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Monday Musings: Natl landscape leaning Dem, security re-emerges as top 2016 issue

State of the race – Despite having two debates this past week, don’t think the race has changed all that much. Clinton still dominates the Dem side, and the big five – Carson, Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Bush – the GOP. With the next round of debates coming in a month, not sure the race will change all that much till then. But you never know.

Where there has been some movement is in general election polling. In two national polls last week Clinton had advantages of at least 3-4 points over most of her opponents in general election match ups. This is significant as pre-recovery Clinton was even or trailed most GOPers. Additionally, Obama’s job approval rating is now clearly up in the high 40s/low 50s, where the Democrats need it to be next year. In the Gallup daily track he has had his best run since early 2013, and hit 50% this weekend for the first time in almost three years. Given the advantage Democrats have in Party ID and favs/unfavs, the race is settling in where it felt like it should be – with Clinton having a modest but significant 3 to 4 point advantage now.

As we wrote last week, however, the dark cloud on the horizon is the lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic coalition, an issue which has plagued the Democrats in 2 of the last 3 elections. Stan Greenberg warned about this in his most recent poll memo and the inadequate Democratic debate schedule is an extraordinary missed opportunity to engage the Democratic coalition a year out. There are many things the Democrats can do to improve their debate schedule. In this memo, I lay out three things they should do right now to help close the gap with a far superior Republican approach to the debates.

Hats off to John Dickerson – I add my voice to the chorus of praise for John Dickerson. The CBS anchor set a very high bar for the future debates. He was in control, fair, subdued, knowledgeable and tough. Kudos to him and CBS for doing such an excellent job on Saturday.

After Paris – There can be little doubt now that the Paris attacks and the Islamic State's effort to reach beyond its current borders will bring a new dynamic to the 2016 race. I offer up some initial thoughts on what is likely to come next in this new essay. But Democrats should be taking all of this very seriously. The Republicans used this sense of an unsafe world to their advantage in 2014. In national polling the basket of issues around foreign policy and security are President Obama’s greatest liability. As I’ve written before, there is an opening here for the GOP to exploit if they are measured and adroit (not likely). But above all else, Paris means that security issues will be a very important part of the 2016 conversation, and Democrats need to be prepared to engage in what will be complicated, volatile policy and political terrain.

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

As feared and predicted, 2nd Dem debate draws very small audience

As many predicted, the unusual experiment of hosting a Presidential debate on a Saturday night brought the Democrats very few viewers, clocking in at just 8.5 million for the night. This compares with 23m, 23m, 14m and 13m for the first four GOP debates, and 16m for the Democrat's only other debate. An audience tally so far:

The Republicans - The 4 GOP debates so far have reached 73m viewers or 18.25m per debate. If this average holds for the remaining 7 scheduled GOP debates the 11 GOP debates will reach a little more than 200 million viewers.

The Democrats – The 2 Democratic debates so far have reached almost 25 million viewers, or 12.5m per debate. If his averages holds the 6 Dem debates will reach a total of 75 million viewers. With 2 of the 4 remaining debates on weekends, another in Spanish and the other on a non-commercial broadcast network, it is possible that the total will come closer to 60 million than 75 million  The Republicans, of course, have already  reached the 75m mark after just 4 debates with a superior approach.

Two additional observations:

GOP will reach three times as many people - At this rate the Republicans are on track to reach three times as many people through their debates as the Democrats will.  The gap is about 125m-140m, or about the same number of people who will vote in the general election next year.  And keep in mind this gap is magnified by the time people are spending watching these debates (far more than a 30 second spot), and the days of free media generated by the debates themselves. It is hard to put an exact figure on all this but it is safe to say that the DNC has made a choice to give the RNC a free media advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars this primary season, or the equivalent of what a large Super PAC is likely to spend this entire cycle.

Reliance on broadcast to deliver was a mistake - In a Friday Politico story, a DNC official defended its schedule by saying they were going for bigger audiences with the big broadcast networks. While in the abstract going with the big broadcast networks could have produced large audiences, weeknight debates even with low rated cable networks like CNN and Fox Business have produced audiences twice as large as the Democratic debate last night. In the social media and digital age, viewers can find other TV channels if sent there through aggressive marketing. The value of traditional networks for aggregating audience just simply isn't what it used to be (and I say this as an ABC News alum) and their audiences skew old. The Democratic coalition of course is much younger, and not avid TV watchers.  Reaching large number of Democrats would have required an entirely different approach than the one the DNC has pursued this cycle.

As we've been writing for months now, the Republicans have produced a far better debate approach than the Democrats.  It is critical that while there is still time the DNC take steps to close the gap with the GOP.  Failure to do so will make the job of every Democratic candidate that much harder next year. 

Note: this piece has been updated.  Early estimates had the audience last night at 7.2m.  Late this afternoon these estimates were updated to 8.5m.  We updated the analysis above to reflect the more accurate and larger figure.  

After Paris: An Early Take On What Comes Next

On the day after the Paris attacks, some initial thoughts:

Can we develop and execute a comprehensive plan to deal with ISIS? - We are now facing a true test of the civilized world. Can we muster the will over the next decade to end the Syrian conflict, manage the refugee crisis, come to a rough regional peace between Sunni and Shi'a, Arab and Persian, Palestinian and Israeli? Can we saddle up once again for a significant military engagement in MENA, doing what is required to "destroy and degrade" ISIS, knowing full well that we will lose more young Americans and the outcome is not certain? Can we continue to invest in distributed, cleaner energy to ensure the despotic governments of the region have far less capacity to export chaos and oppress their own people? Can we create a global dialogue about the lack of opportunity for tens of millions of young people in MENA, whose repressive, oligarchical societies continue to be relentless breeding grounds for radicalism?

What happens now is as much about us as it is about them.....we know what needs to happen - can we get it done? Do we have the resolve, the vision, the patience and the capacity? Perhaps no more important work in the world today........let's let this debate begin now in earnest.

Rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe - There can be little doubt that the attack in Paris will cause the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe to soar. It will make managing the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis far more challenging, and will likely strengthen anti-immigrant, anti-globalization parties throughout the continent. This sentiment could also effect other important US priorities like TTIP and the ongoing discussions over data flows and other 21st century tech issues already contentious between the US and EU.

For the US these developments should be as worrisome as any other, and add to the pressure of taking decisive now. The political negotiations in Vienna on Syria's future showed promise today. Let us work hard there now to accelerate the political track too long neglected.

Additionally, my hope is that here at home Paris will make the logic for TPP more compelling, and help us pass this important legislation in the spring. Paris is a powerful reminder of the need for the civilized world to invest in those institutions and arrangements that work to ensure that the international order and modernity prevail over their opponents in the years ahead.  TPP is a critical part of that strategy, and should be sold that way to the American people. 

Huge Thank You to US security services - Given the chaos we are seeing in the world today, it is truly remarkable so little of it has come to the US in recent years.  The entire nation should be grateful for the truly incredible job those protecting us have done to keep us safe in an uncertain age.  

Impact on US immigration debate? - What impact it has on the US immigration debate remains to be seen, but I assume it will strengthen the restrictionists here.

The campaign against ISIS in the region appears to be gaining steam - The campaign against ISIS in the region itself seems to have had some significant victories in the past few days. Is this a turning point? A sign that we now understand the terrain and are becoming more effective at targeting the enemy? Will be interesting to hear from our military leaders with their take in the days to come. 

That France has called the struggle with ISIS a "war" is significant.  Will chapter 5 of the NATO treaty be invoked? Far more effective way to mobilize reluctant populations in the West for what could be a long and diffcult - but necessary - struggle.  Watch the words of our leaders in the days ahead, particularly at the G20 in Turkey.  

This version has some minor corrections from the initial draft. 

Mondays Musings on 2016: Clinton/Obama strong, Carson unraveling and a warning about Dems/2016

Obama, Clinton strong – polling last week found Hillary Clinton in firm command of the Democratic primary race, and in a far better position nationally. The respected NBC/WSJ poll found her ahead of most Republican contenders by 3-4 points. A month ago she was even or behind most Republicans in the national polls. So it is fair to say now that HRC has not only strengthened her position in recent weeks inside the Democratic primary, but also in the overall electorate.

We are also seeing a sustained improvement in the President’s numbers. In the Gallup daily track Obama’s job approval has been regularly up in the high 40s, the strongest run he has had since 2013. The NBC/WSJ poll also had Democratic Party ID ahead of the GOP’s by 6 points, 43/37, and Dem fav/unfav outpacing the GOP by 41/29 & 29/44.   All in all, one can now say a year out the Dems hold a slight but meaningful advantage in the race for the Presidency.  

A warning about 2016 however comes from a new poll by Stan Greenberg. His findings indicate that important elements of the Democratic coalition are far less enthusiastic about voting in 2016 than Republicans right now. This is an issue we’ve been warning about in our work to get the Dems to adopt a better debate schedule – the DNC is simply not using every tool in its toolbox to gets its coalition fired up about 2016, and the cost could be significant (as we saw in last week’s disappointing election showing by Democrats).

Carson unraveling? - The story on the GOP side here remains Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio, with Jeb staying alive, barely. The GOP gathers for its fourth primetime debate tomorrow night, one that will likely have as much impact on the race as its three recent debates. The Democrats gather this Saturday night in Iowa for their second debate. Barring some significant moment, it is likely not to have as much impact as other recent debates as far fewer people will be tuning in.

Ben Carson is in serious trouble. His campaign has been an unusual one from the beginning, but I think the recent revelations and his campaign’s amateurish response to them may just be the beginning of the end of this quixotic candidacy. Have no real opinion about what this means for the rest of the field, though it may be best for the non-Trumpians in the race, all of whom need more air time to advance their campaigns.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had an interesting piece last week on the irony of the two major GOP Hispanic candidates fighting to be the most "anti-amnesty" candidate in the GOP primary.  

"Monday Musings on 2016" is a new column looking at the broad political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

Monday Musings: New GOP generation rising, still waiting for Rubio surge

So we are a year out from the 2016 elections. Where are we exactly? Not sure, but some observations:

A new GOP generation advances – The generational wheel took a significant turn this week with strong debate performances from Rubio and Cruz, and Paul Ryan’s ascension to the Speakership. The rise – and strength – of the 40something Gen X Republicans is becoming a significant event in American politics. While the Democrats may be winning the hearts and minds of an emerging America of the 21st century, the GOP may have short term advantages i having a new and better prepared “next” generation rising now, one aided by the incredible exposure the aggressive GOP debate schedule is offering them. Be sure to read more from me on this new GOP generation, one I’ve called the “children of Reagan.”

Clinton leads the Dems, still waiting for the Rubio surge– Not clear that the dynamics of the race have changed in the past week. Hillary continues to put impressive numbers across the board, and is seeing more of the Party leadership rally to her side. Bernie Sanders has gone up on the air in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is signaling that he has the resources and commitment to give Clinton a real challenge.

Nothing much appears to have changed on the GOP side, and for all the hype around Rubio, he is still way back in the back nationally and in the early states, has never polled regularly in double digits, and is not well funded. Roughly a third of the GOP electorate falls into the restrictionist anti-immigrant camp, and I remain skeptical these voters will fall in line behind a Rubio candidacy if he wins the nomination.  As of today four GOPers seem to have momentum - Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz - an odd lot for sure.  

Obama's job approval remains in a healthy place for Democrats in 2016, something we will be discussing more in future editions of MM. 

The debate over debates continues – The ongoing disquiet from almost all the candidates in both parties over the debates this fall highlight just how important these events have become in choosing our leaders. At its core GOP candidate concerns about the toughness of the debate questions coming from a TV network long associated with conservative politics – particularly when it is now clear that Rubio, Carson and Trump offered huge whoppers as responses – reinforces how new to the game many of these candidates are. But in each party’s debate over their debates important principles are being discussed now, and I remain concerned about the how little exposure the Democratic debate schedule is providing its candidates and future leaders this cycle.

Tally so far: 3 GOP debates, 60-62m viewers. 1 Dem debate, 16m viewers. Rs have debates scheduled on Tue Nov 10th and Tue Dec 15th. Next Dem debates are Sat Nov 14th and Sat Dec 19th. By year’s end Rs will have had 5 weekday primetime debates. Dems will have had 3 debates in total, w/only 1 during the week in primetime and 2 on Saturday nights, one of the least watched times in television. And as a reminder, there is NO evidence so far suggesting the more aggressive debate schedule is hurting GOP candidates.

The Surprising Good News about American Incomes

For a change, the latest Census Bureau data on what’s happened to the incomes of Americans is good news. For the first time since the 1990s and 1980s, household incomes rose substantially in 2014, and did so across all demographic groups. You might miss the good news if you looked simply at everyone’s median income or median wage. What’s actually happening becomes clear only when you track, as I have, the income paths of various “age cohorts,” year after year as they grow older. Using this approach, the new data show that across households headed by people in their late 20s, their late 30s and their late 40s in 2013, median household income grew an average of nearly 2.7 percent in 2014.

This is a big and important change: As documented in my recent Brookings Institution report on income progress since 1980, the median income of households headed by people of comparable ages in 2001 declined an average of 0.1 percent per year from 2002 to 2013.

Drilling into the new data, we also see that households headed by minorities made considerably greater progress in 2014 than their counterparts headed by whites; and households headed by men had larger income gains than those headed by women. Yet, all of those groups saw significant income growth. Most striking, households headed by high school graduates, as well as those headed by college grads made substantial income progress in 2014; and even those households headed by people without high school diplomas had significant gains. While all of these happy developments reflect just one year’s data, they nevertheless bear watching.

Let’s step back and put these new data in their larger context. The Brookings study covered the period 1980 to 2013. I followed the incomes of households headed by people who were 25 to 29 years-old in 1975, until they reached age 59; and then repeated that process for households headed by people who were 25 to 29 in 1982; as well as 25 to 29 in 1991, and 25 to 29 in 2001. The analysis showed that across age groups and across gender, race and ethnicity, and education, Americans made strong, steady income progress as they aged through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2002, however, the median household incomes of the same groups have declined, stagnated or grown much more slowly, depending on their demographics.

I also examined the income progress of three age cohorts under each of the last five presidents, tracing the income paths of households headed by people who were 25 to 29, 35 to 39, and 45 to 49 at the beginning of each president’s administration. (For these income records by president, I began in year two of each administration and ended in year one of the following administration, because economic conditions and income results in the first year of any presidency are set by the preceding administration.)

As expected, the new 2014 data improve Barack Obama’s record. Over his presidency thus far, income growth across the three age cohorts has averaged 1.2 percent per year, as people aged from 2010 to 2014. That’s a big step up from George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush: Income progress across comparable age groups averaged 0.2 percent per year under Bush I and 0.3 percent per year under Bush II. The income progress under Obama is also a big step back from annual gains averaging 2.6 percent under Bill Clinton and 2.4 percent under Ronald Reagan. Nonetheless, income growth in 2014 roughly equaled the strong, sustained gains under Clinton and Reagan.

The question is, why did this happen? First and probably foremost, employment accelerated sharply last year: The United States created 2.95 million net new jobs in 2014, compared to an average of 528,000 net job gains per year from 2002 to 2013; and 1.78 million per year from 2010 to 2013.

Strong job creation can have powerful effects on incomes, especially for people working near the margins of the economy. This effect is evident in the 2014 income progress by people without college degrees. Across the three age cohorts, incomes increased 4.8 percent among households headed by high school educated graduates and by 2.6 percent among those headed by people without any diplomas. In stark contrast, the median incomes of comparable households decline substantially from 2002 to 2013.

Beyond jobs, U.S. businesses also enjoyed relief in 2014 from fast-rising health care and energy costs, which allowed them to attract and retain employees by raising wages and salaries. Spending by employers on health insurance for family medical coverage, for example, rose less than 2 percent in 2014, as compared to increases averaging nearly 7 percent per year from 2002 to 2013 and nearly 5 percent per year from 2010 to 2013. Similarly, energy costs for industrial and commercial businesses, which rose by an average of more than 6 percent per year from 2002 to 2008, virtually flat-lined in 2014.

Yet, even with 2014’s strong gains, years of flat or falling incomes for many Americans have left us with stark inequalities within the middle class. Across our three age cohorts, the median income of households headed by men averaged $71,382 in 2014 — 25 percent greater than the $56,946 median income of households headed by women.

Inequalities based on race and ethnicity are much larger, even though 2014 was a very good year for minorities. In 2014, the median income of households headed by whites across the three age cohorts averaged $74,149, or 85 percent greater than the $40,049 level for the households headed by African-Americans and 56 percent greater than the $47,440 average for those headed by Hispanics.

Finally, the vast income disparities based on education keep expanding. Across the three age cohorts, the median income of households headed by college graduates averaged $101,298 in 2014 — 113 percent greater than the $47,560 average for households headed by high school graduates and 269 percent more than the $30,146 average for households headed by people without any diploma. With such gaping differences, it is no surprise that many of this year’s would-be presidents, especially among the Democrats, have plans to reduce or eliminate tuition burdens at public colleges and universities.

This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.

Monday Musings on 2016: Clinton, Carson Rising

Hillary rising – the big story of the week is the clear rejuvenation of the Clinton campaign. Epic GOP missteps on Benghazi, strong debate and hearing performances, far more aggressive free media (SNL, Maddow etc), Biden deciding not to run has made this a remarkable few weeks for Hillary Clinton. Her public performances are far stronger, the bunker mentality has been shed, and her poll numbers are rising and Sanders falling. She is in a very commanding position now in the Democratic primary.

Things to watch now: how will her new strength translate into Iowa and New Hampshire, and whether her standing improves in the general election matchups against the GOP field. 

Carson appears to be making a move – Two new polls out this week have Ben Carson moving ahead of Trump in Iowa. Trump and Carson still dominate the field, with Cruz, Rubio and Bush placing in 3/4/5 in different orders in different polls. What is remarkable however is that in almost every GOP poll, Trump, Carson, Cruz – outsiders/extremists/radicals/whatever we call them – are getting 60% between with no sign of any of them losing ground. While the national media continues to spend a lot of time on Bush and Rubio, there just isn’t a lot of evidence that either of them have a real shot today. Things may change but the more mainstream GOPers continue to struggle to get out of single digits.

The big question of 2016 remains whether any of these candidates can unite a highly fractured and contentious GOP next year. Sure is hard to see at this point.

And I think Donald Trump is right - the views of Carson's fringey church deserve far more attention than they've gotten to date.

The debate debate – NDN continues to make our case that the DNC must do more to close the gap with the far superior RNC debate schedule. I appeared in a Time magazine piece on the debate debate, and published a new analysis that finds evidence the entire GOP field is benefitting from all the early attention their more aggressive debate schedule has provided. The 2nd Democratic debate is scheduled for Sat November 14th in Iowa. 

The Republicans gather for their third debate this Wednesday on CNBC, and be sure to read our new report on how recent Democratic Presidents have outperformed their GOP counterparts as background.   And note that this will be the 3rd GOP debate during the week in primetime.  The DNC only has 2 weekday primetime debates scheduled this entire Presidential cycle.  

Report: The economy has performed far better under recent Democratic Presidents

Next Wednesday the Republicans will gather for their third debate. This one, hosted by CNBC, will focus on the economy.

To help prepare for this welcome event, NDN has updated our April report comparing the economic record of the last two Democratic and Republican Presidents. The report shows that the contrast between the performances of the two parties when occupying the White House is stark: Republican Presidencies have led to recessions and larger deficits; Democratic Presidencies have led to growth, job gains and lower annual deficits. In short, the Democratic approach to the economy over the past generation has worked. The Republican approach hasn’t. And this dramatic difference becomes even more pronounced when one considers the how shockingly wrong the GOP’s bet the house predictions of the failure of both the 1993 Clinton budget and the “job-killing” ACA have been.

The full report can be found in pdf form below. Some highlights: 

Job Growth: Over the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, over 30m new net jobs were created. Over the two Bush Presidencies, 3.5m. On a yearly basis, perhaps a more fair comparison, the two Democrats have produced jobs at 7 times the rate of the two Bushes: 2.1m vs. 300,000 per year.

Unemployment Rate: Both Democratic Presidents saw more than a 3% point job in the unemployment rate during their terms. The Bushes saw increases in the unemployment rate by more than 2% and 3% points respectively.

Deficits: Both Democratic Presidents saw dramatic improvements in the annual deficit during their tenures, with Clinton during large structural deficits to annual surpluses and Obama cutting the annual deficit he inherited by two-thirds. Both Bushes saw increases in the annual deficit on their watches, with the second President Bush seeing a more than ten-fold increase in the annual deficit during his Presidency, one of the greatest explosions of debt in US history. Illustrative graphs follow.

In this update, we’ve added a new section on the health care and energy sectors vital to the well being of the American people and our economy. While not offering a direct comparison with recent Republicans, our analysis finds dramatic improvements in both these critical areas:

Healthcare: The uninsured rate has plummeted, while the growth of health care costs, a significant driver of the US budget deficit, has slowed. Slower cost growth and healthier Americans are good for the American economy, businesses and the nation as a whole.

Energy: The President’s “all of the above” approach has a rousing success for the nation, increasing domestic production, lowering energy costs for American businesses, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy while giving the US a leg up on the new energy technologies of the future.

Taken together, what this data makes clear is that the last two Democratic Presidents have done a very good job as stewards of our economy in a more competitive, global era. The same cannot be said of the Republicans.
Update - Be sure to see this new analysis from Rob Shapiro.  There is a growing body of evidence that after many years of flat or declining incomes for far too many Americans, incomes ticked up in 2014. 


Monday Musings on 2016: Dems debate, Sanders and Clinton gain, dysfunctional GOPers

The Dems debate - The big news for Democrats was their first – and very successful – debate last week. I offered up my take in this post from last week. It’s far too early to tell if the debate changed the Democratic race. Focus groups the night of were very good for Sanders, and he gained more ground than Clinton in a new CNN poll. But like many I felt the strong performance by both of them made everyone else’s path much harder, including the Vice President.

But as I argue in a new analysis piece, there is a great deal of evidence now that the superior RNC debate schedule has lifted the entire GOP field vs the Democrats. My hope is that this piece showing the GOP Presidentials outperforming their party, competitive if not ahead in the general election next year and creating a more excited base of supporters will bolster the hand of those trying to improve the lackluster DNC debate schedule.

The dysfunctional GOP – I think we are all struggling to put in words what we are seeing from the GOP these days – Trump gaining significant ground in new polls, no new Speaker or a path to get there, the shame and embarrassment of the Benghazi committee, a former GOP Speaker pleading guilty to a case involving his sexual abuse of an underage boy and persistent rumors of an extra-marital affairs by Kevin McCarthy. The next true test for the GOP comes in just a few weeks as we crash into the debt limit on November 3rd (will be exciting to watch how this is addressed in the CNBC Presidential debate on 10/28). Fasten your seat belts friends – sure to be a bumpy ride.

And of course, have to end with - Lets’ Go Mets!

NDN Analysis: Early Exposure Appears to Helping GOP Presidential Field

One of the arguments you hear from the defenders of the current DNC debate schedule is that all this extra exposure that Republican candidates are getting from the superior RNC schedule will end up hurting the GOP. It is an interesting argument. But a cursory look at the current state of the race doesn’t back it up.

Let’s first look at Presidential general election match ups. In the Real Clear Politics general election averages, the strongest announced Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is essentially tied with all the major GOP candidates. She has a slight lead over Trump and Rubio, but trails Carson, Fiorina and Bush. Worrisome for the Democrats is that in these five match ups Clinton is between 42% and 45%, which is lower than one would expect at this point.  While early, Democrats cannot be satisfied with their well known nominee in such a tight race with unknown and fringey Republicans.

But compare this data set with the Huff Po’s assessment of where the overall Democratic and Republican brands are. In Party ID, Dems leadthe  Rs by 9, 33 to 24. In favorability, Dems also have a very strong lead, 40/49 to 33/55. The President’s approval rating has been bouncing around in the mid to high 40s these last few months, so it isn’t a drag. Democrat Jack Conway is leading in the Kentucky’s governor’s race, and early polling in 2016 Senate races are showing the Democrats in good shape. So there is no evidence of a drag on the Democratic ticket, or a collapse of the Democratic brand in any other early publically available data.  Given this landscape, it is surprising that what is considered a weak GOP field is slightly ahead of the strongest Democratic 2016 candidate at this point. 

What the data suggests then is either the GOP Presidentials are over performing or the Democrats are under performing their respective brands.  The obvious explanation for why this would be the case would be the extraordinary level of attention the GOP candidates have gotten this far, including their two high performing weekday prime time debates. Yes, it is early, and this data doesn’t take into account this week’s successful Democratic debate. But remember, the far superior GOP schedule is likely to generate three times the impressions for GOP candidates over the course of the primaries. So rather than closing the gap with the GOP in the next few months the early advantage the GOP Presidentials have could grow, not dissipate.

It is still early and things will change. But a look at the data suggests that the extra attention the GOP candidates are getting is doing exactly what one would expect – improve their standing against a Democratic field getting far less exposure to the public. While this trend may not over hold over time, it should bolster the argument of those wanting a better Democratic debate schedule. It also suggests that the central rationale the DNC is using to stubbornly stick to a clearly inferior schedule cannot be backed up by data, or frankly, common sense.

Monday, 10/19 Update - A new CNN poll finds more evidence of impact (or lack of evidence of negative impact) of the early debates.  At this point Rs are more enthusiastic about voting next year, with 86% showing enthusiasm, 68% higher levels of enthusiasm and 12% not.  Dems are 80, 58, 21.  While the differences are not great, it reinforces the need to more aggressively engage Democrats, improve the standing of its candidates.   

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