Swing State Pres

Sunday, September 7, 2014

August Month In Review: It Ain't the Meat, It's the Promotion

We turned the corner at Labor Day and the campaigns for the congressional elections have moved into high gear.  The clock is ticking down to Election Day….look directly to your right for the exact countdown, at eight weeks and less than a day as this is posted.  I call your attention to my latest Senate and House updates at these links; look for my first projections for the gubernatorial races later this week:



I will be updating these with greater frequency as we get closer, particularly in October. Stay tuned…

The political cycle for the month was dominated by ISIS and Ferguson, Missouri, as well as increased bellicosity by the Russians as they sent troops across the Ukraine border.  The ISIS beheadings of two American journalists was a clear challenge by the abhorrent radical Islamists to President Obama, designed to goad the U.S. back into the fight.  Obama’s measured response is to aim to “degrade and destroy” ISIS through a coalition; to fight them with U.S. airpower in the sky, sovereign Iraqi and Syrian troops on the ground, and plenty of support from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey as well as the U.K. and other western allies.  It is strategically sound but practically very difficult, since the home team armies are extremely weak.  But the strategy is welcome in the wake of Obama’s very unfortunate “we don’t have a strategy yet” gaffe.  While Obama was clearly referring narrowly to the process of formulating military options to counter ISIS within the Syrian border, it was gleefully misunderstood by the right as being symptomatic of a supposedly ill-defined and weak foreign policy.

Obama was coalition-building in the Ukraine as well.  Putin does not play by any rules except of his own making, and the West is hard-pressed, beyond economic sanctions that at some point damage Western interests as well, to counter his belligerence.  Ukraine is simply not a NATO ally, and the notion of sending troops to defend its border is a non-starter.  Instead, the focus is on upping other forms of military support for Ukraine and communicating a clear intention to protect NATO allies, such as the Balkan states, if they, too, are threatened by the Russians.

I find myself feeling the same way about Obama’s responses to these crises as I have felt about the administration’s entire performance:  I generally agree with the substance but am aghast at the communication.  Or: it ain’t the meat, it’s the promotion.  From health care forward, Obama has not found his voice, except for singular, moving events such as Newtown or Gabby Giffords (and Ferguson to a lesser extent.)  But those events provide comfort only in their immediacy; he cannot seem to ever get it right on his more enduring policies.  If I were Obama, I would bring David Gergen back to the White House for the umpteenth time, a wise old hand who has served both parties admirably.  I doubt we would be discussing the “optics” quite so much.

And on the other hand, I continue to be struck by the lack of imagination and forward-thinking in the Republican campaign themes of 2014.  After all the nation has been through in the past 14 years, it is hard to fathom the GOP believing that their standard themes still resonate to anyone other than Tea Party die-hards.  In particular, the politics of exclusion is a disastrous course given the demographic makeup of the country; an agenda that is unwilling to rethink immigration and gun control and continues to press for limits to woman’s rights and gay rights simply is not a good way to win national elections. 

In our gerrymandered world, the Tea Party agenda will help the GOP keep the House, and, with so many sparsely populated red states, possibly swipe the Senate in 2014.  But the Republicans  cannot win Presidential elections with this approach.  And thus, the GOP will “lose” the Supreme Court soon enough.  And even if the Senate is lost, the Democrats will quickly retake it in 2016 – the lineup of 2016 elections coupled with the always high-turnout Presidential election practically guarantees it .  And with the nation, via minority growth projections, inexorably turning blue, inevitably the Democrats will take control of the House.

The GOP candidate who dares to venture down a more moderate path – think Marco Rubio on immigration reform, or Rand Paul on gay rights – is quickly smacked down.  The primary process simply will not accept moderation in any form, and this is the GOP plight.

ECONOMETER

The Econometer continued to rise, again to a new level, +72.5, and each component measure has improved since Election Day 2012, when the Econometer was set to zero.  (And it is well ahead of the reading on Obama’s 2009 Inauguration Day, when it was -72.5.)  Consumer confidence rose again to 92.4, and the update of second quarter GDP was an upward revision to an even more robust +4.2% growth.  The jobs report from last week was somewhat disappointing at +142,000, but this was not seen as a setback per se.  The Dow remained strong, ending over 17,000 last Friday.  But the Democrats have had difficulty translating the story of positive economic momentum into a campaign plus, in part due to stagnant household incomes.

Econometer
Election Day 2012
8-Jun
6-Jul
4-Aug
8-Sep
Econometer
0.0
56.0
59.0
72.5
74.9






  Unemployment Rate
7.9
6.3
6.1
6.2
6.1
  Consumer Confidence
73.1
84.8
85.2
90.9
92.4
  Price of Gas
3.71
3.75
3.77
3.69
3.56
  Dow Jones
 13,330
 16,617
 16,882
    16,990
    16,825
  GDP
3.1
-1.0
-2.9
4.0
4.2

PRESIDENT OBAMA APPROVAL RATING

As mentioned, President Obama’s approval rating held at a net -9.  For all the talk of a difficult summer for the President, his approval rating has held above 40%.  Every prior post-WWII president except JFK has seen his approval rating tumble into the 30’s and even the 20’s (Nixon, Carter and both Bushes), so Obama’s relative unpopularity actually remains well above the norm.

Obama Approval Rating
Election Day 2012
8-Jun
6-Jul
4-Aug
8-Sep
  Approve
49.6
45.6
43.6
43.5
43.2
  Disapprove
47.4
50.5
52.2
52.8
52.2
  Net
2.2
-4.9
-8.6
-9.3
-9.0

GENERIC BALLOT

Republicans bounced back modestly in the generic ballot polling for the month, though the Democrats remain a bit ahead.  This is a key variable in the brand new BTRTN’s regression regression equation, introduced in House Update cited above (see: http://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2014/08/house-2014-election-update-dems-sure.html ) and it suggests minimal changes in the composition of the House coming out of the November election.

Generic Ballot
Election Day 2012
8-Jun
6-Jul
4-Aug
8-Sep
  Democrat
46.3
42.2
41.0
44.8
41.5
  Republican
46.0
41.5
39.1
42.3
41.0
  Net
0.3
0.7
1.9
2.5
0.5

OBAMACARE

Obamacare has fallen off the radar for most Republican candidates (and accordingly, the polling services as well).  The two polls in the last month show a substantial narrowing of the net negative for Obamacare, now roughly -10%, the lowest since last November (which was just at the start of the website launch debacle).  It appears that premiums are not going to rise by an ungodly amount, and thus will not be a good election issue for the GOP.

Obamacare
Election Day 2012
8-Jun
6-Jul
4-Aug
8-Sep
  For/Favor
40.0
40.1
41.2
39.5
42.0
  Oppose/Against
50.8
51.7
53.8
58.0
52.5
  Net
-10.8
-11.6
-12.6
-18.5
-10.5

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

There were no new polls to speak of for the 2016 presidential race, and the two fields could not differ more.  Hillary Clinton dominates the Democratic field, while the GOP has no breakout candidate among the many potential contenders.


2013
2013
2014
2014
2014

Jan-Oct
Nov/Dec
Q1
Q2
Jun/Jul
Clinton
59
67
67
69
63
Biden
13
11
10
13
10
Warren
6
7
7
7
10
Cuomo
4
3
2
2
4
O'Malley
1
1
2
2
1
Schweitzer
1
1
1
1
1
A/O or N/A
16
10
11
6
11


2013
2013
2014
2014
2014

Jan-Oct
Nov/Dec
Q1
Q2
Jun/Jul
Paul
13
14
12
14
11
Huckabee
13
13
14
12
11
Christie
16
19
12
11
11
Bush
12
10
12
13
10
Ryan
14
11
11
11
9
Perry
0
0
6
5
9
Cruz
10
12
8
7
8
Rubio
14
9
8
7
7
Walker
3
5
5
5
6
Santorum
0
0
0
3
3
Jindal
3
3
3
3
3
Other/N.A.
2
5
9
12
15


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