I’ve often noted here on TMV that just like clockwork you can expect something out of partisans when polls come out: (1)if they like the poll they’ll tout it, scream it and headline it, and, (2)if the poll brings bad news or isn’t what they want to hear, they will try to discredit it. The usual (tiresome) way is to go on and on about the methodology.
Now, if the poll was in their favor, do you think they’d be trying to discredit it and talk about methodology? For some strange reason, that seldom happens. And so we have a new New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll — one that shows that Republicans may not have as easy a time capturing as a Senate as many pundits have assumed or as Fox News and some GOPers have hoped and suggested. And just what do you think the reaction is from Republicans so far?
Four Senate races in the South that will most likely determine control of Congress appear very close, with Republicans benefiting from more partisan intensity but a Democratic incumbent, once seen as highly vulnerable, holding a surprising edge, according to a New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The survey underscores a favorable political environment over all for Republicans in Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas — states President Obama lost in 2012 and where his disapproval rating runs as high as 60 percent. But it also shows how circumstances in each state are keeping them in play for the Democrats a little more than six months before the midterm elections.
Which means the situation remains highly fluid.
Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a two-term incumbent who has been considered perhaps the most imperiled Democratic senator in the country, holds a 10-point lead over his Republican opponent, Representative Tom Cotton. Mr. Pryor, the son of a former senator, has an approval rating of 47 percent, with 38 percent of Arkansas voters disapproving of him.
percent of voters, and Thom Tillis, the Republican state House speaker and front-runner for his party’s nomination, is at 40 percent. Unlike Mr. Pryor, however, Ms. Hagan’s approval rating, 44 percent, is the same as her disapproval number. In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is also effectively tied with his Democratic rival, Alison Lundergan Grimes, a race that may be close because Mr. McConnell, first elected to the Senate in 1984, has the approval of only 40 percent of voters, while 52 percent disapprove. But Ms. Grimes must overcome Mr. Obama’s deep unpopularity in the state, where only 32 percent of voters approve of his performance.
With 42 percent support, Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, has an early lead in a race that is not fully formed against a large field of Republicans. Representative Bill Cassidy, the Republican front-runner, was the choice of 18 percent, and 20 percent had no opinion. There are two other Republicans in the race, but Louisiana has no primary. So all candidates of both parties will be on the ballot in November and, absent one of them taking 50 percent, there will be a runoff in December.
Republicans need to gain six seats to seize the majority, and will probably have to defeat at least two of the South’s three Democratic incumbents running this year to do so. Mr. McConnell, who also faces a primary challenge on May 20, is one of few Republican incumbents considered at risk.
But there’s more. Talking Points Memo points out that the poll upends GOP expectations about how the Obamacare issue is playing for them:
A poll released Wednesday offers yet another data point showing the politics of Obamacare aren’t as set in stone as the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Embracing Obamacare isn’t necessarily a political loser, and obstructing it isn’t necessarily a winner.
The New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed four Southern states that will help determine control of the Senate this fall. It earned headlines for finding the Democrats in better shape in the Senate races than most would have expected.
But it also assessed the popularity of four governors who have taken vastly different approaches to Obamacare — and the findings are a direct contradiction of the narrative that the law is a loser, plain and simple, especially in states like these.
The poll showed Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who expanded Medicaid under the law, are hugely popular. Their approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than their disapproval ratings; Beebe holds 68 percent approval, and Beshear is at 56 percent.
But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) are at best treading water with their constituents after they declined to expand the program to cover low-income residents. McCrory is middling, with 43 percent approval and 44 percent disapproval, while Jindal is 14 percent underwater at 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval.
The poll findings don’t necessarily suggest causation…..But they do continue to sink the notion that Obamacare support is an abject disaster politically, particularly in states that voted against President Barack Obama in the presidential elections.
And of course…like clockwork…reaction by many Republicans is to try to discredit the poll — and talk about methodology. Read this piece in full by The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, who may not have been as screamingly wrong on his predictions in elections, but if you bet your wardrobe in Vegas on his predictions coming true and analysis being solid, you might be a candidate for a nudist colony.
Would Kristol have written a piece criticizing the methodology of a poll that had his
team tribe party ahead? (Just asking..)
Many Republican responses are knee-jerk. But Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey gives a more balanced response, complete with his doubts about the poll. A bit of it:
I’m inclined to chalk this up as an outlier, but it still should serve as a warning to the GOP, too. It won’t be a cakewalk to beat Pryor, or for that matter to win any of these races. Republicans can run against Obama, whose approval numbers are atrocious across the board, but they’d better be clear as to what they’re for as well. Names like Pryor and Landrieu still carry weight in states Republicans should win this year.
The New York Time’s Nate Cohen calls criticism of the poll “misguided”:
The new New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation surveys offer some pretty good results for Democrats — with caveats — so it’s no surprise that polling aficionados are scouring the details for an explanation. They think they’ve found the problem: respondents’ self-reported vote in the 2012 presidential election, which generally found President Obama faring far better than he did in that race. This critique is understandable, but misguided.
The New Republic’s Danny Vinik says the GOP’s plan to re-take the Senate is now falling apart:
The Washington consensus right now is that Republicans are slight favorites to take control of the Senate in the midterms. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver put the odds at 60 percent. Other prognosticators agree. That may be true right now, but there are signs that the calculus could change in the coming months. Democrats may be in better shape than anyone realizes.
Thus, regardless of the public’s support, or lack thereof, of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats face an uphill battle this year. But could they pull a miracle upset and actually increase their majority? RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende, the best conservative prognosticator out there, laid out that unlikely scenario in a piece last week: “The way this could occur is fairly straightforward: The Affordable Care Act improves; there’s no massive rate shock for premiums in September or October; and the economy slowly gains ground. This should propel President Obama’s job approval upward, lifting the collective Democratic boat.”
That doesn’t sound like such a long shot. The media narrative about Obamacare seems to have turned a corner since the administration announced eight million signups. Every day, it seems, there is a new survey or report bearing good news about the law. This hasn’t improved the opinion polls yet, but it likely will. After all, support for the law didn’t deteriorate right after the catastrophic launch. It took more than a month to register.
Republicans want to make the midterms a referendum on Obamacare, but that is easier said than done….
After a long analysis, he concludes:
Of course, plenty of other things could happen in the next few months to hurt Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate. Russia could cut off oil and gas exports to Europe, sending gasoline prices skyrocketing and crushing the recovery. Republicans could be right about widespread rate shock. Half of the eight million Obamacare signups could decide not to pay their premiums. These developments would likely hand the Senate to Republicans, given that they already have a structural advantage.
For all these reasons, the odds are very low that Democrats pick up seats in the Senate, but the odds that Mitch McConnell becomes the majority leader in 2015 are falling as well. At the end of his piece, Trende warns that a poor performance by the GOP this year could lead to a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in 2017. For Democrats who argue that these midterms are meaningless because Obama’s legislative agenda is already dead, it’s time to reconsider.
And, indeed, the other truism of elections besides partisans trying to discredit polls they don’t like is Democrats ho-humming and staying home if they face a tough fight they feel they can’t win, or are disillusioned with how much their party accomplished, or disagree emotionally with their party’s leader in the White House.
If the poll is to be believed, the Senate is up for grabs.
The question is whether Democrats are willing to grab for it.
SOME TWITTER REACTION:
— Bill Murphy (@billmurphy) April 23, 2014
Reaction to the Times poll suggests if Dem leads hold, conservatives will revert to poll unskewing http://t.co/uewQxbhnDA
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) April 23, 2014
After Rs mocked Silver for months RT @Alex_Roarty RNC slams NYT Senate poll, calls the Times "desperate after losing Nate Silver."
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) April 23, 2014
Great news for Dems >>> NY Times Poll Suprise: Southern Senate Democrats In The Lead http://t.co/t0ORa34b1e
— The Fighting Liberal (@texyellowdogdem) April 23, 2014
How do we know the Times Poll on ACA is accurate? Bill (Always Wrong) Kristol says it's bogus. Is there any more reliable corroboration?
— Michael Markman (@Mickeleh) April 23, 2014
MAG: Poll 'bogus'… http://t.co/HgzCSdw1CN
— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) April 23, 2014
— democrab (@democrab) April 23, 2014
Is anyone really surprised that the New York Times would run a poll custom-fitted to make Democratic candidates look good?
— Michael Freeman (@michaelpfreeman) April 23, 2014
Upshots fired: The Times gives Dems 51 percent chance of holding Senate. 538 had GOP at 51 percent. http://t.co/H4nFtaFstE
— pbumpnet (@pbumpnet) April 22, 2014
So I guess we're going to see a new "unskewed" meme? Because, you know, it worked so well last time for you guys. http://t.co/OntJ35DuED
— Snapper Morgan (@snappermorgan) April 23, 2014
— WhiskeyRiver (@CrankItUp6) April 23, 2014
— just some chick (@AgeJustNumbers) April 23, 2014
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.