among Republicans long gone:

Baucus' plight is similar to that of a number of other Senators who tried to have it both ways on health care, watering down the bill but still voting for it in the end. Blanche Lincoln's stance, among other issue positions, alienated her base so much that she nearly lost her party's nomination. And it certainly didn't help her to win Republican votes in the fall, leading to her overwhelming defeat in November. Joe Lieberman's actions on health care have helped to put him in a most unusual position- his approval rating is under 50% with Democrats, Republicans, and independents, one of very few Senators who's managed to pull off that trio. And on the other side of the aisle Olympia Snowe's vote for the health care bill at one point in committee, even though she voted against it in the end, infuriated the Republican base in the state and has many folks hankering for a primary challenge against her.

Every voter has his or her issue that is, to them, indisputably the most important issue ever, but Jensen's conclusions show that every party also has a set of issues that support for (or opposition to) is a nearly foregone conclusion in the minds of voters.  Affordable health care was such an issue for Democrats.  Opposition to that same reform was a given for the GOP.

Baucus lost any popularity he held with Montana Republicans the minute he even acknowledged there was a health care reform effort to be a part of.  So you follow that up with a plan to water down the bill, weakening not only the reform, but support from the base you need even more, having lost the Republicans?  Genius strategy.

You're losing one side either way.  Why not give the side you still have everything they really want?

The choice was always either complete support of the strongest bill possible, or complete opposition to any reforms at all, and the electorate had shown that clearly in poll after poll leading up to Max's two month long delay crusade to be everyone's hero. 

Baucus' antics during the health care reform debate exemplify the Democratic Party's obsession with moderation (as defined by David Broder!) for moderation's sake and bipartisanship (as defined by Fox News!) for the media's sake, and now, for Baucus, it's coming home to roost.

Time to bypass this Liebermann/Blue Dog strategy for electoral "success."

Bipartisanship: Independents Couldn't Care Less

Writers at The Democratic Strategist have embarked on a breakdown of the composition of the 2010 electorate, questioning the oft-repeated, little supported meme that Democrats lost big on Nov 2 for moving "too far left," against an electorate moving center-right.

Connecting two of the most recent posts on Ruy Teixeira's data crunching conclusions offers a glimpse at the reality slaughtered by what is passing elsewhere for post-election analysis.

First, Andrew Levinson on the shift of "moderates" to "conservative":

During the early, pre-9/11 era, not all of George W Bush's supporters considered themselves conservatives. Many considered themselves moderates. They would express this by saying things like "I usually vote Republican but I consider myself a political moderate and not a hard-core conservative. In 1992 I supported Bush senior, in 1996 I supported Bob Dole and In 2000 I supported George W. Bush because he seemed like a moderate too".

Since Obama's election, however, as the political debate has become deeply polarized with charges of socialism and fascism leveled against Obama, these same people can no longer accurately express their feelings about politics by calling themselves "moderate Republicans". They are now more likely to use the word conservative to describe themselves rather than moderate because the latter term does not adequately convey a clear rejection of Obama's agenda. In actual conversation this "moderate Republican now turned conservative" view is expressed in phrases like "Oh, I'm not a tea party person but I'm really a pretty conservative person in a lot of ways, you know, and I just don't support a lot of those these things Obama's doing."

Second, Ed Kilgore on "true independents":

...true independents tend to vote against the party in power when the economy is bad, regardless of the perceived ideology or partisanship of the party in power. It happened in 2006 and it happened again in 2010. Arguing, as some have done, that the answer for Democrats is to "move to the center" and find some way to work with Republicans makes sense only if such steps contribute to an improvement in the performance of the economy. If they don't, then it's not the right direction to take, particularly if you consider the costs in terms of sacrificing progressive policy goals and making the Democratic elements of the electorate unhappy precisely on the eve of the cycle when they can be expected to return to the polls.

The two takeaways here:

Despite the self applied "moderate" label, these "shifting" voters were just Republicans by another name.  At some point, they simply stopped labeling themselves "moderate."  The change from "middle" to "right" happened in poll responses, not voting habits, and within the confines of Republican voters, not the electorate at large.

Second, "true" independents don't care about bipartisanship, the process, or (surprise!) even intra-party leadership battles.  Many of them fail to even identify policy as Democratic or Republican policies.  They identify policy as effective (something changed for me) or ineffective (nothing changed for me).

Overall ideology hasn't changed much in the past few years, and it's important to understand, especially as a challenge to the idea that the midterms were a warning for Democrats to tack right in response. 

So no evidence of a shift in the electorate, and the swing-voters of 2012 will be just like the swing-voters of every election.  They don't care if the parties work together, and they certainly don't care if the Obama alienates his base in order to prove his commitment to bipartisan policy.  What they care about, as always, are the policies that brought results.

Kilgore quotes The Monkey Cage's John Sides:

Here's a counterfactual to ponder. What if Obama and the Democratic Congress had rammed through a $2 trillion stimulus, failing to garner a single GOP vote, but then the stimulus somehow reduced unemployment to 6%? Do you think independents would be offended by the lack of bipartisanship?

Nope, they'd be singing the Democrats' praises, all the way to the 2012 voting booths.

New and Improved

     A long time ago marketers figured out that in a consumer driven society the quickest way to sell a product is to put the "new" label on it. It doesn't matter if the product has changed or not. A case in point is how many "new" Cokes have there been? Every couple of years we are treated to a new release of Coca Cola under some new ad campaign and packaging. Marketers have learned that the majority of Americans will buy anything so long as it is "new" just because it is labeled "new". New and improved, under new management, and advanced formula are all familiar refrains of the marketers and have proven time and time again to be successful in attracting consumers. Unfortunately here in America we elect Presidents the way we buy products based on slick marketing and fancy packaging. Few of us have the time or the desire to investigate the people we elevate to the highest office in the land. The amazing thing about this is that we have just had the longest primary season ever and yet there are many people who claim they no nothing more about the candidates than what has been dished out by the tabloid journalists.

There's more...

Independents will be the key to the White House in Nov.

We should all be aware that independent voters are the ones who will decide who the next President will be, because independent voters will decide which way the swing states will swing.

This comes from Joel Connelly's Column in Friday's Seattle P.I.:

A survey is but a snapshot in time...
...but Obama's strength among independents can't be ignored.

Elsewhere on Thursday, a Michigan survey showed Obama with an eight-point lead over McCain: Clinton and McCain were tied.

Even in New York, Clinton's home state of late, a SurveyUSA poll had Obama running far ahead of McCain, 57 percent to 36 percent, while Clinton has a much narrower 47 percent to 41 percent lead.

The polls from Hillary's home state of New York make Obama's case of for being the most electable candidate irrefuteable. The voters of New York know Senator Clinton better than voters anyplace in the country with the possible exception of Iowa, yet Obama's margin over McCain is more than three times as big as Hillary's margin.

There's more...

Indies Show Strong Anti-Incumbent, Anti-GOP Streak

Netroots pollster Joel Wright has been busy recently. Not only did he just conduct a third poll for MyDD last week (this one a second follow up on CA-50), he also developed and put into the field a survey for Mike Caudle for State Representative in Oregon district 39, the campaign I am managing this cycle. (As a side note, one of the nice things about running a non-targeted campaign is that you can hire the people you want, not just those the party recommends; as a result, I of course turned to Joel -- a.k.a. Sun Tzu on MyDD -- who is definitely one of the best in the business.)

Oregon HD 39 is a great swing district to check out for polling today. While the area has a rich Democratic Party tradition, it is nevertheless conservative; and while Republicans have a voter registration edge in the district of close to 900 voters (or about 2.5 percent), non-affiliated (independent) and minor party voters make up nearly one-quarter of the electorate. In 2004, the district split its ticket, giving George W. Bush a 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent two-party victory but Democratic U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley and Democratic County Commission candidate Martha Schrader 51.1 percent and 53.5 percent of it's two-party vote, respectively.

So how will this district swing this fall? First, let's look how it's swinging today. According to the poll of 300 likely voters conducted by Joel Wright from August 7-10, 2006 (MoE of +/- 5.8 percent), just 31 percent of the district thinks Oregon is moving in the right direction while 46 percent believe the state is on the wrong track. These numbers are much worse among independent and minor party voters, 19 percent of whom say the state is on the right track while 57 percent say the state is moving in the wrong direction.

Looking at the current state Representative for the district, House Majority Leader Wayne Scott (R-Canby), 38 percent of likely voters approve of the job he is doing. Interestingly, the group least likely to approve of Scott are not Democrats but independents and minor party voters, just 23 percent of whom voice approval of Scott (compared to 30 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans).

In today's head-to-head matchup in the district, Scott holds a 46 percent to 25 percent lead over Caudle -- a large, though by no means insurmountable margin. Independent voters are largely undecided in the race, with a large plurality not yet able to voice support either way (46 percent are undecided, 25 percent are for Caudle, and 23 percent are for Scott). However, when positive and negative statements are read about both candidates (and I promise you, Joel was very strict about keeping two statements balanced), Scott's lead evaporates as Democrats come home and indies and minor party voters swing hard to Caudle. On the informed test question, the race is a statistical dead heat, with Scott at 41 percent and Caudle at 39 percent. Independent and minor party voters support Caudle by close to a 2 to 1 margin, 49 percent to 26 percent. The swing among undecided independent voters from pre-test to post-test is stunning, with close to 88 percent of this subset moving to Caudle while about 12 percent move to Scott.

Of course the numbers from this poll cannot and should not be taken as representative of the nation as a whole or of independent voters around the entire country. Nevertheless, the fact that these non-affiliated voters in a swing district from a swing state are so negative in their outlook towards the current political environment and so unwilling to support Republicans (and, correspondingly, open to supporting insurgent Dems) provide further anecdotal evidence that the anti-incumbent and anti-GOP mood in the country is permeating throughout the entire ballot and threatens not only Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and in governor's mansions around the country but also Republican control of state legislatures, county commissions and city councils across the country.

(For more on this particular race, check out Howie Klein's great write-up about Mike or check out Mike's campaign blog.)

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