April 2, 2007

Barone: Nation Shifts Democratic

The invaluable Michael Barone takes a look at the latest polling and sees trouble for the Republicans in 2008. Over the last five years, party identification in the US has shifted in favor of the Democrats. Part of it, Barone says, comes from a lack of demonstrated competence on the part of the administration, which erodes one of the GOP's key arguments for Republican rule. Will this allow the Democrats to sweep the 2008 elections? Barone looks at a similar situation in Britain and thinks not:

In the early 1990s, Britain's Conservatives were regarded as nasty but competent. Then, Britain was forced to devalue its currency. Mortgage payments shot up, and the Conservatives' reputation for competence vanished. The result: Tony Blair's Labor Party won huge victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

The scenario here would be for Democrats to enlarge their congressional majorities and sweep to a 40-state presidential victory in 2008. The Republicans' reputation for competence was damaged by Iraq and Katrina. Under the Blair scenario, they would go further downhill, especially if Iraq is still seen as a losing cause.

Why it won't happen: Labor won only after Tony Blair rebranded the party as New Labor, with moderate policies. If the Old Labor-party leader John Smith had not died suddenly in 1994, to be replaced by the 41-year-old Blair, Labor might have lost or won only narrowly — or so the British political experts I trust believe.

Here, Democrats don't seem to be rebranding themselves as "new Democrats," as Bill Clinton did successfully in 1992. As for competence, Republicans will have a new leader in 2008, and the candidates now polling the highest — Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney — can plausibly claim that quality.

To the list of perceived incomptencies, one has to add the mess at the Department of Justice. The firings of the eight US Attorneys, the process used, and the absolutely self-immolating manner in which they were handled has done nothing to bolster confidence in Alberto Gonzales or the administration. Barone is right in that these will come into play in 2008, but the lack of any administration official in the race will minimize the impact.

The Democrats have missed an opportunity, at least thus far. With the GOP floundering a bit, they have a chance to aim for the moderates and the centrists. Instead, however, their leading presidential contenders are spending most of their time pandering to the anti-war base. Hillary may be the only candidate who has shown willingness to defy them, but only occasionally. No Democrat wants to get outflanked on their left in this race so far, and that will leave the center unattended.

What does this mean? It bolsters the argument for Rudy Giuliani or perhaps John McCain. If the Republicans can woo back the center for 2008, they may be able to hold onto the White House even if they cannot win back majorities in Congress. With the party affiliation numbers coming up the way they are, Congress looks more and more like a long shot.


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Comments (16)

Posted by BODYGUARDS [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 6:09 AM

/////Here, Democrats don't seem to be rebranding themselves as "new Democrats," as Bill Clinton did successfully in 1992

Since It has only been 15 years since the previous 'rebranding', perhaps rebranding so soon might be perceived as indecision or lack of unification - and played up by opponents

Posted by syn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 6:24 AM

I admire Mr. Barone, his knowledge of numbers and such is extraordinary, however, I cannot image another 2 years of negative Democrat campaigning ie beating up on everything American, offering platforms similiar to Hugo Chavez (see Hillary's offer to nationalize the oil industry), flip-flopping and or avoiding on just about every important issue, and Bushhate can inspire moderates to vote Democrat.

One, the other hand, the meaning of 'centrist" is Liberal-lite with a dab of insisting corporations assume responsibility for providing for the commonweath.

In any case, Republicans need to desperately follow Reagan's advice 'stop beating up on your own'

Posted by syn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 6:47 AM

Of course considering that at the age of 45 I am the last of the baby-boomer generation and should Americans decide that the Democratic Party way is the way to go I may just rejoin the Dems, advocate universal health care, extend tax-funded abortion programs to fund world-wide abortion, increase gas tax to additional $5 bucks per gallon, do the carbon off-set scam and insist our taxes are increased to pay for all my old age goodies I as the last of the baby-boomer generation would consider an entitlement.

And thinking as Liberals what do I care, it won't be my children and grandchildren who will be forced to pay 50% of their hard-earned income in taxation just to foot the baby-boomer entitlement bill because I don't have children or grandchildren who will suffer the demands my generation feels they deserve.

But for now I feel it my American duty to do my best to prevent that horrid future from happening.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 7:22 AM

syn wrote (April 2, 2007 06:24 AM):

In any case, Republicans need to desperately follow Reagan's advice 'stop beating up on your own'

I think that this is part of our problem. While the self-serving antics of RINOs like McCain, Hagel and Spector need to come to an end, we also need to hold our elected representatives to a high standard and make damned sure that the American people understand that we do. To a great extent, we HAVE held our reps to a higher standard. Consider:

Rep. Randy Cunningham (R): Bribery, out of office and into prison

Rep. William Jefferson (D): Bribery, put on Homeland Security Committee

What we HAVEN'T done is show the American people that we've done this sort of thing (and let them make the comparison to the shabby democrats).

It's one thing to avoid eating our own; it's another to cover up for our own, or to fail to hold them to a high standard. Frankly, I think some other Republicans deserve sharp criticism: Trent Lott and Ted Stevens, for example, seem to think that the federal treasury is their personal bank account. This needs to stop.

Posted by syn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 8:37 AM

Oh I agree with what you say doc, however, Republicans do not control the narrative and it is difficult to show the American people that we do go after our own corrupt when the gatekeepers of information actively hide any efforts done.

I am sorry but 'The Army of Davids' is not as powerful an opposition to the mass media establishment as we would like to believe. Most Americans (even Republican voters) live their lives in sound bytes and do not take the time to read weblogs, much less are able to follow any rational timeline of events.

There is so much information not told by the establishment media that Americans really have no idea how much information they are missing.

I'll say this time and again the Left are masters at controlling the narrative, they know how to propagandize their message and, take it from a former Leftist who understands the power of Leftist rhetoric (David Horowitz) the Left is vicious.

I was in NYC theater for a decade and a half up until 9/11/2001 and I know from personal experience just exactly how vicious is the Collective Conscience; these people have no barriers left in their value system. In other words, they will conquer the opposition by using 'any means necessary; for them the end justifies the means.

Republicans generally are acting as if rational discourse or 'taking the high road' holds some meaning to the opposition. It does not.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 8:53 AM

Any pursuit of the middle that bolsters a call for Rudi or McCain totally ignores the fact that the GOP lost in 2006 because they drove their Right to stay HOME.

There are millions to be wooed on the Right, and nothing to induce moderates, who all lean Socialist anyway, to settle for LITE Socialism, when they can have "The Real Thing" with DIMS.

California is screaming at the Right - Dah Ahnold Man was an "ELECTABLE" GOP member.

Boy, hasn't THAT been a big win for the State !


If the GOP is enticed by the likes of McCain and Giuliani, they cannot be the natural home for the likes of those who care about home and family - they will be the NEW HOME of Socialism, with such personalities running the party.

I don't see how they can do better than Gerald Ford and Robert Dole.

Posted by Gary Gross [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 10:17 AM

Here in Minnesota, the DFL is doing their best to give Republicans back the Minnesota House of Representatives by passing major tax increases despite a near-record state budget surplus. The Minnesota DFL might be the best way of getting out Minnesota voters for the GOP.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 2:18 PM

The Democrats have missed an opportunity, at least thus far. With the GOP floundering a bit, they have a chance to aim for the moderates and the centrists

Well for starters Captain, this is "future" tea leaf leadings. You mention this but then go on to talk about the presidendial choices which have not even come to light. The Dems indeed did a very good job of aiming and electing moderates in almost every statewide office that was in play last November. What will happen in the presidendial race scares me. Aside from Richardson (and it would appear Clark is not running) I see no one on the list who comes across as either qualified or too far to the left. On the GOP side I see the pickings right now even worse. The serious contenders are either raging liberals who support are war supporters, or the kings of all flip floppers in McCain and Matinee Mitt (also a historical governing liberal from a liberal state). Thompson would be a great choice. As a voter from TN I could support him. He grew tired of the speed of congress and the way Washington worked ... maybe he is just the unifier this country needs. While he may come across as some sort of conservative god send don't look for him to be a Bush kind of conservative pandering to the bible thumpers ... that is why Dobson claims Thompson is not "christian" enough. He would quickly and squarely tell Mr Dobson that your job is teaching the bible to christians, not in formation of goverment policies. Dobson and the rest of the cottage industry christians need to be kept out of government. Yep I could live with Mr Thompson more than anyone else who looks poised to grab their parties ticket. But I doubt he is running.

Posted by LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 3:03 PM

Rose ,evidence? What I've read says it was the "moderates" and independents who switched.

Posted by Cave Bear [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 3:19 PM

I think Monkei's been in the loco weed again. Bush has never "pandered" to the "bible thumpers". Sure, he's a very religious man, and has never bothered to hide that fact. But aside from the fact that the "bible thumpers" like the fact that GWB is a serious Christian, he has not "pandered" to them. That's just a leftwingnut pipedream.

Nor can you say that because he's anti-abortion, or doesn't support "gay marriage" (GWB doesn't have a problem with "civil unions" however, something the LSM strangely does not talk about), etc. But there are a lot of people out there who hold positions like this who are not bigtime religionists either.

As for Dobson and the "cottage industry" Christians, as you like to call them (whatever the hell that means), while they are entitled to express their opinions under the First Amendment, they are not IN the government, and never have been. However, until such time as you are as quick to condemn all the profilage politicking that the Dims do in the black churches as you are groups like Dobson's, then your comments are without merit.

However, I do agree about Thompson. He's the only guy on the Repub side who has really impressed me, orders of magnitude more that McCain or Romney. I like Guiliani, certainly after his performance as NYC mayor after 9/11, but a conservative he's not.

Posted by ck [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 3:40 PM

Couple things -
"pandering to the anti-war base..." - the anti war base is most of the american public right now - So, its legitimate to lobby their vote -

As far as what I think capt. intended in his "anti-war" base comment, it's probably not who their pandering to - The real anti-war base is infuriated with the democrats right now for not demanding they come home immediately - Kucinich is the only one who is really stressing that point -

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 4:46 PM

If the Conservatives were "driven" to stay home then who needs them? Obviously they can not be counted on in a pinch so maybe it would be better to put less emphasis on their inclusion in the party and try to reach out to someone else who will actually show up at the polls.

This is the point: Democrats stick together. They will fight and rangle but when push comes to shove more often than not, they stick together.

The Republicans are told by some on the Right that they can either say how high when the Conservatives say jump or the Conservatives will sit home and let the Democrats win and then bitch about the Democrats.

Well excuse me for saying so, but with friends like that the Republicans do not need enemies. The Republicans gained majority status by pushing people like Buchanan to the fringes. They began to attract more minorities and women and moderates and with that support they won the majority. And when they began to lose the Independents, they begin to lose elections. That ever important swing vote, is swinging the other way again.

Issues like the immigration fiasco made some people on the right look too extreme. And although I did not support letting Schiavo die, I do think that began a shift right there. The whole thing made people uncomfortable.

I think competence can be seen as an issue as well, but considering the press coverage of Katrina and Iraq I am not sure how that could have been countered. If the Democrats running Louisiana had been a lot more on the ball it would have helped Bush, strange as that seems.

It seems to me that the lack of attacks on America in the last few years, the performance of the economy and certain successes in the War on Terror should help, however, people just expect competence, it is incompetence they notice.

All in all, I don't think that going out of their way to alienate more people in the hopes that a few recalcitrant people on the right will bother to show up at the polls is a fair trade.

I think the whole ridiculous nonscandal with Gonzales is ginned up and while it is easy to just blame on Gonzales, it is also true that the idea of Democrats making an issue over whether or not some US Attorneys were fired for political reasons is purely ludicrous considering their own history. I think I read somewhere that the number of people playing close attention to the scandal is supposedly about 8%.

These things shift back and forth for a lot of different reasons. After Bush became President the Republicans gained majority status in the Senate and increased their hold on state houses as well. That might shift back with time, competence aside.

However, considering the fact that the new Congress has an approval raing lower than Bush's numbers right now I am not sure how solid these numbers are. They might change again by the next election in 08.

And ck, most of America still wants us to win the war I am not sure you could say the same thing about the anti war base. Big difference.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 5:40 PM

And I also think we should remember these numbers are not based on voters, but on all adults. I am not sure how solid they are. People can say anything, it is how they vote that matters and if the poll does not even take voter registration into account I am not sure how much it means. Time will tell.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 6:49 PM

Bill Richardson would be my ideal candidate, not sure he can survive the primaries. IMHO what has driven the gop down is GWB. And for republicans to defend him because of party loyalty is just nuts. He's reached pariah status. Because I couldn't stand Gore in 2000, Bush was going to be my choice, the compassionate conservative thing, that was before his minions slimed John McCain in the South Carolina Primary. That was it, Bush lost a vote. Bush never seemed to grow into the job, almost a lack of interest, plus he surrounded himself with the Texan incompetents,Miers, Gonzalez,etc. I would have no problem with Rudy winning, I heard he wants to go to energy independence, sounds like a dem to me. And please keep throwing Hillary under the bus, no one that I know in my party wants her.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 10:02 PM

And I also think we should remember these numbers are not based on voters, but on all adults. I am not sure how solid they are. People can say anything, it is how they vote that matters and if the poll does not even take voter registration into account I am not sure how much it means. Time will tell

Did you sleep through the last election cycle?

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 2, 2007 10:46 PM

In politics, all jobs are open. How so? We elect people.

And, in every single election there are parties. And, candidates.

With "habits" that also change. (Habits look like hem lines. Once? women wore skirts that swept the streets clean. Then? Well, at times they went UP high! WW2 produced the "excuse" that we were on a war-time footing. And, fabric was rationed. (Among other things.)

Two piece bathing suits were "invented" to save fabric! Those are the kinds of pressures that can change "styles."

Today? Jeans have stuck. They're in our wardrobes. And, not just for sailors at sea, anymore. This means PEOPLE wear pants. From toddlers to old people. All sexes, included.

Now, just to talk about elections, there was a time that Americans backed FDR. And, created the expression "coattails." So that the candidate on the top of the ticket, if he really pleased the People, got to sweep into office LOTS OF MEMBERS of the same party.

In 1994? Clinton saw he had a two-year old problem. Americans thought he needed to see a sea-change in Congress. So we had the Newt Gingrich revolution.

And? Both parties are DIFFERENT! In the donks' party; you can grow very old. But your tenure is assured.

Not so in the GOP! Seems there are a lot of people who vote for the GOP, when they think their candidate choices are so pure, the candidates are saints.

It's easy to get disappointed in humans.

And, this has given the GOP some terrible defeats. Even when the GOP candidate is running against a dog.

Special Interests, then came along. And, put their own lock on this system.

The donks? Happy as clams with Special Interests; that will see the Congress pretty much limited to 50-50.

Yes, we call 51-49 a majority. But you need a magnifying glass to see it.

While Bush? Oh, boy. He's not liked, ya know?

So many in DC see this poor man as weak. (It's worth quoting Glenn Reynolds, here. Today, at InstaPundit, Reynolds noted he was never much impressed with Bush. So, he's not disappointed, either. He just feels sorry for the zchlub.)

I think there's truth to Glenn Reynolds statement. There's something "sad" about Bush. He's not capable of pleasing too many people.

He's also not Jimmy Carter! Jimmy Carter actually thought if he "did it his way" he'd fly out of his self-created box like Houdini.

Bush isn't a magician, either.

What are some of the choices you get, ahead?

ONE? We could get a very popular presidential candiated, fielded by the GOP, in 2008. But if there are no coattails? And, Americans continue to split the congress more-or-less 50-50? Then the special interests RULE.

Until? Well, a great president would give you speeches.

Heck, Winston Churchill has already proven; in a world where there were a lot of heroes. That having the Lion's Roar, gave voice to many people. His words? Still rings true.

Nope. You can't buy this stuff from speech writers.

And, Hillary? She's got less talent at moving crowds than pelosi. A woman who is demonstrating that she can drive a new car; forward. Crashing through anything in her way. And, her foot has yet to find the brake. Typical woman driver.

Do you believe you have what to fear? If so, what makes you shake?

By the way, the most interesting numbers you get from polls? Most Americans think the congress critters are an in-bred criminal class. Again. IF one of the requirements of leadership, is to galvanize public opinion ... It's not happening. Yet.