Moderates Still Overwhelmingly Favor Democrats

Jeff Alworth

Public Policy Polling (PPP) released some very interesting findings on Friday. It is another of those data points that tells us that these midterms may not be like all the rest. Behold:

Barack Obama defeated John McCain 60-39 with self described moderates, according to the national exit poll. Our last national generic ballot poll found Democrats ahead 58-28, showing no improvement whatsoever.

What gives? It's the turnout, stupid. Conservative voters are highly engaged, but some of those on the left and many of those in the middle are not. So among a boiled-down electorate, the conservatives exert outsized influence. But as PPP goes on to note, this dynamic should disabuse folks (particularly, it would please me, in the punditocracy) of the belief that America has suddenly become more conservative. As PPP notes:

That's the reason why this year's Republican resurgence may prove to be short lived and why much of what the party gains this year could be lost again in 2012. The formula they're using for victory this year--fire up the base, forget the moderates--may work for a midterm election but it's not likely to be particularly sustainable in a Presidential year.

(Especially if they use this moment to elect extreme radicals, which they appear bent on doing.) Two takeaways: 1) Dems could actually fare far better than expected this year if they have a successful get-out-the-vote effort, and 2) whatever gains the GOP do win are not necessarily predictive of political momentum.

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    I think the best thing BO can do is to continue to highlight the raging insanity of many on the right. It has been a given that the far right was mostly loony, but now they have moved all the way to crazy town.

    Personally, I think the worst thing that could happen to the GOP is to gain control of the house. I think the last thing they want is to have any accountability for what is/isn't happening in DC. It is much easier for them to stay out of the crosshairs of the the public outrage and continue to obstruct everything Obama tries to do. Not good for the country, but good for them.

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      One of those few times I find favor with your analysis. It is so much easier to be a rock thrower than to actually govern.

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      Weird. Last time I checked, MP, you were all annoyed that we were constantly pointing out the failings on the other side, instead of sharing why we're for our guys.

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      the further to the right the GOP in OR went, the more it undid itself. suddenly, they run a moderate candidate similar to the kind they use to have, and they're in the hunt. of course, $8million doesn't hurt, but extremists only prosper when moderates sit out. if the Dems succeed with govt, which means getting moderates to actually vote, the Republicans will wonder why they didn't get their landslide.

      you are spot-on on this, Michael. so all i can say is: C'mon Rs, nominate the flamethrowers!

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    However, GOP congressional gains would seem likely to predict worse gridlock than ever, which would leave the question open as to who gets the blame for 2011-12 continued stagnation.

    I worry that Obama and the D congressional leadership won't put forward vigorous proposals and force the Rs to shoot them down so that can be the basis for 2012 campaigning. (Actually if they did put forward such a program I also worry they wouldn't follow through on it.) Given susceptibility to the punditocratic echo chamber that increasingly seems to characterize both DC politicians and mass media, unfortunately it seems equally or more likely that Obama & the congressional Ds will accept the "moving right" conventional wisdom, attempt to follow suit, intensify triangulation against liberals and progressives, and lose in 2012.

    A question is whether a large scale popular movement for progressive change could change that possibility. Unfortunately the media self-mesmerization makes that a problem, as the near-blackout of the very large October 2 One Nation mobilization in D.C. exemplifies.

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      One good outcome might be that a pared down majority in the House with many of the Blue Dogs gone there and in the Senate is a more consistent and unified progressive message from the Dem. Party. The Blue Dogs continually undermine and attack the progressive policy positions in Congress.

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      Chris, I think it's safe to say that the 112th is going to be almost unprecedented for gridlock--no matter who wins. I actually think losing the House would take a bit of pressure of the Dems. They managed to get massive legislation through in the 111th, and what good did it do them? They were only able to do it because they had huge majorities. Retaining the majorities--but just barely--would mean everything would be shut down.

      My guess is that the Dems will force the GOP hand if they lose the House. They didn't over the last two years because they actually had the opportunity to pass laws. But without the House, fahgeddaboutit.

      Two years with a far more right-wing GOP and a Boehner-led house? No, I don't think that will beguile Americans.

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    Jeff, I think it is a stretch to assume from Obama/McCain matchup polls conducted two years after the race that the country is not swinging conservative.

    Counter evidence would be trends in party identification and ideology (both are up for moderate/Independent and conservative/GOP) over quite a long period of time and independent of survey house, approval ratings of the president among moderates / independents, views of government, and views of various government programs (most notably the significant negative swing against the health care program in the past nine months).

    A "consistent and unified progressive message" does not align well with the political preferences of this country.

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      You confuse self-labeling vs. polices. The overwhelming majority of the country still supports the basic tenets of the Democratic platform and are actually more to the left of the elected pols on many issues.

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    Paul, I think that's an entirely different question--though an interesting one.

    Sometimes we can over-read a single data point, and the way I read this one is that whatever political gains the GOP may make next month does not appear to be because the Party's appealed to moderates.

    What Democrats should do going forward--and more trickily, what progressives should do--can't really be sussed out by this single poll number.

    (Of course, I have a lot of opinions on the matter...)

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