Don’t Panic, Republicans

For the last month or two, news coverage has frequently been hysterical. The Republican war on women! Occupy the 1%! Ryan’s budget pushes Grandma over a cliff! Again! Trayvon Martin! The Republican war on hoodies! To some extent, of course, the hysteria is intended to stir up the Democrats’ base. But I think it is also intended to demoralize and confuse Republicans, and throw us off our game. Thus we see, for example, the widely-trumpeted USA Today/Gallup swing-state poll that purports to show women stampeding to the Democratic Party:

President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.

In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points. …

In the poll, Romney leads among all men by a single point, but the president leads among women by 18.

So the poll finds an 11-point swing in just one month. When you see results like that, the first thing you want to do is check the poll’s internals. I didn’t see them reported on the USA Today site, but this pretty much answers the question:

While women typically are more likely to identify themselves as Democrats than men are, that difference widens to a chasm in the USA TODAY poll. By 41%-24%, women call themselves Democrats; men by 27%-25% say they’re Republicans.

Can you say “lousy sample”? Assuming that half the poll’s respondents were men, the respondents included 41.5% independents, 33% Democrats, and just 25.5% Republicans. The poll implies a massive swing by independents to the Democrats, something that we are not seeing in any other survey.

Are voters really fleeing the GOP in droves, as the USA Today poll suggests? No. The Rasmussen Survey, which is not subject to the wild swings reported in the USA Today poll, reported today:

The number of Democrats in the United States rebounded in March after falling to a record low in February. However, for the fourth consecutive month, more people consider themselves Republicans than Democrats.

During March, 36.4% of Americans considered themselves Republicans while 33.4% were Democrats. For the GOP, that’s a gain of 0.4% from a month ago. Democrats gained a full percentage point from February.

So, despite weeks of hysteria from the Democrats, which the news media have done their best to peddle, Americans are unmoved. More identify with the reviled GOP than with the Democrats, and likely voters favor Republican Congressional candidates over Democrats by 6 percent.

What is going on here is that the Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill are looking at their own poll results and seeing the potential for a blowout in November. If Democrats thought President Obama had a defensible record, they would be talking about the economy, not about contraceptives and hoodies. And if their own surveys showed Democrats running strongly, they would be appealing to independent and centrist voters, not trying to motivate their base with feminist and racial controversies that are unpopular with the general public.

So Republicans need to stay calm and stay on topic. The topics are the economy, the federal debt, and Obama’s foreign policy fecklessness. Those will be the winning issues in November.

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