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Hope for the Dems? - Part II
Last week, after a deep look at polls across the country, I wrote a piece, Hope for the Dems? which argued that there signs that the election was beginning to shift away from the GOP and towards the Democrats.
The piece got a lot of play last week, and I called around to some folks who track this stuff to see if they were seeing the same thing. Two of the folks I talked to, Mark Blumenthal and Chris Cillizza, have pieces out today which finds a bit more evidence that things may be improving for the Democrats (you can find them here and here). In my piece last week I lay out why I think this may be happening, so I wont repeat it here. But I do want to offer a few more observations on this remarkable election.
- Pay attention to demography. For over five years NDN has been arguing that a "new politics" was emerging in America, driven by vast changes in our governing agenda, our media and technology and our people. In 2008 President Obama built a new and powerful electoral coalition for the Democrats, the strongest built for center-left politics in over 40 and perhaps even in over 70 years. This new coalition was built around a very different - and continually changing - electorate of the 21st century.
Going all the back to the primary against Hillary Clinton, the electorate began to split - younger for Barack, older for Clinton. This trend continued in the fall election of 2008, where older folks went with McCain, younger for Obama. Younger people are also much more non-white than the aging generations in the US, so the Obama vote was also much more racially mixed than McCains. As a bi-racial man himself Obama was very much the leader of this new much more diverse and younger coalition that really looked like no other majority coalition built in US political history.
In 2010 this trend continues to play out. Older, whiter, more conservative parts of the country - the South, the Rustbelt - are trending a bit more Republican now. Younger, more full of recent immigrants and more racially diverse parts of the country remain pretty strong for the Dems. There appear to be at least five major regions of the country now -
The Northeast - Solid Dem
The Rustbelt - Democratic, but trending GOP
The South - Solid GOP
The Latin Belt (from FL to TX through the SW and CA) - Leaning Dem
The Pacific Coast - Solid Dem
While important, the national poll numbers dont really tell the story of our complex country. For example in this "wave election" the Democrats could very well win the governorships in CA, TX and FL. Harry Reid has come back strong in Nevada, as has Patty Murray in WA. New polls showing Democrats doing well in House races in NM. California in trending Democratic again.
As a rule of thumb I think you should expect the Dems to do a bit better in the younger, more diverse parts of the country this fall, the Republicans a bit better in the older, whiter and more conservative parts of the country. While this may be enough to see significant Republican gains this fall, long term the GOP's current coalition is a slowly melting icecube and cannot sustain them over time.
- The Republicans Have No Closing Argument, the Democrats Have A Good One Available to Them. The arguments the GOP are making now about the Democrats are the same arguments they were making six months and even a year ago when the electorate started moving heavily against the Democrats. So in that sense they have already gotten everything they can out of them in this election. Putting $2 million dollars behind a campaign which argues that Democrats have seen the deficits rise and the economy worsen will not be very effective as voters already know and understand all this. The Democrats, on the other hand, have a potentially potent closing argument they can use in their ads full of things which have been front of mind for voters this past year.
I layed out my sense of this dynamic in a piece I penned for the Huffington Post last week called "The Closing Argument." Essentially I argue that if the Dems close with this narrative - the GOP screwed everything up, the Democrats have started to put things right, the Dems have a smart and good plan for the future which needs more time to work, the Republicans have a bad and reckless plan with ideas already proven to hurt the nation - they can significantly improve their posiition.
To me the one devastating attack against the GOP now open to the Dems is to make clear that the entire GOP economic argument - the single biggest issue in the election right now - is built upon an extraordinary lie. As President Obama pointed out yesterday, the core of the GOP's promise this year is to cut the deficit, and yet not a single GOP candidate running for office in the US can produce a plan which will reduce the deficit even by a penny in the next ten years. When the Republicans say that they will reduce the deficit - and there is no nice way to say this - it is a lie. Adroit Democratic campaigns can and will use this basic truth to weaken sentiment about individual Republicans and the overall Republican economic argument.
So, like many, I am still trying to figure out what is going on in this complicated election. But what I do know is that there is still life left in this baby, and nothing is "baked in the cake."