Labor Day has passed and the midterm campaign season has officially begun. For political junkies and campaign professionals, however, the traditional distinction between campaign season and not-campaign season has blurred to the point of irrelevance. Politicking has been well underway for most of the summer, but the start of fall marks the beginning of the end. Here are some of the developments on our radar:
GOP with Historic Generic Ballot Leads
If anyone doubts that the Republican wave is just over the horizon, Rasmussen and ABC News / Washington Post polls have confirmed the findings in Gallup’s shock poll, taken from August 23rd to the 29th, 2010, that showed Republicans beating Democrats by 10-points on the generic ballot. Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Monday, taken from August 30th to September 5th, 2010, that had the GOP gaining the support of 12 percent of likely voters. An ABC News / Washington Post poll, taken from August 30th to September 2nd, 2010, and released late Monday night confirmed those results and then some, giving the GOP a 13-point lead over Democrats among likely voters.
These results not only suggest that the tsunami is coming, but the tide has fully retreated and an ominous amount of beach lies exposed. Democratic leaders, according to a recent New York Times story, still believe they can maintain a slim majority in the House by selectively allocating resources to the strongest incumbent contenders. Some have taken to calling the strategy by its least glamorous moniker, “triage.”
UPDATE: About 30 minutes after this blog was posted on Tuesday, Gallup released a generic ballot poll in total conflict with all prior polls, giving Democrats and Republicans equal standing at 46 percent. The last time that Gallup released a generic ballot poll with a Democratic advantage was July 19, 2010. In that poll, generic Democrats held a 49 to 43 percent advantage over Republicans.
“Democratic triage” stories dominated the election news cycle last week. This strategy would apportion resources to those House members that have best chance of surviving the coming Republican wave election. A series of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee polls will examine the political landscape in the coming weeks and determine who has a genuine chance to survive Election Day and who will get unceremoniously cut off.
DCCC Chairman Rep. Christ Van Hollen (D-MD) stressed that the New York Times was off base in their assessment, and that the DCCC is fully committed to its most embattled Democratic Representatives, including Betsy Markey (CO-04) and Frank Kratovil (MD-01). As of July 31st, the DCCC had $35.8 million on hand, a distinct money advantage over the Republicans. They are, however, defending far more territory.
On Tuesday, the Huffington Post published a list of retiring or safe incumbent Democrats that owe the DCCC a combined $2.1 million. Van Hollen has stressed the need to reclaim that cash, and fast. It is clear that some stark choices will have to be made soon; the numbers are sharply aligned against the Democrats.
Political handicapper, Stewart Rothenberg moved 20 House seats toward the Republicans, making his predicted 37 – 42-seat gain with the upward possibility of a 55-seat gain. Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, predicts 47 House seats lost to the GOP if the elections were held today.
Charlie Cook recently shifted the Senate race in West Virginia from Likely Democrat to Lean Democrat, a distinction that puts that seat firmly in play and with it control of the Senate. Soon enough, the DSCC will be talking about “triage” too, and the first member to get a healthy dose of morphine will be Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
Politico published a list on Tuesday of “must win” and “majority maker” seats out today which provides Republicans a path towards a majority in the House. It is worth the read.
Stimulus III, with a Side of Tax Credits
President Obama is doing his part for Democrats, calling on Congress to back a $200 billion dollar business tax credit and an extension of research and development tax credits. This is perhaps the only way that he can get Congress, highly cautious of adding another dime to the federal deficit before November, to pass a $50 billion dollar infrastructure investment plan. It is hard to blame Congressional Democrats for being cautious; they know how to read the polls.
While some predict that the targeted business tax credits and exemptions will spark investment, others say that it is not enough. Furthermore, research and development credits have been around for almost 30 years and their extension will have little impact on the markets. The White House is gambling that these pro-business initiatives will provide enough of an uptick in the economy to mitigate Democratic losses heading into November.
And the President Stands Alone
Over the weekend, President Obama went to Wisconsin for a campaign stop where incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold was the latest embattled incumbent to be conveniently absent from an Obama appearance. Feingold had to attend a Labor Day parade in his home town, surely a more pressing obligation than appearing on state with the President of the United States. Last week, Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) became the latest House member to skip an appearance with the President. He had to “help his daughter move,” a much stronger excuse than a hometown parade. Perhaps Sen. Feingold wants to get just one last hometown embrace in while he can.
On the 16th, the President will head to Connecticut to raise money for Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. The last Rasmussen poll of the Connecticut Senate race, taken from August 11th, 2010 (the political equivalent of the Precambrian era), Blumenthal was up 7-points over WWE CEO Linda McMahon. It appears that few districts are safe for Democrats this cycle.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org