Will November be a Democratic ‘bloodbath’?
Jon Chait looks at a new NPR poll focused on battleground states and districts, and concludes that November will be a “bloodbath” for Democrats. Here’s what the poll has to say about the upcoming election:
The results are a wake-up call for Democrats whose loses in the House could well exceed 30 seats. In the named-congressional ballot in the 60 Democratic districts, Democrats trail their Republican opponent, 42 to 47 percent, with only a third saying they want to vote to reelect their member. In the top tier of 30 most competitive seats, the Democratic candidate trails by 9 points (39 to 48 percent) and by 2 points in the next tier of 30 seats (45 to 47 percent). On the other hand, the Republican candidates are running well ahead in their most competitive seats ( 53 to 37 percent). As we saw in the special election in PA-12, Democrats will have to battle on a seat-by-seat basis — that has shifted these kinds of numbers this year.
The effort by individual campaigns will have to push against walls that seem very hard to move at this point. We tested Democratic and Republican arguments on the economy, health care, financial reform and the big picture for the 2010 election. The results consistently favored the Republicans and closely resembled the vote breakdown. Democrats are hurt by a combined lack of enthusiasm and an anti-incumbent tone.
If true, this would signal a complete bloodbath for Democrats across the country. But my hunch is that we should take this poll with a grain of salt. For starters, this poll is a single slice in time, there are no trend lines and we have no idea what these districts looked like at any time during the last six months. It’s entirely possible that these results have been constant and Republicans have always been more enthused than Democrats (which generally, is true). In which case, the picture isn’t nearly as terrible as Chait thinks, since as recently as last month, Democrats were projected to survive midterms with their majority intact.
Moreover, and as the Center for Politics’ Isaac Woods pointed out on Twitter, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (the polling firm) is relying on an odd methodology, choosing supposedly “battleground” districts as opposed to taking a national poll or polling a single district. It’s silly to pull together random districts — each of which may be “in play” for vastly different reasons — and generalize from there a broad conclusion about the electoral landscape.
Granted, I don’t think Democrats should sit on their laurels; things aren’t catastrophic, but they aren’t in good shape either. But they should also try to avoid overreaction. The siren call of Beltway approval has pulled many Democrats into opposing further stimulus and supporting measures for fiscal austerity, which is boneheaded. Right now, their survival depends most on employment numbers; the smart thing to do — politically and economically — is to pump more stimulus into the economy. More jobs means less discontent, and less discontent benefits President Obama and vulnerable congressional Democrats.