Rasmussen Sees A Republican Rebound

Surveys in 2006 saw an erosion in Republican Party affiliation that opened the gap between the major parties from 1.6% to over 6%, favoring Democrats, by the end of the year. Twelve months later, the performance of the Democrats while controlling Congress has almost completely reversed the trend. Rolling into 2008, Rasmussen shows that Republicans have their highest share of affiliation since January 2006 and only trail Democrats by two points:

The number of Americans who consider themselves to be Republicans jumped nearly two percentage points in December to 34.2%. That’s the largest market share for the Republican brand in nearly two years, since January 2006 (see history from January 2004 to present).
At the same time, the number of Democrats fell to 36.3%. That’s down a point compared to a month ago. During 2007, the number of Democrats has ranged from a low of 35.9% in July to a high of 37.8% in February….
Back in May, the Republicans fell to their lowest level of party identification of the past four years (30.8%). Then, the immigration debate raged in Congress and some Republican legislators helped defeat an unpopular Senate immigration bill. Republicans have gained ground in five of the seven months since then. But, the gains in December—1.7 percentage points—matched the total gains for the previous six months combined.
The December gains for the GOP coincide with increased public confidence in the War on Terror. It’s interesting to note that this did not improve President Bush’s Job Approval ratings while helping the Republican Party overall.

The realignment comes at a “startling” time, Rasmussen notes. The report also suggests this as a reaction to the performance of Democrats in Congress. Nancy Pelosi has only a 38% approval rating, compared to 49% at the start of the year, suggesting that independents have lost confidence in her leadership, and possibly some Democrats. They note the sharp increase in December as a corollary to the improving confidence in the war on terror, which also suggests that the electorate may exact a price on Democrats for their strident defeatism throughout most of 2007.
It could mean something else as well. The past year gave voters a good look at the Democratic primary challengers, a thoroughly inexperienced lot. Given that the three Democrats with any chance of winning the nomination comprise less experience in national office combined than John McCain and no executive experience at all, some disenchantment may have set in with voters. It certainly doesn’t give Democrats a reason to think that they have momentum for a general election — in fact, this survey shows the opposite.
Independent affiliation has also dropped. This looks like former Republicans returning to the party. Self-described independents only make up 29.5% of the electorate, which is the first time since June 2006 that number has been below 30%.
After losing their first national election in four cycles in 2006, it looks like Republicans could rebound in 2008. They have the momentum, and they have closed the gap almost to where it was in November 2004. A few more months of Democratic incompetence in Congress could close the gap altogether.

Huckabee Conference Call Live Blog

Governor Mike Huckabee decided to hold a blogger conference call on New Years Day. Normally holding this on a holiday would seem unusual, but with the Iowa caucuses in two days, they have little choice but to keep on the job throughout the last 72 hours. The conference appears to be getting off to a slightly late start, but I will live-blog it once it begins.
5:33 PM CT – Chuck Norris joins us as a surprise guest. Huckabee starts off talking about how Iowa has become the center of the political universe. He’s happy with the enthusiasm he’s seen.
5:34 – Chuck Norris says he got to know about Huckabee through the bloggers. Friendly guy, nice statement, short, non-specific.
5:35 – Not a lot of room left in the Marriott where they’s staying in Des Moines. Q&A for both Norris and Huckabee.
5:35 – First question, from a Huckabee supporter, congratulating Huckabee on his MTP interview and offering thanks to Norris for his family fare. The actual question is about Huckabee’s background — what caused him to leave the ministry and go into politics? A: A number of incidents over time. Always had an interest in politics, but only after working within the Baptist organization on an anti-Lottery initiative did he consider making it a career. Mostly, he wanted to create a better future for his three children, and he wanted to get involved rather than complain.
5:40 – Q: First for Norris, asking about his involvement in the arts. A: The only thing he ever sang was the theme from “Walker, Texas Ranger”. He wanted Randy Travis to sing it, but CBS asked him to do it instead — and 12 hours in the studio worked “miracles”. Q: For Huckabee, on education and the federal role. Please outline some of his own accomplishments on education, and does he want to be viewed as an “education President”? A: The federal government’s primary role should be to highlight best practices and facilitate communication. He says NCLB did give a new focus on each child as an individual, but it has problems in accounting for kids with special challenges. It also eliminated some music and art opportunities,as local districts looked to save money on areas that did not get evaluation.
This answer went on for quite a long time. As it turns out, it ate up most of the time for the conference.
5:47 – Last question: another Huckabee supporter gets it. He gives an analysis that Huckabee has a 74% chance of winning Iowa. Otherwise, it’s not much of a question.
Final thoughts: I like Mike Huckabee, but this call was really a waste of time. It sounded like an internal conference designed to cheer the stalwarts rather than an opportunity to get asked something other than softballs. It’s not that Huckabee gave poor answers — he sounded very good, in fact — but the questions did nothing except tee up his well-known thoughts on his biography and education.
I wanted to give him an opportunity to address the fallout of his press conference in which he announced he would not run a particular attack ad against Mitt Romney and then screened it for the press anyway, as bloggers and pundits have been openly wondering what Huckabee intended with that move. I figured that if I didn’t get the chance to ask that question, someone else would — but we only got three softballs, and slow-pitched ones at that.
Chuck Norris may have been the most interesting part of this call.

Getting Pakistan Wrong, Democrat-Style

Last week, pundits across the spectrum castigated Mike Huckabee for a couple of glaring mistakes in his response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He offered “apologies” to Pakistanis, later clarifying to “condolences”, and inexplicably placed Afghanistan on Pakistan’s eastern border, rather than western. If those gaffes qualify for headline treatment, then Hillary Clinton’s confusion on Pakistani politics should get top-of-the-wires treatment, at least:

Senator Hillary Clinton was praised in the wake of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto for demonstrating her command of the players and the issues at stake in Pakistan, even as another candidate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, was criticized for stumbling over details.
But in two confident television appearances, on CNN and ABC, Clinton made an elementary error about Pakistani politics: She described President Pervez Musharraf as a “candidate” who would be “on the ballot.”
In fact, Musharraf was re-elected to the presidency in October. The upcoming elections are for parliament, and while Musharraf’s party will be facing off against opposition parties, the president himself is not a candidate.

Afterwards, the Clintons attempted a little spin on the mistake, claiming that Hillary had meant Musharraf’s party. As Ben Smith notes, that doesn’t match up with Hillary’s words:

“If President Musharraf wishes to stand for election, then he should abide by the same rules that every other candidate will have to follow,” she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (.pdf) December 28.
“He could be the only person on the ballot. I don’t think that’s a real election,” she told ABC’s George Stephanopolous December 30.

This hurts Hillary much more than Mike Huckabee. Huckabee has run on a primarily domestic agenda, with social conservativism and economic populism fueling his rise in Iowa. Although he has cast himself as prepared for foreign-policy questions, his strength does not lie in a deep understanding of international politics.
Hillary, however, has based her entire campaign as the one person most prepared to hit the ground running in the White House. Someone using that as a selling point does damage to her case when she can’t tell the difference between a presidential election and a parliamentary election in a critical state for the war on terror. Given that most of the current unrest springs from Musharraf’s questionable election as president in the last few weeks, it’s even stranger that she made this error twice in three days.
If Hillary can’t get Pakistan right, then she’s obviously not prepared to get started on Day One. Her entire sales pitch fails on this question, and it reminds us that the three frontrunners among the Democrats have less national-office experience put together than John McCain, less executive experience — as in zero — than Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, and that Mike Huckabee was Governor of Arkansas longer than any of them served in national public office. Even Fred Thompson beats them on that score.
UPDATE: Longtime CapQ commenter Keemo posted a comment about this on another thread as I wrote about this. No surprise — the CapQ community starts off 2008 ahead of the captain!

Final DMR Poll Puts Huckabee And Obama On Top

The one agency with the best record in polling Iowans has published its final survey two days before the Iowa caucuses, and the results show little difference from its last. Mike Huckabee continues to outpoll Mitt Romney among Republicans, and Barack Obama has increased his lead over Hillary Clinton among Democrats. The more interesting results follow afterwards:

Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, up from 28 percent in the Register’s last poll in late November, while Clinton, a New York senator, held steady at 25 percent and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was virtually unchanged at 24 percent. …
The size of Huckabee’s lead is virtually unchanged from the last Iowa Poll taken in late November, despite Romney’s hard-charging effort to regain the top spot that he held earlier in the year.
The new poll, taken over four days ending on Sunday, shows a resurgent Arizona Sen. John McCain grabbing third place in the Republican race for the first-in-the-nation caucuses. McCain tallies support from 13 percent in the poll — a 6-point improvement since late November.

One narrative gets exposed as a fantasy, while another gets some validation. John Edwards has tried to cast his candidacy in Iowa as surging, gaining momentum at the expense of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Instead, while still significant, it remains at the same levels as the last DMR poll. The momentum belongs to Obama, and Hillary and Edwards has not dented his upward rise in the state.
Edwards has to win in Iowa in order to have a prayer anywhere else. His unvarnished brand of populism has little hope of gaining traction even in his home state of North Carolina, and certainly not in New Hampshire, Florida, or any of the rest of the early states. If he can’t finish any better than third in Iowa with his kind of rhetoric, he’s finished.
On the other hand, John McCain seems to have gained some real upward trajectory in Iowa, a state not inclined towards his brand of conservatism. He almost doubled his support from November despite not spending a great deal of time in Iowa, and a third-place finish in the caucus would provide him a big push before the critical New Hampshire primaries. If Romney loses Iowa and McCain wins New Hampshire, Romney has a much tougher — but hardly impossible — task to win the nomination. Rudy Giuliani will be hoping for just such an outcome.
Fred Thompson, meanwhile, has also improved in Iowa, although perhaps not enough to stay viable. He needs a third-place finish to have any chance of gaining enough momentum (and Fred says he needs a second-place finish, which would take a miracle). Right now, he’s tied with Ron Paul at 9%. Using that as a guide, Paul has a legitimate complaint about being left out of the next debate in New Hampshire.
The Des Moines Register has a pretty good track record of predicting caucus behavior, and this looks like both parties are in for a shakeup. (via Memeorandum)

So This Is 2008

Hmm. So far, seems a lot like 2007. I’m just amazed I stayed up late enough to see it change.
I hope you all had a great (and safe) celebration! I got to spend it with the Little Admiral and the First Mate, which is as spectacular as I wanted. We watched the Back to the Future trilogy after having an early dinner with the Little Admiral’s other grandparents. It seemed an appropriate choice for ringing in a new year. I’m assuming the ball dropped in Manhattan as it always does.