Monday, March 13, 2006

More Contrarian Election Handicapping

Today's opinion pages contain several tasty bits of congressional and presidential election prognosticating from experts whom SWNID respects.

First, Michael Barone, always distinguished by basing his views on data rather than buzz, offers that the Ds will have an exceedingly hard time recapturing the House in '06. He notes the following on the way to that conclusion:

  • There's no perceptible political realignment among the electorate (groups formerly aligned with one party shifting to the other) as there was in 1974 and 1994.
  • The statistical odds are against the Ds, who lack enough targeted seats to get past the post by historical standards.
  • The Ds lack a sufficient number of strong candidates to seriously challenge Republican control

We believe that the last point is most telling. As long as elections are between two candidates, the party that wants to win had better have a good candidate. When the best the Ds can do is the likes of the brittle tort lawyer from tony Indian Hill, Paul Hackett, who is seen as some kind of national Democrat hero for having lost an election against a weak Republican nonincumbent, they continue to look highly Whiggish.

Second, Jay Cost, co-blogger of the utterly indispensable RealClearPolitics enumerates the following reasons why the Ds will not fulfill predictions of triumph in November:

  • Democratic Party failure cannot be ascribed to a failure to unify because of a failure of leadership, as the Ds have not been unified since assuming majority-party status in the 1932 and yet still managed to win a lot of elections. Hence, the expectation of a unifying national platform is unrealistic.
  • Republican disunity offers no real opportunity for Ds, as the Rs are still more unified than the Ds have been since William Jennings Bryan was the D standardbearer.
  • Negative poll numbers about the country being on the "right track" don't help the Ds, either, who showed in 2004 that capitalizing on discontent is not their strong suit right now.
  • Negative poll numbers on Congress don't help the Ds, as voters generally vote on their congressman, not the whole lot of them, in congressional elections.
  • Likewise, Bush's negatives don't help the Ds, as his name is not actually on the ballot in November.
  • Party-preference polls don't mean much either, as Ds always lead those. In Cost's impeccable analysis, that situation goes like this:
In America, your average respondent will say, “Yeah, I want the Democrats!” in May, even in October. He will get to the ballot box in November, only recognize one name on the House ballot, recall that he likes that fellow, and vote for his Republican incumbent.

On the presidential side, Peter Brown, pollster for Quinnipac University, notes that Giuliani phenomenon and counsels a grain of salt. His reasoning for caution is the conventional and still-open question as to whether the Republican primaries, which tend to be dominated by social conservatives, will be friendly to Rudy.

What Brown doesn't consider is the dearth of socially conservative candidates who offer alternatives. Senator Bill Frist is doomed because of the title in front of his name: he will forever be seen as an ineffectual compromiser because of his role as Senate Majority Leader. Mitt Romney may not seem all that conservative to the right wing of the party, and his Mormonism makes him suspect to many as well. We believe that Romney provides a real challenge to Rudy and would be happy for either to lead Lincoln's party to victory in '08. But after Mitt, there's nothing for the right. And he doesn't have the national standing that Rudy has.

Of course, Giuliani doesn't seem to be campaigning yet. But such is the approach of the candidate who has a chance to be nominated by acclamation or demand.

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