The Myth of the Unpopular Democrats

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The Don Surber post that Nick links is a little bit off. Yes, Americans hate Congress. No, they don't hate the Democrats. Not yet. When pollsters ask "whether your representative deserves to be re-elected," only 41 percent of people say "yes." But when they ask if you'd vote for the Democrat or the Republican for Congress, the Democrats lead by 12 points. That's lower than their advantage in 2006, but it's still an advantage. And which party's more confident about 2008 right now? Data points:

– Democrats are dramatically out-fundraising Republicans in the presidential race, in the race for the House, and in the race for the Senate. Republicans only have an edge in the RNC-DNC cash race, and that's because of Howard Dean's habit of lighting cigars with $100,000 bills. (That's the best explanation I can think of, anyway.)

– With a couple of exceptions—Oregon's Senate race, Illinois' 8th district—Democrats are out-recruiting Republicans. They've got new challengers in the races they narrowly lost in 2006, they're trying to put more seats on the table, and many of their gains from the last election—basically everything in New England—are locked in. Republicans don't have any candidates for their most promising Senate races in Louisiana and in South Dakota, where the incumbents are hobbled by, respectively 1)an exodus of black Democratic voters and 2)a cerebral hemorrhage. I repeat: Republicans can't recruit a candidate to face a bedridden brain surgery patient.

– There's this country called "Iraq" and we're still fighting a losing war in it. Yes, maybe Gen. Petraeus will pull it out. If he doesn't, quick: Name a party that gained seats after its president lost a war.

Surber's rant about Democrats "spinning their wheels trying to 'get' George Bush" and thereby inviting disaster doesn't hold up under the lightest scrutiny. Americans hate their government but they blame Bush and the Republicans for it. It isn't fair, but what ever is?

I actually wrote a piece for the American Prospect back in 2005 about similar metrics. It seemed like Karl Rove had lost his ability to recruit candidates and that this augered poorly for Republican chances in 2006. And sure enough…

NEXT: Gimme a Ballot to Bite On

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  1. Surber has turned into a reactionary loon and can no longer be seriously considered the sexiest man on the internets.

  2. Americans hate their government

    Americans don’t really hate their government, it’s just an American tradition to complain about it.

  3. Ooh! It’s a H&R showdown – Weigel vs. Gillespie. Two men enter – one man leaves!

  4. Two men enter – one man leaves!

    I think one of them’s afraid and the other’s glad of it.

  5. Seen any issues polling lately?

    Democrats now lead Republicans on – get this – foreign policy, taxes, and crime. The three stalwarts of the Republican majority.

    Foreign policy you could attribute to the Iraq War, but taxes and crime? We’re not in Kansas anymore.

  6. Apparently, Weigel has gone back to shilling for

    (sigh…I think the humor has been squeezed out of that missive)

  7. It’s good to see some solid analysis instead of the wishful thinking that often passes for analysis among the politically committed.

  8. Indeed, the Republican party is truly in dire straits.

  9. Gaugeing popularity on money raised is a false flag.Right now,and for the forseeable future dems hold the purse strings.The party in control of Congress generally raises more money.If we eliminated the fda,irs,deprt. of ed.,commerce and on and on how much do you think these idiots would have to spend on elections.Microsoft learned the lesson.If you don’t lobby and give[to both sides] you will be punished.

  10. But when they ask if you’d vote for the Democrat or the Republican for Congress, the Democrats lead by 12 points.

    That’s a little misleading, considering that the poll talked to 907 registered voters nationwide, or just over 2 per Congressional district.

  11. The Republicans oughta just give what’s left of the GOP to Ron Paul.

  12. Yes, maybe Gen. Petraeus will pull it out.

    Let’s hope he pulls the army out of Iraq; and the marines too. Oh, you meant “pull it off“. Sigh..a sad joke..

  13. People can think that Hillary Clinton is a sleazy, conniving politician, but still vote for her, if they dislike the others even more. The Democrats are not by any means popular, they’re just hated and despised a bit less. It’s a race between vacillating, unprincipled politicans running against Republican incumbents who are identified with Bush and Cheney. Tough luck.

  14. Re: Howard Dean and the DNC.

    The DNC has always has a slightly different role than the RNC when it comes to national politics, and has never raised even remotely the same amount. Last I checked — which was last quarter or the quarter before — the DNC under Dean was taking in more than in comparable quarters in years past.

    The Democrats are more decentralized, a fact that should be taken into account when dealing with all fundraising by the GOP and Democratic national committes (DNC/RNC, and the House and Senate Committees).

    What should be more worrisome to the GOP is that the DNC is spending money on voter databases and upgrading infrastructure, including adding staffers, in various states — something that the Democrats haven’t ever bothered with and that the GOP has used to great advantage in the past.

    The early gains from that were seen in 2006 — the DNC helped ensure there were candidates and staff there to help with races that moved “competitive” late in the race. I suspect it’s certainly helping with recruitment and setting up local fund-raising.

    That aside — the analysis is spot on. Currently every important trend is moving away from Republicans — party identification (that should be scaring some of them), polling on everything from candidates to issues, fundraising, and especially the Senate seats up in 2008 look bad for the GOP.

    2008 is shaping up to be a very bad year for the GOP. I’m certain they recognize it, but I’m not sure what they can do. Bush is the primary driver of decreased party identification, and they seem unwilling to part with Bush (and they’re rapidly running out of time — voter perception lags by several months). Their main Presidentical candidates seem to be hugging Bush tightly, and their Congressmen seem unwilling to commit to bucking Bush.

    It’s like the party’s committing mass suicide. I don’t particularly want an all-Democratic government any more than I wanted an all-Republican one, but if I was making a bet now — I’d bet as follows:

    Democratic President.
    Senate +3 seats to the Democrats.
    House: +5 seats to the Democrats.

  15. “Democrats now lead Republicans on – get this – foreign policy, taxes, and crime. The three stalwarts of the Republican majority.”

    The latest Zogby poll also shows both Hillary and Obama defeating all 4 top Republican candidates. Obama actually is ahead of them by larger margins than Hillary except for against Guiliani where their leads over Giuliani are about even. The Republicans are in big trouble. They need to seriously rethink their support of this losing war.

  16. As the election draws near, look for the GOP to cross a threshold where they throw Bush leaguers to the wolves for lying us into the Iraq clusterfuck, just to regain some street cred with the electorate.

  17. The Republican bloodbath in 2006, and the upcoming one in 2008, make the realignment of the country towards the Democrats look more sudden and extreme than it actually was.

    The first set of elections after 9/11 replaced Republican governors with Democratic ones.

    John Kerry came closer to unseating a wartime president than any candidate in American history.

    Democrats picked up seats in Congress in 1996, 1998, and 2000.

    Historians are going to look back at 2006 and see not so much a radical change, as a reversion to the norm.

    The issue polling makes me think that the country has been trending towards the Democrats for years.

  18. Hmm, a reverse-Goldwater?

    Hegel/Snowe in 2012: Moderation in the pursuit of moderation is nice.

  19. “That’s a little misleading, considering that the poll talked to 907 registered voters nationwide, or just over 2 per Congressional district.”

    But poll after poll keeps showing the same thing.

  20. Yes, maybe Gen. Petraeus will pull it out.

    JERRY: So, how did your date go?
    ELAINE: — He pulled it out.
    JERRY: What?
    ELAINE: He … pulled … it … out.
    JERRY: It?
    ELAINE: It.
    JERRY: Out?
    ELAINE: Out.
    KRAMER: How’d it go?
    ELAINE: He pulled it out.
    KRAMER: Whoa!

  21. When was the last time a party held congress with congress having this low of an approval rating?

    Throwing the bums out, for good or for bad, takes the majority out of power.

    But the election is not being held today and the house isn’t even half way through its term, let alone to the half way point between elections.

    Everyone knows that the election is in 2008 right? Not this upcoming November?

  22. The Republican bloodbath in 2006, and the upcoming one in 2008, make the realignment of the country towards the Democrats look more sudden and extreme than it actually was.

    Its fun to watch joe when he gets delusional.

  23. They’re like your delusions Joshua, only joe’s spelling is better.

  24. Ah, joshua, it’s going to fun reposting your comment next fall.

  25. @morat: Their main Presidentical candidates

    What a great word! They don’t just all seem the same, they’rrrre Presidentical!

  26. When was the last time a party held congress with congress having this low of an approval rating?

    When was the last time that Congress was this unpopular, but the majority party was more popular than the minority?

  27. Joe is heading down the road less travelled: “My predictions weren’t quite crazy enough!”

  28. When was the last time that Congress was this unpopular, but the majority party was more popular than the minority?

    Someone might want to check this out, but I think: Watergate. Voters were really sick of Congress and yet they gave the Democrats a supermajority in the 1974 election.

  29. Yes, maybe Gen. Petraeus will pull it out
    …of Sen. Lindsay Graham?

  30. Who actually puts any faith in polls anymore? With the various phone technologies around these days, the only people who atually answer the phone and participate in telephone polls are deadbeats.
    And deadbeats predominantly vote Democrat — I know that because I saw that in a poll somewhere.

  31. David: “Americans hate their government but they blame Bush and the Republicans for it. It isn’t fair, but what ever is?”

    We are talking about the same Republicans who’ve had the Presidency, a majority in Congress, and haven’t been shy in using both to the max, aren’t we?
    Joe: “Democrats now lead Republicans on – get this – foreign policy, taxes, and crime. The three stalwarts of the Republican majority.

    Foreign policy you could attribute to the Iraq War, but taxes and crime? We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

    It’s funny to watch people in their 40’s walking around with unchanged assumptions from their 20’s, or teens. Many of which weren’t true back then.

  32. John Kerry came closer to unseating a wartime president than any candidate in American history.

    joe, you keep throwing this out there. You do realize that there have only been 3 wartime elections (1812, 1944, and 2004) where the incumbent President was running, right? Kind of a small sample.

  33. I suppose you could also include 1864, though that was technically an insurrection, not a war. But in 1812, the war had barely begun when the election took place, and in 1864 and 1944 the war was going very well for the US at the time. None of these conditions apply to the 2004 election.

  34. crimethink-

    I think you forgot 1864, although admittedly a big chunk of the country wasn’t voting in that election.

    Vietnam may not have been a declared war, but it sure as hell looked like a war, and the incumbents who sought re-election during it (LBJ in 1964, Nixon in 1972) won.

    During the Cold War, admittedly not an actual war, but definitely a time of fear, only two incumbents lost: Ford in 1976, and Carter in 1980. And Ford was a most unusual case for all sorts of reasons.

    When Americans feel afraid of a foreign enemy, they rarely vote out the President.

  35. well everyone ignored the second part so i will restate it:

    But the election is not being held today and the house isn’t even half way through its term, let alone to the half way point between elections.

    Everyone knows that the election is in 2008 right? Not this upcoming November?

    2008 is a long way a away and the election will be determined by an unpredictable factor…namely the war in Iraq.

    So how about leather jacket and hipster green shirt (Nick and David) instead of blog waring about the 2008 election results get to work and start telling us how divided government has worked out for us libertarian folk so far.

    Ah, joshua, it’s going to fun reposting your comment next fall.

    Here is a fun question: Joe were you posting here say about July 2003?

    anyway i guess joe doesn’t know that the election is in 2008 not next November.

    here ya go joe in case you don’t believe me.

    The United States presidential election of 2008 will be the 55th consecutive quadrennial election for President and Vice President of the United States, and is scheduled to be held on November 4, 2008. Elections for all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 34 members of the United States Senate will also occur on November 4.

    quoted from here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2008

  36. Oops, crimethink beat me to the point.

    James K. Polk was also a wartime President (a fact that original recipe thoreau was none too pleased with), but he sought no second term. Anyway, his was was done before he left office.

    James K. Polk is the only President honored in a song by They Might Be Giants.

  37. “Hegel/Snowe in 2012: Moderation in the pursuit of moderation is nice.”

    I’m not sure whether a dead German philosopher is allowed to run for President, but let me check my copy of the Constitution.

  38. crimethink,

    1972 is yet another example, and the war wasn’t going terribly well at that time.

    Your technicality doesn’t seem terribly relevant to the question of the war’s political effect. The American voters certainly thought of themselves as being a in a war during the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln most certainly was a wartime president.

    Let’s leave 1812 out of it, since it’s such a close case. That’s five, and they all go my way.

  39. I suppose it’s possible, joshua, that these comment threads are populated by people who don’t realize that there is an election scheduled for 2008, though I doubt it.

    Here is a fun question: Joe were you posting here say about July 2003?,/i>

    Yes, I was. Republicans kept commenting about what a blowout the 2004 elections were going to be, and I kept relying that, no, it was going to be a close election. Only prediction I ever made about that election.

  40. – Democrats are dramatically out-fundraising Republicans in the presidential race, in the race for the House, and in the race for the Senate. Republicans only have an edge in the RNC-DNC cash race, and that’s

    I thought we got the money out of politics?

  41. joe,

    Well, 5 isn’t a big sample either, since we’ve had 54 presidential elections total. And the question of whether the war in progress is a popular one is hardly a technicality, so 1812, 1864, and 1944 are right out.

    You’re right about ’72; in my youth and inexperience I’d thought the war was over by then. So, Kerry did better than McGovern in a similar situation. If that’s not an insulting compliment, I’m not sure what is.

  42. The Myths of the Unpopular Democrat, David Weigel would be more accurate.

  43. James K. Polk is the only President honored in a song by They Might Be Giants.

    I always thought that someone stuck a finger in the President’s ear, and it wasn’t too much later they came out with Johnson’s wax thingee was a hat tip to Andrew Johnson.

  44. crimethink,

    Six, actually, now, counting 2004.

    If those six split 3:3, or even 4:2, maybe. I’d still leave the door slightly ajar at 5:1.

    But they don’t. In every single one of them, the incumbant has held office. Hell, haven’t you ever heard of “rally around the flag,” “don’t change horses in midstream,” and “war is the health of the state?” What about “Wag the Dog?” Why do you think we have a bunch of cliches about how popular wartime presidents are and how easy it is for them to win reelection, and none about how difficult it is?

    Wartime leaders are popular. They get to pose in front of Da Trooooops, and talk about the terrible, terrible signal their defeat would send to the enemy.

  45. The only thing worse than the Democrats winning big in 2008 would be the Republicans winning big in 2008. I’m crossing my fingers in vain for a massive fifty car pileup gridlock.

  46. I have to say that the “people who come up with cliches agree with me” argument is not the most persuasive.

  47. Your technicality doesn’t seem terribly relevant to the question of the war’s political effect. The American voters certainly thought of themselves as being a in a war during the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln most certainly was a wartime president.

    Why can joe use events that happened over a hundred use ago (civil war) to support his points but I can’t use FDR to support mine because it was sooooo looooong ago and the democrats are sooooo different now.

  48. Why can joe use events that happened over a hundred use ago (civil war) to support his points but I can’t use FDR to support mine because it was sooooo looooong ago and the democrats are sooooo different now.

    Because patterns of human behavior don’t change nearly as much over time as political platforms.

  49. Reinmoose,

    The Democrats’ platform is pretty much the same as the one that FDR ran on, at least as far as economic issues go.

  50. joshua,

    FDR supports my point – he was a wartime president, and won.

    Who told you not to use FDR to support a point? What point?

  51. You got it, crimethink. Massive public works projects and huge deficits to stimulate the economy sure is a good summary of the Democrats’ platform in 2007.

  52. “Americans hate their government but they blame Bush and the Republicans for it. It isn’t fair, but what ever is?”

    Isn’t fair? After the Republican antics of the last oh, I don’t know, 8 or ten years? It’s not only fair, it is utterly and completely justified.

    The Dems are just hacks – the Republicans are batsh*t crazy.

  53. Nope, joe, just raising taxes. Oops, of course I mean “repealing tax cuts”. Those condescending fuckers don’t think we know the difference.

  54. Back on planet Earth, FDR and the 30s Democrats established a 90% top marginal rate, while modern Democrats support something in the 33-35 range.

  55. It is indeed difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people.

    The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master.

  56. Back on planet Earth, FDR and the 30s Democrats established a 90% top marginal rate, while modern Democrats support something in the 33-35 range.

    I call bullshit.

  57. joshua,

    OK, what would you call an accurate figure? 36%? 40%?

    FDR established a 90% top rate. Ninety.

  58. We also had a war in 1900: The Philippine “insurrection.”

  59. OK, what would you call an accurate figure? 36%? 40%?

    Getting closer…keep going up.

    But I think the fundamental similarities with FDR and “modern democrats” is their refusal to admit that higher taxes negatively effects the economy and negatively effects job creation.

    It was only like 5 days ago when the WSJ printed a graphic showing a Laffer curve (comparing industrialized economies and their respective corporate taxes and % tax revenues) 3-4 lefty economists some of whom are current and former democrat economic advisers had a conniption fit.

  60. I have been a Republican since I registered to vote at 18 and I have never been so disgusted with the GOP. I will vote for Ron Paul in the primary, If he doesn’t get the nomination (yes, a long-shot, I know) I have decided that I will not vote for another “lesser evil” Republican. If the GOP can’t do better than W I may write in a vote for Cthulhu, the greater evil. If the election is between the country-club Republicans like Bush and the loony left Democrats I just don’t care.

  61. joshua,

    Despite the “eat the rich” rhetoric of some Dems (and lefties that vote Dem or Green), I truly doubt any with a modicum of political power would boost the maximum marginal rate much above the Clinton-era 39-point-whatever%.

    In any case, the problem isn’t the direct taxes, it’s size of government and the spending. I’d prefer tax-and-spend to cut-taxes-a-little-and-spend-like-a-drunken-sailor-on-liberty.

  62. I’d prefer tax-and-spend to cut-taxes-a-little-and-spend-like-a-drunken-sailor-on-liberty.

    Then you prove my point…you as a democrat, are perfectly willing to cut jobs and limit wealth creation by raising taxes…

    the issues of spending and taxing have about as much relevance to each other as school choice and ending the drug war…

    I would love it if the drug war ended AND we had school choice….but if they only ended the drug war i would not be moping around all pissy because they didn’t also pass laws for school choice.

    Bush’s tax cuts are FUCKING AWESOME…they bring us closer to an optimal tax structure that limits the impact those taxes have on the market yet at the same time raises our ability to pull in tax revenues to pay for things the functions of government.

    Spending is a different issue.

    Anyone who conflates the two issues as the same is either a lier intending to confuse people or an idiot.

  63. Are you drunk? Me, a Democrat? I hate to break it to you, but I’ve NEVER voted for a Dem for ANY federal race EVER (and that includes 4 presidential elections and 8 congressional elections). The only Dems I’ve voted for were in local & state races, and were people I actually knew personally (running unopposed or against crackpot Rs). Bush has performed a miracle in making Clinton look like a paragon of honesty and fiscal responsibility to this kinda-right-leaning small-l libertarian independent.

    Spending money the government doesn’t have creates a pretty heavy drag on the economy via increased cost of consumer & business debt, and increased inflation. It’s as much a tax as the one we fill out the Form 1040 for, except the voter never sees just how much it costs him.

    In addition, more and more of our debt is bought by foreign investors in countries with big trade surpluses (read: China & OPEC countries) that might have ulterior motives. Have fun when China, Iran & Venezuela decide to start seriously fucking with the Dollar. Our rampant borrowing is handing these guys a loaded gun.

    Anyone that can’t see that spending and the size of government are what counts needs to get their nose out of their high school econ book and stop screaming “LAFFER KURV” every time a tax discussion comes up.

  64. I always thought that someone stuck a finger in the President’s ear, and it wasn’t too much later they came out with Johnson’s wax thingee was a hat tip to Andrew Johnson.

    Other Johnson. The song is all about the 1960s…

    Chinese people were fighting in the park
    We tried to help them fight, no one appreciated that

  65. Look at this:

    http://www.pollster.com/blogs/congress_stinks_worse_than_eit.php

    It says, in short, that the Congressional Democrats have approval ratings almost six points higher (34.5%) than Congressional Republicans (28.8%), which, in turn, poll six points higher than Congress as a whole (22.6%). Also, the difference in disapproval between Congressional Democrats (51.5%) and Congressional Republicans (64.8%) is more than 13 points (that is, there’s a higher rate of unsure/dunno/refused/whatever for the Democrats than the Republicans).

    Another factor, at least in the Senate, is the number of seats up. There are 22 seats up that are currently held by Republicans in the Senate, and only 12 up that are currently held by Democrats.

    I think the chances of another Senatoral blowout for the Dems are rather high. I think it’s quite possible for the Democrats to get a filibuster-proof majority (that is, 60 seats or more, a gain of 9, counting Lieberman and Sanders as Democrats). Due to the fact that House seats are frequently gerrymandered or otherwise strongly favor the incumbent party, the gains in the House for the Democrats will probably be quite small, however. The easy pickups in the House already flipped in 06.

  66. Paul | July 19, 2007, 5:54pm | #

    I have been a Republican since I registered to vote at 18 and I have never been so disgusted with the GOP. I will vote for Ron Paul in the primary, If he doesn’t get the nomination (yes, a long-shot, I know)

    This was not written by the Paul you all know and [love].

  67. For most of my life, Democrats have clearly been the majority party, holding both houses of Congress. Republicans got elected because they were popular above party – Eisenhower and Reagan – or because the Democrats ran very weak candidates, as in 1968, 1972, and 1988. So a reversion to a Democratic majority would be normal, though not my preference.

    However, after two years of Bush I found myself hoping for a Republican defeat. I sure hope some political alternative develops to the bipartisan party.

  68. Then you prove my point…you as a democrat, are perfectly willing to cut jobs and limit wealth creation by raising taxes…

    So do you, joshua. You just raise the taxes on your kids, while you enjoy the benefits of the deficit-backed spending.

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