Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2010 -- Looking Up a Little for the GOP, 2012 Too, Did Obama Bait and Switch?

2010 Projection Update
Things are looking up for the GOP in the mid-terms...at least a little bit. History tells us that the party in Presidential power tends to lose seats in the mid-term elections, the most notable exception being the 2002 mid-terms, which came in the aftermath of September 11th and a highly popular President George W. Bush (yes, there was, in fact, a time that George W. Bush was a very popular President.)

The Senate first:
Here are the key changes:
Pennsylvania -- moves from Likely Democratic Hold to Lean Democratic Hold
Recent polls show likely GOP nominee and one-time primary challenger Pat Toomey surprisingly close to incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in general election polling. This is one the Democrats should hold, but Pennsylvania is still somewhat of a swing state.
Kentucky -- moves from Lean Democratic Pick-up to Lean GOP Hold
Sen. Jim Bunning (R) is out of the race and the Kentucky GOP can breath a sigh of relief. The state party is damaged, but let's face it, Kentucky is still a pretty darn red state.
Connecticut -- moves from Tossup to Lean GOP Pick-up
The Democratic party's best shot at holding this seat is probably for Sen. Chris Dodd (D) to retire. He is heavily damaged following the AIG flap and polling well behind. It is unknown how recent revelations that Dodd has cancer will factor into his decision around re-election.

So this leaves us with:
Safe Democratic Holds (8)
Hawaii, Maryland, New York (2), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin
Likely Democratic Holds (4)
Delaware, Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota
Lean Democratic Holds (4)
California, Arkansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania
Lean Democratic Pick-ups (2)
Ohio, New Hampshire
Toss-ups (Democratic Controlled-0)
Toss-ups (Republican Controlled-1)
Lean GOP Pick-ups (2)
Colorado, Connecticut
Lean GOP Holds (3)
North Carolina, Georgia, Kentukcy
Likely GOP Holds (6)
Florida, Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota
Safe GOP Holds (6)
Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

So, the likely projection range is:
No Change to Democrats +1
Best Case for Democrats (all leans): +6
Best Case for GOP (all leans): +6

Okay, so this isn't exactly wonderful news for the GOP, but there is slight movement in their direction. The bad news is that they still face a tough map (more seats to defend and more seats to defend in swing states) and there is no credible route to retake the Senate. If President Obama keeps having bad months, though, they could cut into the majority considerably.

In the House:
Latest generic polling has dropped to Democrats +1%, which gives us a range (projecting based on 2008 polling and actual results) of:
GOP +20 to GOP +28

20 to 28 seats would be a respectable mid-term pick-up for the GOP but will still fall considerably short of the 40 seats that they would need to gain to retake the House.

So, the situation has improved somewhat for the GOP. As of this point, they are poised to hold their own in the Senate and perhaps halve the majority in the House. If I were the GOP leadership, I'd be focusing my efforts on the House. It's a long-shot, but if President Obama is unpopular, they have an outside chance at narrowly retaking the body, or at least significantly narrowing the margin and increasing their influence. In the Senate, they should be happy if they can pick-up 1 seat to give them a fillibuster-potential minority.

2012 -- The Campaign Has Been On for...About 197 Days
Don't kid yourself, we are in a perpetual Presidential campaign. It's very, very early, obviously and this is probably more speculative chatter than real projeciton, but here is the latest:
For the primary nomination, the latest polling has Mitt Romney and Mick Huckabee in a dead-heat for the lead (22% and 21% respectively) with Sarah Palin showing a close third (at 19%). Newt Gingrich is a distant fourth (at 5%) and no one else even registers 5%.

This is notable for a few reasons:
(1) Huckabee being tied for the lead shows that he has some staying power. He is a smart, likeable, funny and articulate guy who happens to be radically conservative (sorry, but if you don't believe in evolution, you are a radical.)
(2) Palin was running first or tied with Romney immediately after the election. Her star has faded somewhat with the passage of time and her resignation but still remains a potent force.
(3) Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) has dropped off the national map entirely (he was at 9% in earlier polling) following his disaster of a response speech to President Obama's address to a joint session of congress. He may still be a rising star, but he is plenty young still -- 2016 seems more likely than 2012.

In potential national match-ups, Rasmussen has released a couple of polls.
Romney vs. Obama -- Dead Even
Palin vs. Obama -- Obama +6%

Now, as I've noted in the past, Rasmussen polling has been a little strange this year. Their Presidential Approval poll has consistently shown radically lower approval of President Obama than every other major poll. Having said this, their 2008 Presidential tracking poll was pretty close (+6% Obama vs. a +7.2% actual result) and they have a pretty good track record.

If Mitt Romney is even with President Obama today and Sarah Palin is closer than John McCain was in November, it is a very good sign for the GOP's prospects in 2012. I'll cover a point-counterpoint on handicapping the 2012 race in a future post.

Did President Obama Bait and Switch?
In the last couple of weeks, several prominent conservative commentators, most recently Peter Berkowitz in the American Spectator have accused President Obama of a bait-and-switch - proposing himself as a moderate in the 2008 campaign and turning out to be a liberal.

I frankly don't understand what factual basis exists for these claims. Clearly, President Obama has been the most liberal President in the past 30 years in his first six months in office. Yes, he spoke of post-partisanship and unity in the campaign. But what specific policies does President Obama not advocate then that he advocates now?

Berkowitz states that President Obama presented a much more moderate view of health care than he poses now. I actually think the reverse is true. President Obama was very clear in primary debates that he favored a public option and universal coverage. In fact, President Obama attacked Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan for NOT requiring all people to have coverage.

Conservatives have said the stimulus bill with extremely liberal. But President Obama called for a large stimulus bill from the campaign trail in the aftermath of the meltdown of the financial markets.

Conservatives are upset with Cap and Trade. But President Obama always endorsed Cap and Trade.

So, disgaree with the President if you are so inclined, but I don't think he could have been clearer from the trail. According to Politifact.com, President Obama has broken 7 promises that he made from the campaign trail, out of 515 and none of those relate to health care, energy or government spending.

If there is one area where President Obama has proven to be different from the campaign trail, it is in foreign policy...he has proved far more conservative. We still have over 100,000 troops in Iraq. We'll still have over 50,000 after his 18 month deadline. Frankly, I'm not sure what policy difference exists between the Obama Administration and what would have existed under a McCain Administration.

Where the GOP DOES have a fair criticism of the Obama Administration is on transparency. In fact, 3 of the 7 broken promises pertain to this area. We have not had all bills posted to the White House website for public comment for 5 days before signing. Rules for lobbyists coming into government are still too loose. No question, President Obama gets low marks in these areas.

President Clinton -- Still a Badass
I'll talk later about policy with North Korea, but for now, just a big thanks to former President Bill Clinton for bringing two innocent American reporters home.

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