Michael Barone advises Republicans not to panic over currently sagging poll numbers:
[W]hen you’re talking political numbers, you should remember that some numbers are harder than others. And the hardest numbers in politics are election results. Most journalists and politicians don’t spend much time looking at them. They should. Because the 2004 presidential election results tell us that Republicans are in even stronger shape than their 55-45 and 232-203 Senate and House margins suggest.
Start with the Senate. George W. Bush carried 31 states that elect 62 senators. There are nine Republican senators from Kerry states and 16 Democratic senators from Bush states. Many of these are from states that were close in the presidential election. But there are 11 Democrats and only three Republicans from states where their presidential nominee got less than 47 percent of the vote. There are more Democrats with political incentives to vote with Bush than there are Republicans with incentives to vote against him.
As for the House, we now know which presidential candidate carried each of the 435 congressional districts, thanks to Polidata, which crunched the numbers for National Journal and the Almanac of American Politics (of which I am co-author). These numbers surprised even some political pros. Bush carried 255 districts and John Kerry only 180. In all, 41 Democrats represent Bush districts and 18 Republicans represent Kerry districts. Eliminating the districts where the House member’s presidential candidate won 47 percent or more, we find only five Republicans in strong Kerry districts but 30 Democrats in strong Bush districts.
The implications? In the long run, Republicans are well positioned to increase their numbers in both the Senate and the House…In the short run, very few Republicans run great political risks by supporting Bush. Significantly more Democrats run great political risks by opposing him. Obstruction doesn’t work well for Democrats in Bush seats: Just ask former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
For now, at least, the tide of American politics is still moving in a Republican direction. That could change, obviously. But it hasn’t changed yet.
DEACON concurs: The Democrats are the Washington Redskins of politics. Until this year, the Redskins have had great off-seasons, signing big-time free agents, a Hall of Fame coach, etc. It’s only during the actual season, when the league insists that we play games, that we falter. Same with the Democrats. They do well in off-years polls, but can’t seem to win elections.
The Redskins’ off-season acquisitions — Deion Sanders, Laverenues Coles, Mark Brunnell, etc — come in with a bang and leave (or stay) with a whimper. So too with Democratic issues. Last year, the Democrats were going to defeat Bush due to high unemployment, then lack of job creation, then the failure to find WMD. What better issues have they come up with this off-season — the right to die, high gas prices?
One of the great things about elections is that they allow one to ignore polls for a while.