Can Democrats Take Back the U.S. House? Is Florida a Battleground?

I have heard many news accounts showing the ‘generic’ poll question. “The generic poll question asks respondents which party they plan to vote for in the upcoming congressional election. These generic polls can provide crucial clues regarding the timing of the electorate’s shift from the presidential or “in” party to the “out” party.” (Taken from a Columbia University blog)

Gallup noted at the beginning of July that the Democrats hold a 10% lead on this question:

The Democratic Party continues to hold a sizeable lead over the Republicans in Gallup’s ongoing tracking of public preferences for the fall congressional elections. According to the latest survey, conducted July 6-9, 2006, 51% of registered voters plan to vote for the Democratic candidate in their district and 41% plan to vote for the Republican.

However, the problem that everyone points out is this generic question does not allow the voters to take the specific choices they have into account. It is also a national poll, and Congressional elections are purely localized events. National modeling is not a good predictor of individual races.

But, as noted on the Columbia blog, this question does show the trends in the electorate — which has been shifting more and more towards the Democrats. I have written about his before: first considering the Democrats are matching or exceeding Republicans in fundraising, and then to show how Republicans in Congress could hurt Republicans in Florida. On JaxGOP’s blog, he and I even briefly debated this “shift” in the electorate via the comments section.

In fact, earlier this year, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, architect of the last time control switched parties (1994’s Republican Revolution) has noted there are a lot of similarities between 2006 and 1994. (Newt’s website has two articles on this, from NewsMax and from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.)

Now, National Public Radio has commissioned a more specific poll than the generic version.

With Election Day just a little more than three months away, the Morning Edition polling team was asked to take the pulse of likely voters in the most competitive districts across the country.

Democrat Stan Greenberg and Republican Glenn Bolger found that, while republicans do a little bit better with these voters than they do in a nationwide sample, the numbers still point to trouble for the party in power.

In the 50 districts – 40 Republican and 10 Democrat – (12 of which are open seats) they consider ‘most competitive’, Republicans won by a combined 12% in 2004. The poll shows that Democrats would win by a combined 6%. The numbers were roughly the same when asked about party – or about specific candidates who are actually running where the respondents lived. Moreover, less than 1 in 5 voters in both parties are likely to change their mind before election day. NPR posted their actual poll results (PDF) so you can read some of the more interesting questions.

So, what does all of this mean for Florida. First, it could mean that we might be talking about Klein, Jennings, and Busansky winning their races for Congress. We might also see Chagnon and Mahoney beat Mica and Foley respectively. Something that I didn’t think could happen not so long ago.

Next, consider the impact on other parts of the ticket – especially when combined with the ever expanding insurance crisis. The GOP’s headliner is likely to be Katherine Harris, a fact that does not exude confidence. For Governor, Charlie Crist has a commanding lead at this point; his critics point out that he does not excite the conservative base. At the cabinet level we have impeachment prosecutor Bill McCollum, so voters get to relive that all over again. We will also probably have Tom Lee as the C.F.O. nominee.

In a year where turn out will be the most important factor, the GOP will have two candidates tied to past controversies (impeachment and Bush v Gore) and other candidates who are not known to be George W. Bush conservatives.

Given the shift in the electorate, the shockwaves could reach far from Washington DC, through Tallahassee, to cities and counties across Florida.

I’m glad I’m not running this year.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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One Response to Can Democrats Take Back the U.S. House? Is Florida a Battleground?

  1. JaxGOP says:

    Great analysis Jim. I’m fretting more and more everyday over the increasingly very real prospect of losing control, perhaps over Congress, and maybe even letting Florida slip away.

    I think I have been in GOP loser denial for the past few months and have been stuck on the belief that “generic” polls are not worth the paper they are written on, however, the more I see candidates in so-called safe states, like Conrad Burns in Montana and Jim Talent in Missouri, facing very real challenges…it truly makes me wonder if I have had my head stuck in the sand while the country has made a left turn.

    I think the biggest GOP problem has been an extreme dearth of leadership on the federal level, from the President down to Sen. Frist and Speaker Hastert. I am becoming convinced that these federal leaders dictate the mood of voters in the various states. In other words, state candidates, for better or worse, are so closely intertwined with their federal counterparts, that voters often do not distinguish. The result in this case of low Prez approval numbers, as well as exceedingly low congressional approval numbers, has resulted in voters perhaps feeling that a change is necessary in their own neighborhood.

    Only time will tell how this all plays out at the end of the day…

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