The Fix Takes Questions
I chatted live this morning and fielded a slew of questions on the political issues of the days. But as always, I didn't get to all of the questions I wanted to answer, so below are a few of the best leftovers. Enjoy!
Philadelphia: The news and print media are constantly playing up the opportunity for Democrats to take back the Senate this year. As a life-long Democrat this excites me, but upon further review, it does not seem like any Democratic challenger outside of Bob Casey is favored to win this November (unless Chafee loses in the Republican Primary). Is this perception off base? If not, why are we kidding ourselves?
The Fix: I would agree that, at the moment, only Casey is a favorite to oust a Republican incumbent come November. But, it's not unsual that at this point in the cycle many of the so-called "top tier" challenger candidates are trailing incumbents, since many of the contests are not fully engaged at the moment. Democrats have close to even-money odds in Rhode Island, Montana, Ohio and Missouri and a close to even-money chance in Tennessee.
Does this mean Democrats are assured of picking up each of them or even a majority of them? No. Contested elections are rarely sewn up by either side six months before a general election. Much of what we do as reporters and prognosticators is analyze potential, not draw hard and fast conclusions. Looking at the lay of the land, Democrats are positioned to pick up seats in the Senate but -- as I have said before -- winning back the majority does not seem likely at the moment.
Rolla, Mo.: Trying to get a feel for McCaskill vs. Talent for Senate in Missouri. This state is a fascinating microcosm of the nation -- liberal/urban coasts (K.C., St. Louis) and a conservative Christian rural middle, where I live. I don't get the feeling from this base area for Talent that there is much enthusiam in this election yet. What are the latest numbers/trends?
The Fix: The Missouri race is one of the top five in the country -- for all the reasons you point out. Once considered the single best bellwether in the country, the state has gone Republican in recent elections and Democrats seek McCaskill as their best -- and perhaps last -- hope of reclaiming the state for their party.
Perhaps the most fascinating dynamic is how the national debate over stem cell research will play out in this state. A ballot measure to insert language into the state's constitution to mandate broader guidelines for the research will be up for a vote in the fall, and Talent has come out against it -- a stance McCaskill has already begun bashing him on. The Missouri race currently ranks #5 in the Friday Senate Line.
New York: Polls show that Republicans in Congress are getting dismal approval ratings, but Democrats aren't faring much bettter. What did the polls show in 1994? I assume that the Democrats had low approval ratings, but what about the Republicans?
The Fix: Polling done at this time in 1994 actually looks remarkably similar to surveys released of late. Then as now, Congress's job approval was mired in the lows 30s or high 20s, and only around 40 percent of voters thought its members deserved to be reelected. On several scores the numbers right now for the majority are worse than they were in 1994.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton still enjoyed a net positive job-approval rating, while President Bush has seen his approval numbers plummet through the 30s in recent surveys. And generic ballot tests are more skewed in favor of Democrats than they were in Republicans' favor at this time in 1994.
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