Underneath the March / April Straw Poll, Part One: Second Choices

Considering the interviews I have given over the past two months, it has grown pretty clear to me that these straw polls are news worthy polls in an of themselves. However, as I mentioned before, there really isn't anyway for the MyDD straw poll to compete with the Dailykos straw poll. Dailykos has the long-term trendlines, stretching back to June, because Markos has used a stable set of candidates. Dailykos has a much larger sample size and, because the poll is only open for a single day, it is more ore less immune to large-scale poll stuffing. Further, because the results of the MyDD straw polls were nearly identical to the Dailykos polls (at least before the stuffing set in), I had a little crisis back in February where I struggled to find a justification for continuing the MyDD straw poll. Why was it still relevant? What could MyDD offer that the Dailykos straw poll did not already provide and surpass? How could MyDD still play a role in this important activity?

The answer, I eventually decided, was instant run-off. While Dailykos has the trend-lines and the more reliable results, because we had been using DemoChoice for our polls on MyDD, I realized it would be possible to learn not just who Dailykos and MyDD readers had for their first choice in 2008, but also who they had as their second, third, fourth, and even last choices. So, I contacted Markos and set up a link exchange where we agreed tos end our readers to each other's poll from now on. Then, I contacted the DemoChoice people, who were nice enough to offer me the raw data from our poll. Next, I selected roughly the first 1,000 results from the MYDD poll, so as to eliminate any stuffing from the equation, and to develop a representative sample of participants in the poll (the results in the MyDD poll after 1,000 participants were nearly identical to the results in the Dailykos poll after 14,000 participants). Finally, my brother Andy set up a database for that data, where it became possible for me to sort the candidate rankings almost any way imageable.

Now, I am proud to say, I can tell you all of the internals from the Dailykos / MyDD straw poll that you could every hope to learn. Ever wonder who Feingold supporters like second best? Ever wonder if Clark supporters prefer Edwards to Warner? Well, I can tell you all that. In fact, I am going to tell you all of that right now.

There's more...

ACTION--Fundraising Deadline TODAY

bumped again -- jonathan... this post is extremely important, but note that there are a couple of new posts below

Today is the first quarter fundraising deadline, and the numbers it reveals will have a significant impact on what candidates are considered viable by the media covering races, by staffers looking to join up with winners, by advocacy groups thinking about making endorsements, and by the political establishment looking distribute targeted resources. Because of this, I am asking you to open your wallets for all four of the active candidates on the netroots fundraising page:Please contribute to at least one of these four candidates now. I have contributed to all of them so far. Also, when you do contribute, consider dropping some coin for BlogPac as well, and providing a tip for ActBlue.

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.

Bloggers don't know nothing

The blogswarm can speak in the third person. Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg can speak in the third person too. This first person knows another first person told the AP a third person:

Rehberg said he really is not looking beyond his current campaign, where he faces a challenge from Democratic front runner state Rep. Monica Lindeen, for a fourth term.

"I know the bloggers worry about what's in the future for Denny Rehberg, but they'll waste a lot of time doing it because not even Denny Rehberg knows what's next for Denny Rehberg," he said.

That is a wonderful third person reference.

There's more...

The 2006 election narrative should now focus on the progressive, activist base

Sorry I have been gone for so long, but I am back now. This is the non-data based essence of a presentation I gave today at a progressive media conference. Look to Donkey Rising later today for more on the data that backs up just how good the 2006 could potentially be for Democrats--Chris

As we approach the 2006 midterm election, we are also inevitably moving closer to the time period when the established news media will solidify its conventional wisdom narrative about the election. To date, this narrative has focused on the apparent electoral problems facing Republicans, but with the emphasis that Democrats are not properly taking advantage of the generational level of opportunity presented to them. As EJ Dionne has noted, whenever established news outlets such as the Washington Post run stories describing just how bad the 2006 situation looks for Republicans, predictably within a few days we can expect a similar wave of stories about how Democrats are divided, have no message, are not as far ahead as they should be, or any other type of story that basically portrays Democrats as not properly taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them by the at least temporary collapse of the Republican machine. From my vantage point, this narrative, that Republicans are in trouble but Democrats are not taking advantage, seems to be the most likely shape of the conventional wisdom narrative on 2006 that we can expect from the established news media when the campaign really starts to heat up in August, September and beyond.

The main problem with this narrative is that it is now horribly out of date. Nine months ago, Jerome made a seminal post on MyDD entitled Democrats and Independents in a new majority. In the post, he discussed a Bush job approval poll from American Research Group that showed how Independents were far, far closer to Democrats in their opinion of President Bush than they were to Republicans. Since that time, poll after poll after poll on nearly every issue imaginable has shown independents, no matter where they live, to be far closer to Democrats than Republicans. Last October, Ruy Teixeira coined the term "Indycrats" to describe this trend. Political Arthmetik has noted: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. This newfound affinity for Democrats among independents is the primary reason why Democrats are currently in possession of enormous leads in generic congressional ballots. The most recent Gallup poll showed Democrats with a 20%+ lead among independents. Pew polls have shown similar margins for Democrats among independents. In short, we are now a full nine months into a nationwide trend where Independents have shifted away from Republicans and toward Democrats.

This is why the conventional wisdom narrative on 2006 is out of date. To argue that Democrats are not properly taking advantage of the situation, and that they have not developed a message to appeal to swing voters, ignores both the enormous leads that Democrats have held in generic congressional ballots for nearly a full year, and that these leads have come almost entirely from their strength among swing voters, i.e. independents. The issue at hand is no longer "in the face of Republican collapse, why aren't Democrats doing better?" Democrats are doing better. They have huge leads, and have had them for several months. In contrast to the current conventional wisdom narrative, the actual issue at hand is whether or not Democrats have the electoral and activist recourses to deliver this new potential governing majority to the polls on Election Day. In other words, the issue is not whether or not Democrats can appeal to swing voters, because they have done that. The issue is whether or not the progressive activist base is excited enough o provide Democrats with the resources to win the 2006 election.

An up to date narrative on 2006 that reflects the current political situation would not focus on whether or not Democrats have the message, the unity or the potential voters to fully capitalize on recent Republicans difficulties, because whatever message or unity they have displayed to this point has clearly been enough to build them leads in polls that we have not seen for a generation. Clearly, whatever they have done on that front, it has been good enough. An accurate, up to date narrative would reasonably and rightful question whether or not Democrats have the resources to actually turn this newly emerged, potential governing majority into an actual majority at the ballot box. Democrats are behind in fundraising. They are way behind in alternative media. They lag behind in sophisticated GOTV operations. They lag in data mining and voter targeting. Basically, Democrats lag behind Republicans in virtually every aspect of political machinery, and if the dominant, CW narrative on the 2006 elections is to accurately reflect the reality of the political situation, the main question of that narrative must be whether or not this gap faced by Democrats will be enough to keep them from turning the best chance to win a landslide election in over a decade into a reality.

Asking this question will no doubt be difficult for those individuals who have the most control over the direction of the CW. This is primarily because it will force people to actually talk about the progressive activist base as playing a, if not the, critical role in an election. Since the rise of the DLC and the "third way" the progressive activst base, which actually delivers the money and the volunteer hours to the Democratic Party has been all but eliminated from the national political discourse. Given this, suddenly talking about whether or not the progressive activist base is motivated enough in 2006 to fill the obvious holes Democrats have in terms of political machinery as the key issue in the 2006 elections will be extremely difficult for the established, CW-generating punditacracy. For months, if not years, we have been subjected to nearly endless discussions of whether or not Bush is losing the conservative base or of how the conservative activist base won the 2004 election for Bush. For at least as long, we have been subjected to nearly endless discussions concerning whether or not Democrats can possibly create a message that appeals to swing voters, to moderates, and to independents. While we have these nearly endless discussions that turn into narratives that focus upon conservatives and independents, what we never really hear much about is whether or not the progressive activist base is sufficiently motivated to engage in the sort of activism that is necessary for Democrats and progressives to actually win at the ballot box. However, with enormous Democratic leads among independents established for nine months now, whether or not the progressive base is sufficiently motivated to help Democrats close the machinery gap is in fact the main question for Election 2006. Are progressive activists sufficiently fired up in 2006 to deliver the money, the GOTV, the volunteer hours, the media and even the votes that the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates have come to rely upon during elections? That is an important question, but I can't say right now if anyone really has an answer for it, because quite frankly the progressive activist base has been all but excluded from national discussions of the 2006 elections.

It is time for that to end. With Democrats holding huge leads in the polls as a result of a massive "Indycrat" wave, the level of motivation among the progressive activist base is now the key issue of the upcoming elections. It is time for people to recognize this and start talking about this. As difficult it may be for many people to get used to, it is time for progressives to take center stage in the national political discussion once again. Are these activists motivated enough to fill the gaps Democrats face in terms of political machinery? Just reading the progressive political blogosphere for one day should reveal that it is not at all clear whether or not progressive activists have the motivation necessary to sweat and bleed for Democratic candidates in 2006. Looking at a Pew poll form last year that showed Democrats only giving a 49% approval rating to Democratic leaders in congress should show that a motivated progressive base is not a guarantee. Looking at Gallup data that suggests a 10 points swing away from Democrats and toward Republicans when polls shift from registered voters to likely voters should show that a high level of motivation among the progressive base is not a guarantee.

People need to start asking what makes progressive activists tick. What makes them give their money and time? What issues motivate them? What do they look for in their leaders? Whether or not Democrats can answer these questions will go a long way toward determining what will happen in 2006. Whether or not pundits ask this question will determine how connected they are to political reality. The motivation level of the progressive activist base holds the key to the 2006 elections. In 2004, we were subjected to endless discussions on conservative values voters. Given the new political landscape, it is about time we start having real discussions on who progressive "values voters" are, and just what it is that they want. It is time for the election narrative to change, and it is time for it to focus on the progressive activist base.

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