Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mood Indigo

What's the mood of American voters as we head into the final weeks of the fall campaign?
I would pick the color indigo, which my dictionary defines as "deeper than night blue."
The polls tell us the mood is strong anti-Bush, anti-Congress, anti-incumbent, anti-Iraq War and that the majority of voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Blue voters tend to vote blue.
The problem with this polling data is that while you can ask questions that reflect on mood, there is no precise and direct way to predict voter behavior based upon that data. The missing ingredient: the measure of intensity.
For instance, we know that conservative Republicans are turned off by the scandals in Washington, but are they so deflated that will stay home on Election Day? We know that Democrats are upset about the Iraq War, but are they upset enough to turn out in droves to punish the ruling party? Finally, we know that most Americans are unhappy with the job perfrormance of Congress, but does that reverberate locally, where voters tend to vote the man, not the party?
So many questions, so little time.
Let's take a look at the snapshots we do have for answers.
First, there are benchmark questions related to job performance of President Bush and Congress. To put it gently, their ratings suck. RealClearPolitics, a wonderful site which does a rolling average of the polls taken nationally, puts the President's approval rating around 39% and gives Congress an abysmal 27%. This is up from late summer, but still lousy.
On pollsters' favorite "mood" question -- Do you think the country is headed in the right direction or wrong direction? -- the RealClear average is 29% right to 65% wrong. A bad omen for incumbents and the party in power. Here are all the numbers from recent polls if you want to run you fingers through them.

Next, we have the situation in Pennsylvania. How do these trends lines reflect in the hot local races? In sum, it means a lot of Republican incumbents are vulnerable.
At the top of the pyramid is incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, stuck at 40% in head-to-heads with his Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr. in public polls for months. You don't need polling data to know that Santorum is losing. You can see it on his face.
The RealClearPolitics average has it at Casey 49.5%-Santorum 40.0%- 9.5% undecided at of mid-October. Santorum would have to capture all the undecideds to win. That's not at all likely, given past trends. Because of the mood indigo, most undecideds are expected to go to the Democrats this year.

In the congressional races, were have two special situations.
In PA10, there is incumbent Rep. Don Sherwood, who shouldn't even be breaking a sweat because his district is so decidedly Republican. But, Sherwood is in trouble -- apparently deep trouble -- because of disclosure that he has kept a mistress in Washington and an allegation that he abused her. All the fall polls done in the district have Carney up 7 to 14 points. Again, you don't need to look at the polls to see that Sherwood is in trouble. Just view his own link '>TV commercial, where he does a major mea culpa for the folks back home.
In PA7, incumbent Curt Weldon was already locked in a tough fight with Joe Sestak. Then, this week, came word of a federal investigation into Weldon, centered around the lobbying-public relations firm started by his daughter Karen and political ally Charlie Sexton. The papers this week were filled with pix of FBI agents carrying boxes of material from Karen Weldon's home in Philly and Sexton's house in Delco. Long story short, Weldon is toast. The damage from the investigation -- combined with all the other drag factors -- will tip the race to Sestak, a fresh face who has run a credible campaign.

To me, the bellweather races are PA6 and PA8. These are seats with strong Republican incumbents who should win -- unless the indigo does them in.
In PA6, U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach is in a rematch with Democrat Lois Murphy. The most recent polls show the race trending slightly to Murphy. My rule of thumb this year is: unless the incumbent is up 3 points or more in the final polls of the season, he is done for. That's based on the assumption that Election Day will be indigo in color, with turnout favoring the anti's.
In PA8, we have first termer Mike Fitzpatrick against Democrat Pay Murphy. The credible polls there are trending towards Fitzpatrick, which is ironic -- at the beginning of the year, he was considered the most vulnerable, but he seems to have done a good job in putting distance between himself and the Bush administration.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you sure are working hard to get rid of the repubs, hope the dems appreciate your support-i guess 95% of the mainstream media will be voting for the dems this time around

12:12 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

And I was going to say the opposite -- what makes either Gerlach or Fitzpatrick a "strong" Republican? Especially in Gerlach's case -- he's never broken 51% in an election.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ferrick-- Have you seen the outrageous Don Sherwood spoof Web site in that PA-10 race? It's at

3:03 PM  
Blogger LVDem said... is an example of just how sad the guy is. Any good manager grabs all the domain names that could be tied to the guy.

That aside, it's entirely accurate. Perhaps that's why it's so outrageous.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

That "Hardball" interview Fitzpatrick
is running against Murphy is very effective, too.

6:06 AM  
Blogger AllMusicFan said...

If the mood of the country is so anti-incumbent, shouldn't there be some Democrats at risk as well? It seems many Democrats will benefit from simply not running under the GOP line on the ballot. That's enough to get elected I suppose. But it's not much to be proud of. Can they govern in a distinct, moderate fashion?

11:36 AM  
Blogger Den Wilson said...

Can they govern in a distinct, moderate fashion?

Probably not if the controlled everything themselves (see the past six years for when that happens). Personally, I think the case for government is when both parties are forced to share power and have compromise with each other.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Den Wilson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melissa Hart is running scared against her D opponent (Jason Altmire) in Western PA.... a tidal wave could sweep him in.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Don - Bucks County said...

There is a huge difference between R's and D's and this post highlights them. Quite simply, R's have higher standards.

1. Weldon v. Street. When John Street was investigated, he wore it like a badge of honor, and the D's in Philadelphia embraced him. When Weldon is investigated, for things he has already been absolved of, people are writing his political obituary.

2. Sherwood v. Clinton. Sherwood has a mistress and abuses her. He is not worth of re-election in a Republican district. Bill Clinton is the poster boy for sex scandals and marital infidelity, and loses his law license for lying under oath about it, but is widely hailed for his indiscretions and forgiven by a lap dog media. (Also note that Bob Livingston resigned from Congress over the same type of allegations as Clinton!)

3. Duke Cunningham steals money from contractors, he is drummed out of Congress and sent to jail. William Jefferson (D-LA) is still serving in Congress, despite being caught red handed with evidence that he bribed public officials.

Quite simply, the voting public expects Democrats to be corrupt, and forgives them for it. They expect more from Republicans and hold them to higher standards. We are paying for that now. Unfortunately, the country as a whole may pay the ultimate price in the form of higher taxes, higher interest rates and socialized medicine of the D's are successful.

Remember, unlike the R's in 1994, the D's are studiously avoiding laying out an agenda.

2:19 PM  

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