Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Coming Democratic Tide

With 70 days remaining until the elections of November 7th, it looks as if the United States will experience a major political shift. The Democrats will make big gains. They will pick up half a dozen governorships. They will gain five or six seats in the U.S. Senate. They will gain an outright majority in the House of Representatives, with seats to spare. They will pick up scores of State and local offices that currently are held by Republicans. This bold forecast is not quite consistent with what the professional political forecasters have said. It foresees a bigger Democratic sweep than has been projected elsewhere, so far. It is the product, at any rate, of diligent study by Seeing Greene’s hard-working staff. While chronicling events in GreeneLand we have paid heed to opinion survey reports, to professionals’ projections, to likely formative events and, of course, to entrails of sacrificed birds. Multiple forces have worked to the advantage of the Democrats, who need but to take full advantage of them. GOVERNORSHIPS On November 7th, voters in 36 of the 50 States will decide who gets to be governor. Their votes will hand the Democrats a net gain of at least five seats. A net gain of six seats is more likely than a gain of four or fewer. At present, 28 governorships are occupied by Republicans, 22 by Democrats. Of governorships that are subject to electoral contest this year, 14 are held by Democrats, and all will remain in Democrats’ hands (even where the incumbent is retiring). As for the 22 Republican-held governorships that are open to contest, Democratic candidates are in excellent-to-good position to win contests in New York (Eliot Spitzer beats John Faso), Ohio (Rod Strickland thrashes Kenneth Blackwell in scandal-pocked State), Maryland (Martin O’Malley beats Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr), Arkansas (Michael Beebe over non-incumbent Asa Hutchinson), Colorado (Bill Ritter over non-incumbent Bob Beauprez), Alaska (Tony Knowles beats Sarah Pallin, who won the Republican nomination over incumbent Republican governor Frank Murkowski), Massachusetts (if Chris Gabrieli wins the Democratic nomination, facing Republican nominee Kerry Healey), Rhode Island (Republican incumbent Don Carcieri leads Democratic challenger Charles Fogarty by a few points in straw polls, but the state is heavily Democratic and the Republicans are split), and Florida (Gov. Jeb Bush is not seeking re-election; the party’s nominees will emerge from primary elections in September). A Democratic sweep of all nine of those races would be momentous indeed. The more likely gain is seven governorships—which are exceedingly valuable prizes, politically (what with publicity, patronage…). And incidentally, it’s not often that a Republican-held governorship gets classed as a sure Democratic bet. That is the case in New York in 2006. SENATE RACES Democratic candidates will pick up at least four seats. The current lineup is 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and one independent who is allied to the Democrats. Thirty-three Senate seats are being contested. Of these, 15 are held currently by Republicans, 17 by Democrats, and one by an independent (James Jeffords, who is retiring and will likely be replaced, in Vermont, by another independent, Bernie Sanders). None of the seats that are currently held by Democratic senators will pass to Republicans. Republican-held seats that will pass to Democratic hands are located in Pennsylvania (Bob Casey Jr ousts Rick Santorum), Ohio (Rep. Sherrod Brown over Sen. Mike DeWine), Missouri (Claire McCaskill over Sen. James M. Talent), and Montana (Jon Tester beats scandal-scarred Sen. Conrad Burns). In addition, the Democratic nominee for Senator from Rhode Island will win in November if the incumbent loses the Republican nominating election on September 12th. Moreover, it would not be far-fetched to anticipate that the Democratic senatorial candidate will capture a Republican-held seat in Virginia (Admiral James Webb knocking off Sen. George Allen), Tennessee (Rep. Harold Ford Jr over Robert Corker, Republican candidate to succeed contest to the retiring Republican, Bill Frist), or in Arizona (Jim Pederson edging Sen. John Kyl). HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES To gain a majority in the House of Representatives, the Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats. They will surpass that quota. We anticipate a net gain for them of 21 seats. The Democrats will add two or three (probably three) House seats from Ohio, two or three from Connecticut, two from California, two or three from New York (district 24, 29 and 20 in that order of probabilities) and from Pennsylvania, and one or more from Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas (district 22, Tom Delay’s former fief) and Arizona. In the meanwhile, judging from past experience, local circumstances may generate a countervailing turn or two, with Republicans replacing Democrats in House seats. Even if two of those anomalies do occur, the Democrats will capture control of the House.
The prediction that a Democratic victory will emerge from the counting of votes on November 7th is consistent with expectations voiced by “conservative” commentators as well as by neutral prognosticators. Our forecast is distinctive only for the scale of projected Democratic gains. We are guessing that trends that have helped the Democrats so far will persist and that formativeintervening events are more likely to work to the Democrats’ advantage. Some particulars: OPINION SURVEYS Harris Pollsters in early August asked respondents how they would vote if the Congressional elections were held “now.” The responses were 45% Democratic, 30% Republican. The Democratic preference was especially strong among women (50% D, 28% R). Among respondents who said they were Democrats, 87% said they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate(s), whereas only 81% of their Republican counterparts planned to remain steadfast. Among independents, the Democratic edge was 37 to 25. The majority of respondents described themselves as pro-Democratic (55%), as distinct from pro-Republican (37%) or Undecided. Similarly, an Associated Press/IPSOS survey in July indicated that of respondents who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, about one in five says he or she will vote for the Democratic candidate (for Congress or Senator) this time. Disapproval of the Botch Administration’s overall performance continues to surpass approval. These returns from sample surveys may not get any worse for the Republicans. But other figures are likely to hurt them. They are gains in the numbers of respondents who feel informed about the character of challengers to incumbents. In Virginia, for example, two months ago the incumbent Republican senator, George Allen, looked unbeatable. He generated some hurtful publicity, which the Democrats energetically exploited. At the same time, his challenger became a known quantity (with especially strong credentials in the domain of national security). In the latest Zogby sample survey, he actually out-polled Allen (by just one percentage point). MONEY The groundswell of support for Democrats (or distaste for Bush Republicanism) has been manifested in, and accelerated by, substantial contributions of campaign funds. The Democrats are no match for the Republicans in this matter. But they are closer than usual. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee actually out-raised and out-spent the Republican committee in July-August. In 17 Congressional districts, in the January-March, the Democratic challenger surpassed the Republican incumbent in funds raised and/or in total funds on hand. The Republicans won’t be able to swamp the Democrats with full-page advertisements, television commercials, direct mailings, billboards and telephone banks. TURNOUT Rates of registering to vote, and of actually voting, have usually been higher among Republicans than among Democrats. That advantage will not be wiped out in November but it will be diminished. Organizing efforts by official Democratic leaders have been stronger than usual; and they have been augmented if not eclipsed by efforts on the part of independent supporters such as MoveOn.org. In addition, and in spite of highly efficient organizing, we expect Republican turnout to be lower in some area than usual. It will be a product of active abstention. The abstainers will be stalwart Republicans who style themselves moderates or centrist. They feel that their party has been hijacked by goofy ideologues. They can’t quite bring themselves to vote Democratic. They will stay home.

CAMPAIGNS What messages will the candidates try to convey? Embattled Republican incumbents will struggle to distance themselves from their President. They will plead for challengers. They also will campaign against “liberalism”-- construed as heavy taxes, abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, spinelessness on defense, tolerance for illegal immigration, atheism, flag-burning. Those issues are salient mostly for the already-converted, and they serve to alienate Republican moderates. The Republican candidates also will urge the voters to rank national security against terror(ism) as their foremost concern. But since the dangers they cite appear to have increased during the Bush years, and since public opinion evidently has moved against “stay the course” in Iraq, that appeal will not provide much traction. Meanwhile, Democratic candidates will strive to make headway with their minimum-wage increase pledge and with tying their opponents to the Botch Administration.

LOCAL FORCES Although the November by-elections will be shaped by popular feelings about the general course of events (feelings of anxiety, tapped by pollsters in the form of questions about whether the country is going in the right or the wrong direction), they also will be shaped by local factors. Those factors favor the Democrats more than the Republicans. In New York State, overwhelming electoral support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer will provide a coat-tail effect that, combined with other forces, could deliver four House seats to the Democrats instead of one or two (along with a host of normally Republican State and local offices). Ohio’s home-cooked scandals, coupled with fallout from the Abramoff/Delay scandals, will bring a bumper crop of support for Democrats. In Florida, the egregious Rep. Katherine Harris has made a fool of herself in her campaign for U.S. Senator; her evangelistic blather has worked to the advantage of all Democratic candidates, including the gubernatorial candidate in what the experts had construed as a safe Republican office. In Alaska, the drubbing of a sitting Republican governor in his own party’s primary made that State’s governorship a likely win for the Democratic nominee, Tony Knowles (who also happens to be an abnormally qualified candidate). In Pennsylvania, the ongoing Green Party senatorial campaign could do for Senator Santorum what Ralph Nader did for George W. Bush in 2000: deliver a victory to the Republican, and less popular, candidate. In two Congressional districts (in Nevada and Michigan), on the other hand, battles between “conservative” and “moderate” Republicans may put Democrats in offices which otherwise would have been out of reach. And in Rhode Island, a similar brawl within Republican ranks shows much promise of giving the Democrats an otherwise-unattainable Senate seat and governorship. If Stephen Laffey, generously supported by the “conservative” Club For Growth, succeeds in September 12’s primary election in wresting the Republican senatorial nomination from the incumbent, Lincoln Chafee, that seat will be captured in November 7’s general election by the Democratic nominee. The fall-out also will likely put Democrat Charles Fogarty in the governor’s chair. And the senatorial change may well occur even if Mr Chafee does survive--a weary, bitter, financially strapped survivor of intra-party sabotage.

EVENTS Elections are decided not only by past records and by campaigns, but also by events (such as 9/11). A “conservative” commentator named Michael Barone has opined that the Republicans need a salvational event and that it already has come. He names the terrorist plot to smuggle bombs onto civilian aircraft headed from England to America. That episode, he argues, can restore Republican fortunes because Republicans are more trusted than Democrats as military guardians. The advantage he cites, however, has dwindled over time. Support for Republicans has ebbed particularly among “security moms.” Meanwhile, the Iraq fiasco probably will persist, the Katrina relief fiasco will be remembered, more political scandals will come out, mammoth deficits will persist, gas prices will not ease much—in short, current Democratic prospects will not be dashed by supervening events. And President Bush will continue to be President Botch.

P.S. For more authoritative insight, google the latest Stuart Rothenberg report.


Anonymous said...

How about some news on the WINDOWS of the Catskill Middle School. School starts one week from tomorrow,Will our children be in classrooms with NO fire exits?
And what ever came of the case against Delores Hoffman stealing the cash from the soft ball league?

peter said...

Hey Dick,

I appreciate your efforts at predicting these races, but the entire dynamic is likely to be shifted by our forthcoming bombing/invasion of Iran. The wheels are already being greased for that move, and I expect it will happen in the first couple weeks of October, just in time to stir up mindless nationalistic sentiment and bogus patriotism.

Anonymous said...

dick give it up!



Anonymous said...

An excellent commentary, my compliments. I am a registered Democrat, living and working in the Village of Catskill. I actually would prefer to describe myself as a 'democrat.' Since I arrived to live in the upper Hudson Valley, now residing in Catskill for nine years, I have been perplexed by the enrollment edge the Republican Party has enjoyed in Greene County. Many thousands of our county residents live at subsistence-level jobs, enjoy limited upward mobility in terms of employment, or affording an affluent life. Many of our citizens are elderly, confronting the high cost of medical care, housing and related expenses, and with limited income.
The Democratic Party doesn't have all the answers, but surely the platform advanced by the Republicans .. nationally and on a state level .. has less.
In my opinion, it is time for change on all levels of government. Whenever I visit the Greene County Building on Main Street I am offended by its opulence, its terrazo floors, offices that are only half-filled .. a testament to when politicans are so overconfident of their mandate that they fail to recognize the cost incurred by the public they are elected to represent.
I don't question that many elected Republican office holders are committed to good government; however, our nation, our state, and our county merits a 'breath of fresh air', a alternative approach for what lies ahead for all of us.
Harold M. Hanson, Catskill

Anonymous said...

This is in response to Mr. Hanson's post.

Mr. Hanson, one of the goals of the Republican Party is to keep taxes lower and keep more money in the citizens pockets rather than in government coffers. The Democrats, at all levels of government look to find more programs, more projects and, quite frankly, more ways to spend the citizens money to justify their positions.

I am sorry that the Greene County office building offends you. As a lifelong resident of Catskill, the empty Newberrys building and empty, dilapidated (and in some instance-witnessed by me) cockroach infested buildings offended me and quite a number of other people.

The "empty" offices you refer to, should be considered an look toward the future growth and needs of the County.

I find it interesting that you choose to state how "when politicans are so overconfident of their mandate that they fail to recognize the cost incurred by the public they are elected to represent." when I have received several email from you indicating your dissatisfaction with the new parking rates in the municipal lot.

It was (and by no means do I intend to offend him) a Democrat who came up with the new parking system and rates, and it was a Democratic led board (of which I am a member, but obviously the minority member) that chose to implement it.

I might add that I, as a Republican member of that same board, voiced my opposition to the increased rates and also had requested that a reduced rate be considered.

I realize this is but one example, but let us not forget the fact that the Republican led County Legislature has been successful in holding the line on property taxes. Would that be the case if it were a Democratic-led body? Might I refer you to Ulster County who now face a large tax increase (proposed by a Democratic-led body).

I would also like to add that much has been made lately of sharing the county's sales tax revenue. I as the Republican member of the Village of Catskill on Monday night asked my board to include a clause in a proposed resolution suporting this tax sharing program that guarantees any revenue received by the Village from it go directly to lowering property taxes in the Village. Prior to my addendum, any revenue received could have went to virtually anything with no guarantee that that it will ease the tax burden of the residents of this community. Quite frankly, not having this guarantee is basically writing a blank check.

Republicans here stand for lower taxes, less governmental intervention and providing more opportunities for citizens to take control of their own lives and finances. I support that.

If you prefer to keep more money in your pocket, have less government telling you what to do in your life and allow you to take control of your future, I strongly urge you to vote Republican this fall.

Thank you for your consideration.

Angelo W. Amato

Anonymous said...

Mr. D'Amato .. appreciate your reply .. and I value a society where people can have differing views. I will (and have) voted for Republican candidates when I felt they were the superior candidate. I have no probem with the County Building being in its present location, although I consider it extravagant in scale .. my opinion. Thank you for your support in keeping the Municipal Lot 'user friendly'. While many may believe that Main Street is bustling, it is not in terms of 'retail' traffic. While office workers, apartment residents, property owners may find the recently announced Permit system more friendly than before, it still constitutes a burden for us, the merchants, who are attempting to bring a new vitality to Main Street.
My regards, Harold M. Hanson

Anonymous said...

My apologies .. Mr. Amato, not D'Amato.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to stop by seeinggreenefire and cast your vote!

Do you think that Fire Truck ETA 3-11 (purchased with Village of Catskill Tax Dollars) belongs to Hose 1 or to the tax payers?

Select up to 2 of the following:
Yes It belongs to the tax payers, and shouldgo to NY State Court of Appeals

No it belongs to Hose 1

Make Free Polls

Anonymous said...

The democratic tide is coming because the Republicans run crappy candidates. In Cairo, Catskill Durham. Crap is running on the Republican line.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean the Republican candidates in the remaining 11 towns are "good" candidates?

Anonymous said...

‘Second Saturday Stroll’ – September 9

Now in its fourth edition, this historic village’s “Second Saturday Stroll” is expected to attract an ever growing crowd of visitors. Started in June, the once-monthly event introduces visitors to the growing number of art galleries, home and specialty shops, antiques shops, restaurants and cafes that herald the renewal of this Hudson River community.
A highlight of the festivities from 5 to 9 p.m. is the return engagement of the Saints of Swing, a Dixieland trio strolling along Catskill’s Main Street – a real delight that won the hearts of hundreds in August.
Refreshments are served at most shops and galleries.

Anonymous said...

I guess you are right. The Republicans are running crap all over the county. Will one republican candidate for legislature go on record and agree to share the sales tax?

Dick, why don't you ask the candidates?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You mean that if the Republicans win Greene County Legislature seats that Osama and his croonies will let us alone?