Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I haven't responded to the new Washington Post poll or the other recent polls because what they're telling me is pretty much what I've assumed for weeks -- that Democrats are going to have their heads handed to them in November. A lot of people -- Kevin Drum, Steve Benen -- find this highly illogical. I can understand why, although I'd argue that (a) the numbers aren't as self-evidently baffling as they seem and (b) airtight logic isn't really a big part of the public's message. Steve says:

It's impossible ... to dismiss the obvious trend evident in the latest data.

CNN/Opinion Research

It's the kind of data that has to drive Democrats batty -- the CNN poll shows an unpopular Republican Party, which voters blame for the nation's economic problems. The same poll shows Republicans leading on the generic ballot by seven, 52% to 45%, up from a three-point edge a month ago.

Washington Post/ABC News

Respondents in this poll prefer Democrats to Republicans to handle the nation's problems, believe Democrats are more in line with their personal values, and consider Democrats more interested in the concerns of people like them. Like the CNN poll, this survey also shows the public blaming Republicans more than Democrats for the state of the economy.

And yet, on the generic ballot, among likely voters, Republicans have an enormous 53% to 40% lead.

NBC News/
Wall Street Journal

As with the other results, this poll shows an unpopular Republican Party pushing unpopular ideas. And yet, on the generic ballot, among likely voters, the GOP edge is now up to nine points, 49% to 40%.

Two things:

* The negative numbers for Republicans on everything but voting are partly because it's fashionable for teabag types to pay lip service to the notion of being contemptuous of both parties. In fact, they really like Republicans. but they just won't admit it, except when asked how they'll vote

* The other GOP-leaners probably don't want what the GOP is selling -- but they do want things shaken up. They just don't know any other way to get that to happen.

President Obama can announce all the new job-creation ideas he wants -- no one in either of these two groups is going to take him seriously. The former group never would have. The latter group still might, even now -- if he'd do something to suggest that he knows mistakes have been made. In pro sports, this would be the time to fire the manager or coach. That might not be the precise treatment required for the malaise, but it would be seen as a shakeup.

But Obama won't fire people. And that's the one thing (apart from bombing Iran or killing bin Laden) that could possibly change the course of this election.

So a lot of voters will vote Republican, not because they like Republicans or prefer Republican policies, but because they want something that's clearly not the status quo.

And yet Zandar is almost certainly correct:

No matter what actually happens in November, Republicans "won a mandate" and Democrats "need to listen to the people."

This absolutely won't be the message the voters send -- but it absolutely will be the message the Beltway receives. We'll hear "mandate" again and again and again. The polls Steve Benen quotes tell us that's precisely wrong, but after November 2, it will be forbidden to say so.

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