Right now, both Democrats and the progressive movement are flying high. Our fifty-state strategy has yielded record candidate recruitment. With a 43% Democratic turnout in Connecticut, evidence continues to mount that Democrats are turning out at higher rates than Republicans (possibly significantly higher rates). We hold commanding, historic, eighteen-points in the two most recent generic ballot polls (AP-Ipsos and Fox-Opinion Dynamics) and an NPR shows that lead making an impact where it counts. Our Senate polls aren't bad either. Ned Lamont's victory has given the activist base a huge boost of confidence and energy, among many other things. The Democratic leadership has lined up behind Lamont, unifying the party and improving our message. Bush's approval rating still sucks, and our candidates are more competitive financially than at any time in recent memory (see more here). Committee fundraising looks good too. Our creativity and new infrastructure seem to be growing in leaps and bounds, and now election forecaster after election forecaster after election forecaster after election forecaster says great things are coming our way.
If you have time, read the above paragraph again, and even follow all of the links. (go to the orignal post)Reading all of this, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that we are on the cusp of a tremendous wave election in 2006. Eight-eight days before the election, the situation could hardly look better.
However, as good as things look right now, I think it is important to write a post explaining why we should not expect the situation to remain this good for the remainder of the eighty-eight days in the election season. A loss of confidence has often led to both activist and voter retrenchment for Democrats and progressives. In order to prevent that from happening this time around, we need to be aware of why the situation will tighten before it actually does. Hopefully, this will vaccinate us from disappointment and disillusionment this fall, allowing us to stay active and aware of the great potential this election holds for our cause.
This election will tighten up, and here is why:
1. Money. Markos often notes that Republicans close election strong. One of the main reasons for this is that their candidates have a lot more money than our candidates. This translates into a lot more paid media, a lot more direct mailings, a lot more yard sings--a lot more everything. That advantage in the final few weeks of a campaign will almost always cause a candidate to move up in local polls, or a party to move up in national polls. Even this year, where we are much better off financially that we have been in the past, Republicans still hold a sizable edge. Once again, this will give them the ability to close the gap as the election approaches.
2. Noise Machine. As many improvements as we have made in building progressive media, the conservative media empire still towers over us. The same can be said for their think tank apparatus, their ability to get right-wing pundits on news panels, their ability to get quoted in the media, etc. It also still translates into a superior ability to dominate the conventional wisdom narratives of our national political discourse. Our infrastructure work over the past few years has allowed us to make up ground in all of these areas, but the Republican Noise will still give Republicans an edge in driving their message through both local and national media (not to mention that they still have an edge on packaging messages anyway).
3. Conservatives coming home. A not insignificant number of people currently in the "undecided" or "other" columns in polls are conservatives who will never vote for Democrats. Right now, these people are wavering between Republicans, third-parties, and not voting. No matter what decision they end up making (and we need to help them not vote for Republicans), they are not going to vote for Democrats, and a not insignificant amount of them will come home. Once again, this will cause the race to tighten.
4. Gas Prices. Regular poll watchers all know that presidential approval is tied to gas prices. Everyone also knows that the Bush administration is marinated in the oil industry. It does not at all seem inconceivable to me that some combination of the Bush administration and its friends in the oil industry can work to lower gas prices this fall, thus helping Republican and incumbent chances in November. Watch it happen.
5. October Surprise. As we have also seen, terror alerts and other surprise news stories frequently happen when Bush's approval ratings are low, and Republicans do not hesitate to use such alerts for political gain. With Republicans facing their worst poll situation in recent memory, is it any wonder that we are at code red for the first time ever, instead of code orange, after yesterday's major British arrest? Expect more of the same as the election nears.
With these Republican advantages, it is inevitable that Republicans will close the gap between now and November. While right now we are heading toward an election along the lines of 1974, 1994 or whatever, we cannot allow our spirit to waver when these advantages cause our current, almost unbelievable advantages to narrow. Keep your head high and remember everything from the first paragraph in this post. This is a rare opportunity--the sort of opportunity that comes around once every couple of decades. No matter what happens between now and November, we have to throw everything we can muster into making as much of that opportunity manifest into reality as possible.