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If the Election Were Held Today

"If the election were held today," says House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), "we would have the majority of the House back." I'm not enough of an election wonk to say whether that's true. But it's hard to square with this graph that Steve Benen pulled from the results in the latest Daily Kos/Research 2000* poll:


The Congressional Republican name is mud everywhere outside the South. And even inside the South, they're only viewed favorably by 34 percent of voters. That's relatively better than the seven percent in the Northeast, or the 13 percent in both the West and Midwest, but it's not good. "Quite seriously," writes political scientist Joshua Tucker, "if I saw this type of regional distribution of support for a political party in a country like Slovakia, I would assume the party represented an ethnic minority."

Politics is like the old joke about being chased by the bear: You don't have to outrun the bear. You only have to outrun the other guy. In the South, the Congressional Republicans are outrunning the other guy: Democrats get a 21 percent favorable rating. But in every other region, they're winning the race: Congressional Democrats have a 53 percent favorable rating in the Northeast, a 45 percent favorable rating in the Midwest, and a 43 percent favorable rating in the West. It's not impossible that individual elections diverge so sharply from national trends that Democrats could lose Congress despite being preferred by the voters. But it seems unlikely.

*Yes, yes. Daily Kos is Daily Kos. But they commission polls from Research 2000, a respectable outfit. And their poll shows that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic Party are viewed unfavorably by a majority of respondents. If they're spinning the numbers, in other words, they're doing so poorly.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 21, 2009; 8:29 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Looking at the first, third and fourth graphs, the only thought that comes to mind is a raised middle finger.

Not that that means anything...

Posted by: careful1 | September 21, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

A poll published by the Post yesterday seems to support Cantor's opinion. It seems that "dense urban centers" are supporting Democrats, while everywhere else is supporting Republicans.

To me, the trend seems more related to Nancy Pelosi (individually) than to any widely-held position: Pelosi is perceived as "too left" for most to tolerate and the opinion about her is wafting into opinions about the Democratic party as a whole.

Posted by: rmgregory | September 21, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

The GOP IS an ethnic party, pretty much.
More specifically, it's the ethnicity-based party representing the descendants of the waves of Scots-Irish immigrants who mostly bypassed the east coast and settled the Appalachians.

At one time, both parties included large portions of this ethnic group but in recent years you see that they've largely abandoned the Democratic Party and driven many "others" out of the Republican Party. The transition is still in progress--party identification doesn't change easily and there are remnants of a different kind of Republicanism in the Midwest, West, and Northeast (but this will be gone in a generation).

Posted by: jefft1225 | September 21, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

rmgregory, where do you think most of the population lives -- in and around "dense urban centers" or in rural areas? I'm reminded of people who point to the red and blue map of the U.S. and don't understand why Democrats win when there's so much land colored red.

Also, as much as Republicans love having Pelosi as their bete noire, I doubt most voters even know who she is, much less associate her with their own Representative.

Posted by: Janine1 | September 21, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

rmgregory, I think you and Cantor do not really understand how elections work: "dense urban centers" and "rural areas" do not vote. People vote.

And as far as I can tell, the southerners are outnumbered by the Northeasterners, westerners, and midwesterners.

*Pelosi is perceived as "too left" for most to tolerate and the opinion about her is wafting into opinions about the Democratic party as a whole.*

For southerners, yes, but not for the mainstream of the country.

Posted by: constans | September 21, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Interesting. One piece not considered here is the impact of the 2010 census. Won't it add House seats to the south and southwest with losses in the northeast and midwest? And won't that have implications for the composition of the House as well as the electoral college?

Posted by: mainer2 | September 21, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I would add that Newt Gingrich was never broadly popular (indeed, quite the opposite) when he was Speaker, but that never had much impact on Republicans' fortunes in elections.

Posted by: Janine1 | September 21, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Certainly a lot of Progressives aren't going to be voting Democratic in 2010. If that doesn't cost them seats, it will be a very bad portent of things to come.

You see, here in the Golden State, it doesn't matter that the state is moribund and bankrupt. You won't see one legislature seat change hands--because the lobbyists control everything.

Posted by: bmull | September 21, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Klein's analysis glosses over the perfectly obvious: what matters is (a) the shifting balance of votes in competitive House races, and (b) the trend of the shift. Both of these reasonably give the Republicans some hope.

The overall Dem/Rep split for giant areas of the country may be interesting in other contexts, but it is meaningless in the context of evaluating Cantor's claim.

Posted by: enoriverbend | September 21, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Does asking whether one would prefer more Democrats or Republicans be elected really predict election results? I'd figure that a more valid (although much more costly and time-consuming) approach would be to ask for the favorability rating of each Congressperson in their individual district. When one goes to vote, one isn't voting for one party or another, but rather for a specific candidate, so I don't see how it's relevant to ask the opinion on the national party.

Posted by: bcwengerter | September 21, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Missing the point, Ezra. Nobody likes either political party, but that's not what matters in midterm elections. The most important question is who has their base the most fired up--committed partisans (and old people) are the only reliable voting blocs in non-Presidential years. By that measurement, the Republicans are in much better shape.

Posted by: OSheaman | September 21, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This goes to the heart of Obama's political strategy. It may disappoint the partisans, but Obama must continue to present himself (and the Democratic Party) as the only serious game in town. The death panel crap may play well to the GOP's Southern and conservative bases, but it scares everyone else.

Put another way, I may be getting upset with Obama about a variety of things, but I still think the Republicans are unfit to run this country.

Posted by: simpleton1 | September 21, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Klein, a typica liberal, must think that people are pretty stupid if they're going to believe that his latest bar graph has any relation to the 2010 midterms. Congress's approval rating is below 30% with a Democratic majority in both houses. Looks like most voters don't like ANY politicians, of whatever strip.

And guess what, nobody casts a vote for a generic politician or for a party.

Off to the read The Fix, where I'll get some actual analysis, rather than Democratic cheerleading in Klein's Fantasy Land.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | September 21, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

*nobody casts a vote for a generic politician or for a party. *

Which is why, in most mid-term elections, it is a fairly safe bet that the underlying dynamics of congress will remain the same. People cast a vote for *their* politician who is usually in *their* party, who they generally like.

In the sense that there is an "anti-Democratic" or "anti-Obama" sentiment in the US, it is a southern phenomenon-- which is what you would expect. The south is not known for being a Democratic party stronghold lately. In fact, it is part of the Republican base. I'm sure Utah is much more pro-Republican in the polls than the rest of the country also.

Posted by: constans | September 21, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Couple things, Ezra -

I don't know where you studied graph reading but in the South it looks like 50% view Rebublicans favorably. 34% looks like the unfavorably viewed.

I'm not sure one can draw a conclusion from the graph as the question is very limiting.

Also I would note that these goddamned Southerners are the source of big trouble again. The last time they got on their high horses, we fought a civil war. In between then and now, they suppressed their ethnic minorities murderously. Now for the oxymoron, they are the bible belters.

Posted by: BertEisenstein | September 21, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

In reference to BertEisenstein's post I would remind him to be civil, check his historical references and quit pointing fingers at people he obviously has never met. If the people where he lives are remotely of the mindset he is, please tell me so I can avoid these rude, uncivil, and history challenged imbicils.

Posted by: ProudSoutherner | September 22, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

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