The real eye-opener is an NPR poll aggregating the 50 most competitive Congressional Districts (40 Republican, 1 Independent, 9 Democrat):
- Only three in ten plan to vote for the incumbent
- Democratic voters are more motivated, but interest is high across the board. (Look for an all-out October smear, as Republicans try to hold down the vote.)
- Democrats are ahead in both generic and named candidate responses. That is, both specific and general.
- Democrats are up in seats held now by Republicans by +4. In seats currently held by Democrats, they are +31.
- Democrats lead in the 23 "top tier districts" 53-43, but they also lead in the other 27 by 47-44.
- Quoting: "In 2004, the total vote in these 50 districts went Republican by about 12 points. In our current survey, voters in these same districts say they would vote for the Democrat over the Republican by about six points."
- GOP manufactured hot button issues -- gay marriage, stem cell research, flag burning have the attention of many, but they have not pushed the economy or Iraq off the viewscreen.
- Independents look a lot like Democrats on many issues.
Bush's approval-disapproval ratings have held steady since June at around -20 (58 approve, 38 disapprove) in an average of five polls. This is a plateau (or an underwater shelf) after a steep slide which began in January.
Larry J. Sabato at UVA publishes his Crystal Ball, which seems to be clearing a bit for him. Only a month ago he was predicting just a "micro-wave" for the Democrats. Now it's up to a net gain of 12-15 House seats and 3-6 Senate seats. It needs to go higher.
Donkey Rising reports that voter turnout efforts by Democrats, including the DNC, may be a weak link on election day. Nancy Pelosi, among others, has been critical. One long-time operative said, "The last-minute, throw-money-at-it approach ... does not really solve the fundamental failure to organize .... The DNC is moving in the right direction, but needs to do more, fast."
In Washington, Darcy Burner is doing well enough that push-pollers (negative calls disguised as polling) have been reported already.
Peter Goldmark may get some more serious help now that he is showing well v. Cathy McMorris in the 5th District, despite low name recognition.
Richard Wright in the 4th has Bush-DeLay front man Doc Hastings for an opponent. It has been a major advantage for other Democrats to run against lock-step Republicans, since Bush is not polling well anywhere and the Democratic message is still vague in the voter's ear.
How is the economy doing in the race?
Ginning the till at election time is a campaign strategy perfected by Richard Nixon, and it has been a staple of national politics since (excepting Jimmy Carter), under the rubric "political business cycle." "It's the economy, stupid," was Bill Clinton's ubiquitous message to his staffers in the win over the first Bush. So what's up in the polls?
- The Conference Board's Present Situation Index is still pretty high, near its highs of 2001, before the first Bush recession. Expectations are weak, however. The Board's Expectation Index is back below 90.
- The Economic Optimism Index from Investors Business Daily and the Christian Science Monitor is sniffing its five-year lows, along with the same poll's Presidential Leadership Index and National Outlook Index.
- A good Democratic campaign agenda could be got from the list of American's chief concerns at Public Agenda.
There's no doubt, the opportunity is here for Democrats, and the fight will be a lot easier if we keep them on the run.