2012 and the 2010 Presidential "Permission Threshold"

A Tale of Two Brackets

It is an axiom in presidential politics that national polls are meaningless (ask Rudy Giuliani) -- the states select party nominees, and the states elect the president.  However, since large slices of the political establishment buy into national polls, a candidate's standing there affects his or her ability to raise money and gain attention that can be translated into votes in the critical early primaries.

The national polls fall into something larger and deeper, though.  The rank a candidate holds in national polls is far less important than which of two brackets the candidate falls into: Bracket 1) the top three who net double digits, and Bracket 2) everybody else.

Missed The Mark

 Talk about missing the mark! 

Granted, some polls are far better than others and many of them you simply cannot trust because they are skewed to make a person appear to be ahead or behind.  Such an example would be one of CBS fame that printed “0% of African Americans disapprove of Obama.”  The flaws are obvious given the very person alone currently writing this.  On the flip side of the coin are polls that just simply show what is on people’s minds and allow you to make what you want of them.  One such poll revealed some startling concerns of the American people in terms of their priorities.   As Obama Bashing becomes as much as a leisurely past time for many as does Bush Blaming for others, it becomes apparently clear that the Obama Bashing opportunities have been handed forth on a silver platter trimmed ornate gold.

The top three priorities for Americans this year are; strengthening the economy, improving the job situation and defending the US against terrorism.  Clearly the administration has done too little and many will even argue that they have failed because so much attention has paid to three other areas; the stimulus, health care reform and cap and trade legislature.  It is here is where they have missed the mark.

A year after the stimulus, the president is passing words on a spending freeze; something many of the best economists argue should have been done a year ago.  Blow after blow suffered by health care reform was met by steadfast Democratic determination to get it passed.  The ever echoing words of the president in regards to whether or not people want it have come to fruition.  In fact, the people “who want it” has dropped steadily since 2005!  (60, 59, 56, 54, 52 to 49% each year respectively ending in the 2010 survey of “providing health ins to the uninsured”).  Not only does the word “mandatory” begin to make sense since fewer each year were actually listing this as a top priority, it makes sense why the arguments and rhetoric behind it have become so intense.  The administration has insisted on an issue that was actually dead in the water before it started.  Because of this, they used everything from race baiting to emotive desires like “broken” and the “American Holocaust” to incite and interest that clearly was not there to begin with!

Picking up the tail end of American issues of priority was “dealing with global warming” at 28%.  As with its issue predecessor of wasted time and effort of providing insurance, it too dropped markedly over the course of the last several of years.  In 2007 38% of Americans identified this as a top issue and it steadily declined to 35, 30 and to 28 percent this year.  Perhaps this is because we suffered a severe winter making it difficult to support such allegations that man is warming the planet by driving too much, or even because Obama said his plan would “cause electricity prices to skyrocket.”  Then again it may be that people have been brought to remember a not so recent attempt of such cap and trade style taxation with the ever thinning ozone layer at the hands of our gluttonous ways only to discover it was mere cow farts.  Who knows and who cares?  The bottom line is that the Obama administration has sorely missed the mark of the concerns of the people despite the fact that the people’s interests in their (the administration’s) agenda has been decreasing over the past years.  Imagine if you would, where would we be today if the administration’s priorities were that of the people they are representatives of?

Of the bashings befallen Obama, the most consistent is that he is too self-centered to put the people’s agenda before that of his own.  An ego maniacal narcissist or not, at least half the accusation is completely true.   You simply cannot hit the mark if you are aiming at the wrong target!

If the stimulus were replaced with fiscal conservatism then instead of now, and the efforts on health care reform and cap and trade legislation would have been focused on the top the American issues of concern, Obama may not have hit the bull’s eye, but he would have at least been within the mark.

As we listen to rhetoric coming out of DC, it is not clear whether or not Obama actually gets it.  The mixed signals are everywhere from Obama stating on his radio address that health care pushes in the future will be harder and more focused, to him saying he has lost touch with his base.  Of concern is the fact that he feels he must get in front of the people more.  441 speeches in 2009 and he thinks getting in front of a teleprompter more frequently will aid this problem is only a testimony to narcissistic tendencies.  T he American people want the rubber to actually meet the road, not be told the rubber is going to.  We have heard that four hundred and forty one times with far too little to show for it.  Speaking about it 500 times in 2010 will literally be more of the same.

The spark is gone, the honeymoon long since over, and the president’s influence has proven to do more damage than good.  It’s not just the polls we are talking about, it is expectations.  The American people expected much because he told them much was to be delivered.  Then he kept telling and telling while the whole time the delivery van was going in a direction the American people felt was on an unneeded route to nowhere.

The Obama Promises Delivery Van is now stopped on the side of the road on a rural route with no American homes on it.  He has the map with the target destination on it; the question is… can he read it not?

CT; The Mystery of the Vocal Senator and the Silent Senator

In a few days Robert Downey Jr. will star in a new movie version of "Sherlock Holmes". This week in CT we have been treated to a new mystery.

One senator, Joe Lieberman, has been out front and center on the debate over health care...attracting almost as much attention...and venom...as wayward golf legend Tiger Woods

The other senator just weeks ago pledged to make it his mission to pass health care reform as a tribute to his late friend. But in recent weeks, Chris Dodd has gone into radio silence on the whole issue.

At first I thought Harry Reid had put a gag order on Dodd, lest unpleasant banking stories step on socialized medicine talking points. But now I realize this form of omerta is probably the result of Dodd's pollster's

Today I wandered into a copy of a poll Whit Ayres took in CT on November 8-10 for a national business advocacy group. The results indicate that this very blue state has little enthusiasm for health care reform    

Connecticut voters overall, and independents in particular, think that health care reform will raise their taxes, increase the deficit, cause their health care costs to go up, expand government control over health care, and harm health care for seniors

 The specifics bear this out.

  • 66% of CT voters believe health care reform will cause taxes to go up
  • 69% of CT voters believe health care reform will increase the deficit
  • a majority of CT voters, inclusing 68% of independents and 62% of seniors believe the proposed Medicare cuts will harm health care for seniors
  •  a majority of CT voters believe the reforms will raise their health care costs

The "public option" didn't save the troubled bill. Although overall support was split; the intensity of opposition was far greater than the intensity of support, with 36% of the voters "strongly opposing" it.  44% of independents "strongly opposed" the public option.

Finally, despite all the screaming and bleating from the lefties across the nation, the poll showed Joe Lieberman clearly the more popular of CT's two senators  Lieberman had a 52% to 29% favorable rating, while Dodd was negative by a 41% to 47% rating; which included a shocking  59% negative rating from independents.

So this polls explains why Joe Lieberman is comfortable standing alone on health care, and why Chris Dodd is on radio silence. The relentless advocacy of health care reform didn;t save Dodd's political fortunes, and the issue isn't looking to do much damage to Lieberman's standing.

Explains why one dog is barking, and one isn't. now doesn't it?  

A Tale of Two Reform Plans

Picture the scene: a fairly popular President, having amassed a significant amount of political capital, decides its time to cash in and spend some on a tough reform effort for a failing, inadequate system. Many Americans agree that the status quo isn't acceptable long-term but hesitate to sign on to changes that they deem too risky. Members of Congress go out to their districts and are confronted at town hall meetings with frustrated, vocal constituents worried about the risks of the plan. The President's popularity outpaces his policies and in particular, this major reform package. Even with control of both houses of Congress, the package can't survive. The reform fails.

If you feel like you've seen this story before, you're not wrong. The trajectory of the 2009 health care debate seems eerily similar to that of the 2005 battle for Social Security reform. Taking a look at the polling from then and comparing it to the data of today shows the parallels in the situation and shows why the health care debate feels all too familiar.

Similarity #1: Presidential Popularity

First, take a look at a bit of a throwback post from 2006 at MysteryPollster.com where Bush's job approval from January 2005 forward is tracked. Bush began 2005 with job approval over 50% - slightly below where Obama started at the beginning of July (Gallup's 7/05-07/2009 poll had Obama at 56%). The trends are not dissimilar: Charles Franklin's plot of Bush job numbers from January 05 forward shows a similar shrinking of support that looks an awful lot like the Obama job approval chart on the front page. This isn't a particularly surprising finding, but provides context to the other more striking comparisons.

Similarity #2: The Agreement that the Status Quo is Unacceptable

In both the Social Security debate and the health care debate, Americans agree: the system needs major overhaul. While so many other issues fail to get Americans to agree with the crucial "we need to do something" sentiment, both Social Security and health care had that extra boost from a public that agreed: maintaining the current system is not workable long term. In February 2005, Gallup found 73% of Americans said Social Security was "in crisis" or "has major problems". (18% said Social Security was "in crisis").

Compare that to the health care debate of today. Gallup has found that 20% of Americans believe health care is "in crisis" and at least a majority believe it has major problems (unfortunately, Gallup doesn't tell us how large a majority). To flesh that out a bit, Gallup asked the question in November 2008 and found 73% of respondents said that health care was either "in crisis" or had "major problems". Does that number sound familiar?

Similarity #3: Issue Handling

By March 2005, Bush's numbers on issue handling of Social Security were brutal, with an ABC/WaPo poll showing only 35% approving and 56% disapproving. CNN/Gallup had even worse news with only 1 out of 3 approving. Compared to 49% approval shortly after Bush took office, once the issue became a hot topic, Bush's number tanked.

Similarly, Obama's numbers have plummeted on health care since before the debate. In April, during Obama's honeymoon, Pew showed Obama with a 51-26 advantage on health care job approval. By August, he had a 42-43 disadvantage - quite the fall from the earlier numbers. The idea that "the president is more popular than his policies" held true then as it does now. (Just take a look at Mara Liasson's February 2005 NPR story, titled: "Bush More Popular that His Social Security Plan").

In both cases, the President began his administration with the trust and support of the people to fix their given "crisis". In both cases, once the debate flared, their numbers dropped significantly. But it is worthwhile to point out that the comparison is not perfect - the Obama honeymoon numbers were immediately followed by the debate, while Bush had a full four years before tackling Social Security.

At any rate, this is just the basic side-by-side look at the reasons why this health care debate may seem like a bit of a "glitch in the Matrix", giving those who watch politics a sense of deja vu.

Because sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. (This item has been cross posted at Pollster.com)

Here Votes Everybody

Ezra Klein says the health care public plan is very popular in polling, so Senate opposition to it means "the Senate hates democracy" and "is resolutely, aggressively, anti-democratic."

Paul Krugman says poll results show that a majority of Americans prefer deficit reduction to higher government spending, but Krugman says "most people don’t know much about macroeconomics" so "the moral for Obama is, of course, to ignore this poll".


NOTE: Aside from the fact that people tend to accept or dismiss polls results based almost entirely on what they already wanted, I think there are two problems with the idea that popular support equals legitimacy, propriety or even democracy.

  1. Stated preference (poll) and revealed preference (how people actually behave when making a choice) differ widely.
  2. With no real price mechanism through which people can evaluate the costs and benefits of policy, we end up with simultaneous public support for massive spending and minimal taxation.  Well, who doesn't want something for nothing?

#1 is a political problem that can't really be changed - thus, we have a representative democracy, rather than direct democracy.

#2 is a policy problem that both Republicans and Democrats should be doing more to fix - e.g., indexing tax rates to spending, pigovian taxes, federalism, etc.

Americans shifting right on some issues ... why?

In addition to the shift in the prolife direction mentioned here:


We see shifts on other issues in the right-wing direction.

Support for gun control is at its lowest level in 40 years of polling.


Four different polls recently point to declining support for gun restrictions as the answer to crime. In October, a Gallup poll found that fewer Americans than ever favor handgun bans, based on Gallup's 49 year history of polling on the issue. Support fell from a high of 60% in 1959 to a low of less than 30% in 2008. The same trend repeats itself in a question on whether more restrictions are needed on the sales of all firearms, not just handguns.

In addition, three different media polls taken in April reflect plummeting support for gun control. CNN found support has fallen by double digits to less than 40% while an ABC News-Washington Post poll found that more than 60% support enforcing current laws against criminals rather than passing new laws restricting the rights of law abiding citizens. NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that support for a ban on rifles has fallen by a third in the last 18 years.

All of these polls show what peaceable gun owners already know - that support for the Second Amendment is the dominant belief in America today, and the fallacy that restricting the rights of honest citizens will impact crime has been exposed for what it is.

What the heck is going on? How could Americans get so gung ho over the second amendment and life while supporting the most leftwing candidate in history? Maybe you didnt notice during Obama's magnificent campaign last year, but he did the Kabuki dance on multiple issues:

  • He opposed gay marriage and the Cali Prop 8
  • He forcefully denounced deficits and promised to go after wasteful spending

If he didn't have the track record of the most liberal Senator in the US Senate, you'd might confuse him with a conservative. THAT WAS PROBABLY THE INTENTION. He fooled many uninformed voters into sounding more moderate/open than he really was.

What this has done is make it safe to be pro-life, pro-2ndA, pro-tax-cuts and still support Obama. Since these things in the past were associated with Republicans, people may have been dissuaded from saying they were prolife. They might have thought 'only Republicans hold that position'. This will lead to seeming contradictions, such as many pro-life, pro-2ndA people expressing support for a President who is in reality a pro-abort President and has members of his party eager to ban guns.

Now here's the hard part - come 2010, when the pro-life, pro-2ndA, pro-fiscal responsibility folks who got gulled into voting for Obama in 2008 look at the fruits of the Democrat Congress.... will they still vote for Democrats? Not if they push their gun banning, taxpayer-funded abortions, trillion-dollar deficits and huge boondoggle spending agenda.

Crossposted at Travis Monitor:


Grappling with Obama's Huge Personal Popularity

Republicans looking for a comeback have yet to come to terms with a basic fact in today's polling: Obama's strongly favorable personal ratings.

Too much of what passes for sea changes in public opinion on policy are in fact residual effects of a narrow partisan advantage magnified by the huge personal popularity of that party's leader. This is how JFK's political position was never seriously dented or in doubt. Or how Ronald Reagan always seemed to bounce back from serious political crises. In Reagan's case, the Gipper's personal magnetism created an opportunity to move the country to the right. Obama is now doing the same for the left.

The tale of the tape is indeed telling here. Obama's personal popularity stayed remarkably stable throughout the course of the campaign, and the average unfavorable rating barely ever cracked 35%. Obama the campaigner looks downright polarizing compared to Obama the President, who now sports a 65/25 fav/unfav in the Pollster.com average.

Why is this important? Republicans right now haven't the slightest idea of how to reduce the President's appeal because they've never actually done it before. It would be one thing if Obama had become a controversial figure during the campaign, like Bill Clinton did in 1992, providing fodder for a comeback once he did get into office, but that possibility scarcely exists today.

While personality may not be everything, and real-world policy outcomes provide opportunities for inflection points, it rarely ever works out that a President's policy agenda is unsuccessful while he remains personally popular. Yes, there are weird situations where a President might be personally loathed (Clinton post-Monica) but politically successful, but not (that I know of) the other way around.

While attempts to remake Republican policy may be all well and good, to pretend the American people will listen to new policy ideas in a vacuum, without reference to their satisfaction (or lack thereof) with Obama is silly.

This hopelessness with respect to Obama's popularity might be cause for more long-ball type thinking and for cultivating charismatic young leaders who too can put an attractive face on conservative ideas, not for seeking short-term tactical wins. Paradoxically, the more irrelevant Republicans become, the easier it is (or should be) to think outside the box. And it is in this intellectual ferment that a comeback will be born.

Political frustration and concern trolls


This kind of story is tiresome.

The Drudge Report banner headline on Friday morning reads, "Poll: 75% of Texans would vote to stay in USA."  What's troubling is not that 75 percent of those polled by Rasmussen Reports would vote to remain in the United States; what's troubling is that 18 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer that Texas secede.

People say a lot of inexplicable things in response to polls.  25% of people say animals deserve the same rights as humans; the percentage of people who say they go to church weekly bears no relationship to the percentage of people actually in church weekly.  Is it really shocking that a certain percentage of people vent about things like this, especially in polls?   Consider these results from old Daily Kos polls...

Of course, those mean nothing more than "people like to express a sense of frustration at, and independence from, the federal government."  And that's generally healthy.  In fact, it was built into our Bill of Rights.  Everybody gets frustrated when their side is losing; and, as we see lately, the winners often turn into concern trolls.  Don't take them too seriously.

Dodd Man Walking

Glug, Glug. Glug........

HAMDEN - A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Connecticut U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd now trailing former Republican Congressman Rob Simmons and two other possible GOP challengers for the 2010 election.The survey of nearly 2,000 registered voters also shows that Dodd is experiencing his lowest job approval numbers, with only 33 percent approving of the job that he's doing and 58 percent disapproving.Pollster Douglas Schwartz says a 33 percent job approval rating is unheard of for a 30-year incumbent.The poll shows Simmons defeating Dodd by a 50 percent to 34 percent margin. Dodd trails state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (kahl-uh-JER'-ee) 41 percent to 37 percent, and former ambassador Tom Foley 43 percent to 35 percent. 

Poll crosstabs are available here

Dodd is now running at plus 60% unafavorable among independents and in his old congressional district

67% of CT voters do not approve of the job Dodd is doing as chairman of the Banking Committee

He is losing the re-elect question 35% to 59%; with 40% saying they "definitely" will not vote for Dodd. The "definite will not vote" number is now higher than Dodd's re-elect percentage.

Perhaps the most devastating number in the Q poll is this one.

54% of CT voters do not think Dodd is "honest and trustworthy". Only 32% think he is.

 As CT political maven Dean Pagani said in his blog you don;t readily recover from that problem

This may end up not helping the overall cause, as these sorts of poll numbers may cause a "Barry Goldwater" moment in the Democrat caucus directing Dodd to stand down for a less damaged candidate.

Then again, maybe some itchy young Democrats primaries Dodd. We've had THAT in CT, now haven't we.

I think this sign was a very low MoE

Chris Dodd "I've fallen and I can't get up!"

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Connecticut's leading pollster, Quinnipiac University, released it's latest poll today. And the temperature reading on CT's senior senator , Chris Dodd, continues to drop into hypothermia conditions

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A total of 42 percent of voters say they "definitely" or "probably" will vote to reelect Sen. Dodd in 2010, while 51 percent say the "probably won't" or "definitely won't" vote for him.

By a 54 - 24 percent margin, Connecticut voters say they are not satisfied with Sen. Dodd's explanation of allegations that he received preferential mortgage treatment and 56 percent of voters say they are less likely to vote for him because of this controversy.

"Sen. Dodd is vulnerable. His approval has sunk to a new low. More voters disapprove than approve of the job he is doing for the first time in 15 years of polling," Schwartz said. "The mortgage controversy has taken a toll on his approval rating. Most voters are not satisfied with Dodd's explanation and say they are less likely to vote for him next year because of it."


 If anything, the polls's internals are even more horrific for Senator Dodd than the widely reported toplines

11% of CT voters will "defintively" vote to re-elect Dodd; while  32% of CT voters will "definitely" vote against Dodd.

So the "intensity" in this race is starting off 3 to 1 against the incumbent; who will need 67% of those voters who aren't committed to firing him in order to hold office.

On the question of trust, unaffiliated voters  break 39%- to 45% against Dodd being "honest and trustworthy"  By a 19% to 59% measure they aren;t satisfied with Dodd' explanation of how he got "VIP" treatment from Countrywide Mortgage.

Perhaps most ominously for Dodd, he is losing the re-elect question in CT's three rural eastern counties . where he once represented in Congress and where his possible opponent (Fmr. Congressman Rob Simmons) is from.  Even people living near Dodd Stadium are sick of Chris Dodd.

Now how bad are these numbers? Well, I'm thinking Chris Dodd is in Rick Santorum sorta trouble; especially since in July 2005 Quinnipiac had Santorum with positive job approval. a and a plurality edge on the re-elect question. 

As we know, Santorum went down by something like 18 points in a purple state. CT is bluer than PA is red, and the CT GOP is unlikely to find as strong a votegetter as Casey; but I challenge Nate Silver to explain why Chris Dodd isn't high on 538.com's list of vulnerable 2010 senate seats. 

The problem for Dodd is he's already done his damage control on Countrywide and suffered more damage.  Sure he promises to fight back, but let's "fisk" this statement, why don;t we. 

 When the time comes, Sen. Dodd will be ready with a vigorous, well-funded (by special interests) re-election campaign," said Dodd's spokesman, Bryan DeAngelis. "Now is the time for leadership and that is why Sen. Dodd is focused on helping Connecticut families get out of this economic crisis and hardship."


The Hartford Business Journal's Dean Pagani has suggested Democratic senior statesmen will intercede to get Dodd to go quietly into the night off to his Connemara cottage, so they can run the more popular Attorney General Dick Blumenthal or perhaps chomping at the bit Congressman Chris Murphy. But I think someone who thinks his family owns this senate seat is going to go down swinging irregardless of whether he hurts his party; he did waste over a year of his life on a risable race for President.   

So, folks, if you thought 2006 was a fun senate election in CT, well we have an encore!!!...and one that a registered Republican can win!

I think Dodd is going to go down along with the economic disaster he helped create. Shouldn;t mess with karma, I say 

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