Sunday, September 10, 2006

Chilling numbers for the Republicans

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Chilling numbers for the Republicans
If something doesn't change, GOP will likely lose House, hang on in Senate
ANALYSIS
By Charlie Cook
National Journal

Updated: 3:15 p.m. ET Sept 7, 2006

WASHINGTON - Republicans are facing a motivation deficit unlike anything they've seen at least since 1982 and probably since the post-Watergate midterms of 1974.

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the fall campaigns. And if the political climate remains as it is today -- a very big "if" -- Republicans will likely lose the House and their dominance of the nation's governorships but hang on to the Senate by a thread. Every sign points to a reappearance of the "time for a change" dynamic that has hit one or both chambers of Congress in five of the last six midterm "six-year-itch" elections -- those held during a president's second term.

The latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies national poll [PDF], a survey of 801 registered voters conducted Aug. 25-27, confirms what the vast majority of other surveys have shown for months: The "change" dynamic is strong, antipathy toward President Bush remains high and the outlook for the Republican Party is grim.

Just 28 percent of voters said that the country is headed in the right direction, while 64 percent said it is on the wrong track, virtually the same results as the 27-percent "right direction," 63-percent "wrong track" split in the Cook/RT poll taken in late July. For the party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, these numbers should be chilling.

In the August Cook/RT poll, Bush's job-approval rating is 39 percent, the same as July, while his disapproval rating is up 4 points to 55 percent. Although 21 percent of respondents said they "strongly approve" of Bush's performance, 46 percent "strongly disapprove," an extraordinarily high level of intensity that the GOP should find disturbing.

Congress' approval rating is 31 percent in the new poll, 3 points higher than a month ago; disapproval is 58 percent, 1 point higher. The Gallup Organization has found that when Congress has a job-approval rating of 40 percent or above, the party in power loses an average of just five House seats in a midterm election, but when congressional approval is below 40 percent, that party loses an average of 29 seats.

Finally, on the generic congressional ballot question -- asking voters which party they'd like to see in control of Congress after the election -- the latest Cook/RT survey found Democrats leading by 11 points, 51 percent to 40 percent, compared with 13 points in late July and 12 points in early June. In past elections, this gauge has tended to skew about 5 points more Democratic than the actual popular vote for the House. Lopping off 5 points brings the Democrats' edge down to 6 percentage points, a bit wider than the lead that Republicans had going into the 1994 election.

Predicting turnout is tricky
Predicting voter turnout is especially tricky in midterm election years, because participation is always lower than in presidential elections. Current signs indicate, though, that Republicans are not as motivated as Democrats to vote, a sharp turnaround from 2000 and 2004, when the GOP was the fired-up party.

When voters were asked how interested they are in the upcoming election, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "extremely interested," 61 percent of Democrats said "10," but only 50 percent of Republicans did. On the generic congressional question, Democrats had a whopping 17-point lead (56 percent to 39 percent) among voters who ranked themselves an extremely interested "10," and a 15-point lead (55 percent to 40 percent) among the "highly interested," those who rated themselves "9" or "10".

No one should expect the Democrats' popular vote advantage to be nearly that wide in November. It is safe to say, however, that Republicans are facing a motivation deficit that is unlike anything that they've seen since at least the 1982 midterm election, when unemployment hit 10 percent just weeks before Election Day, and probably since the 1974 post-Watergate midterm election.

Ultimately, the GOP's biggest challenge heading toward Nov. 7 is getting its people out to vote. When a party's voters are disillusioned and disinclined to participate, candidates' leads in pre-election polls can disappear in the blink of an eye. And some who appeared headed toward victory end up giving concession speeches.

The political climate is key for the next 66 days. Will it change enough for the GOP to hang on to its majorities?
Charlie Cook is the founder and publisher of the Cook Political Report.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14703848/
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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.