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The Morning Line: Independents Poised to Swing to GOP in 2010, Poll Shows

Voters in Florida

The Morning Line

For all the talk this election season about tea parties and the enthusiasm gap among partisans, Republicans are poised to make big gains in next week’s elections thanks in large part to support from independent voters who have grown unhappy with the Democratic lawmakers they helped put in office in 2006 and 2008.

A new poll released Monday by Politico and George Washington University found that Republicans hold a 14-point advantage over Democrats among independents, 44 percent to 30 percent.


In 2006, independent voters sided with Democrats by a 57 to 39 margin, lifting the party to the majority in both houses of Congress that fall.

Two years later, independents backed President Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain, 52 percent to 44 percent. Among those who identified themselves as ideologically moderate, 60 percent went for Mr. Obama versus 39 percent for McCain.

Now, nearly two years into the Obama presidency that has seen passage of major pieces of legislation including a $700-plus billion economic recovery plan and an overhaul of the country’s health care system, independent voters have swung behind conservatives who believe government has overreached and can no longer be trusted.

James Hohmann and Jim VandeHei make note of some of the key findings in their write-up of the poll:

“On health care: 62 percent of independents hold an unfavorable view of the new law (compared to 52 percent overall). Only six percent of independents view the legislation very favorably.

On the economy: 66 percent of independents say the recovery legislation is not working (compared to 57 percent overall). The percentage saying the “stimulus” is not working spiked 12 points since Labor Day.

On the question of governance overall, 69 percent of independents say they have less faith in government now than they did just before Obama was elected.”

Still, Republicans would be wise not to celebrate the results as an endorsement of the party and its governing agenda. In fact, only 30 percent of independent voters believe Republicans have offered more specific solutions than Democrats this year, a nearly 10-point lag from the full survey.

Early Vote

Millions of Americans have already cast their ballots in this midterm election and there are still eight days before Election Day.

Nearly 30 percent of voters are expected to have cast their vote early this year as more states make early voting and in-person, no-excuse absentee voting available and accessible.

As the political world impatiently waits for the election returns to roll in next Tuesday, the avalanche of pre-election polling is not sufficiently appeasing the data obsessed. Luckily, there are some early voting statistics to explore to help glean any insight into just how big a Republican wave is about to come ashore.

However, much like polls, early voting statistics leave a lot of room for interpretation and spin.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee distributed a memo this morning from its chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, with its take on the early voting numbers.

“Despite national momentum being on the Republican side for months, we are not seeing anything resembling a Republican surge. In fact, to the contrary, in key Senate races, we are seeing encouraging signs for Democrats,” writes Menendez.

“Democrats have cast more ballots in West Virginia, California, and Nevada and we know from our targeting that likely Democratic voters have cast more ballots than likely Republican voters in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington.”

But the numbers guru at the fivethirtyeight blog at nytimes.com, Nate Silver, begs to differ with Sen. Menendez’s rosy view of the data.

“If we compare the early voting statistics to the registration figures in each state, we see that Republicans are outperforming their registration figures by an average of about 9 points, or a median of 6 points. The median figure is arguably the more reliable figure in this case, since it will be less sensitive to outliers — as there might be, for instance, in Pennsylvania, where early voting figures show a very substantial edge for Republicans in a state where party registration favors the Democrats. Still, either figure is pretty good for Republicans,” writes Silver.

(Be sure to check out his very helpful chart illustrating his analysis.)

Beware the Distraction

On this Monday, eight days before a big midterm election, we await the distraction that will feed cable TV and drive the media narrative for the final week of the campaign.

You may recall it was on this Monday in 2006 when John Kerry, campaigning in California, said: “”Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

The press went hog-wild over the comments and Republicans worked around the clock to use the Kerry gaffe to their advantage. After much wondering among the pundits and the pols about how it might impact the midterm election results, the Democrats picked up 30 seats in the House without losing a single seat of their own and swept to power in both chambers of Congress.

(Note to assignment editors: Kerry is set to visit his alma mater in New Haven, Conn., Monday to discuss both climate change and the New START treaty awaiting Senate action.)

Unemployment stands at 9.6 percent, nearly 60 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, and faith in government and the entrenched powers in Washington are at an all-time low. It will likely take much more than a cable TV amplified gaffe to upend the fundamentals of this election season.

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