Sunday, September 25, 2022


The Washington Post's Aaron Blake tells us that Democrats are leading in the polls in a number of swing-state races that have one thing in common: unlikable Republican candidates.
The gap is perhaps most pronounced in Pennsylvania, where both GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano have trailed consistently in the polls.

... In three recent polls — from Muhlenberg College, CBS/YouGov and Monmouth University — the percentage of people who viewed [Oz] unfavorably was double-digits higher than those who viewed him favorably. The Muhlenberg poll showed 29 percent of people liked him, while 53 percent disliked him. And the CBS/YouGov poll shows even 36 percent of Trump voters dislike him.

Oz’s opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), has middling approval numbers. But in each poll, Fetterman’s net favorability (i.e. positive views vs. negative ones) is more than 20 points higher than Oz’s, which helps explain Fetterman’s consistent edge in the race....

The story is similar in the governor’s race, where Mastriano’s image ratings are about as bad as Oz’s; he’s also double-digits underwater in all three polls.... And thanks to running against a Democrat who’s more popular than Fetterman, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mastriano’s net image rating is consistently more than 30 points worse than his opponent.
The pattern repeats in the Michigan governor's race and in Senate races in Arizona and New Hampshire (where Democrats have significant leads), as well as in Senate races in Ohio and Wisconsin (where Democrats are doing better than expected).

... these popularity gaps are often bigger than the margins in the actual head-to-head matchups. And there’s one main reason for that: partisanship.

As The Post’s Philip Bump recently wrote, the CBS/YouGov poll showed Fetterman led Oz on several key issues when it comes to voters’ decisions, often by double digits. Yet Fetterman led by just five points on the ballot test. That’s because party often wins out on voters’ decisions.

Even more telling: The same pollster showed that, in both Pennsylvania and [the Senate race in] Georgia, a majority of people supporting the Democrat said they were doing so primarily because they liked their candidate. But 8 in 10 supporters of the Republican said their vote was primarily about supporting their party or voting against the other candidate.

... what these polls suggest is that if Republicans can win in these states — and by extension win the Senate — it’ll be in large part because of a favorable environment and the ever-present pull of partisanship.
If "partisanship," with no party label attached, is the reason unlikable Republicans are competitive in races against more likable Democrats, then where are the examples of the opposite phenomenon? Where are voters embracing Democratic jerks rather than nice, likable Republicans in competitive races?

Maybe there just aren't any nice, likable Republicans. It certainly seems as if Republicans try harder to be nasty and unlikable. Maybe Republicans in this year's most competitive races are doing better than their likability scores because some voters are choosing them for their unlikability. (That would appear to explain the good polling numbers for Ron DeSantis, the least likable person on the planet.)

Republican and right-leaning swing voters see an obnoxious Republican and think: He may be a jerk, but he's our jerk. Democrats don't seem to do that. (Maybe they did in response to Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson, but they're both out of politics now.)

But Republicans also seem to have much more party loyalty than Democrats. It's not hard to see why: Their favorite media sources have engaged in pure cheerleading for their party (and relentless demonization of the other party) for decades. The rest of the media is described as "liberal," but it's always ready to shiv a Democrat. (Was there a single positive news story published about Joe Biden between the fall of Afghanistan and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act?) The entire political world hits the fainitng couch when a prominent Democrat issues a blanket condemnation of Republicans, while Republican politicians call Democrats treasonous Marxist America-haters every day.

So it's not surprising that Republican jerks can be competitive. They're Republicans. There's simply more Republican partisanship than Democratic partisanship.

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