Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A brighter outlook for Republicans

Those looking for continuing signs of a brighter future for Republican candidates will find it in the latest work by a Democratic polling firm. Public Policy Polling in Raleigh does a lot of work for Democrats, but its findings have a lot of credibility among political observers across the spectrum not only because it called the election accurately last year, but also because it has been taking note of poor popularity numbers for Democrats and the increasing likelihood that Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, once thought to be in some trouble for re-election next year, is in pretty fair condition because Democrats have not come up with a popular candidate who fares any better against Burr.

The other day PPP found that Jessecrats in Eastern N.C. -- the Democrats who once helped Sen. Jesse Helms win and stay in office for decades -- think better of President Obama, a black man, than they do of Gov. Bev Perdue, a white woman.

Now PPP finds that N.C. voters are planning on voting for Republicans in federal and state races next year. Here's what PPP analyst Tom Jensen says:

Our newest poll finds the GOP holding a 48-38 lead on the generic Congressional ballot and a 46-39 one on the generic legislative ballot.

There are two key reasons for the early Republican lean: independents are leaning toward them and they're more unified than the Democrats are. For Congress independents prefer Republicans 37-21 and for the legislature it's 34-23. 90% of Republicans but only 76% of Democrats plan to support their party in Congressional races and for the legislature those figures are 89% and 77%.

These high levels of Republican unity are becoming a constant in our polling across the country as the party's voters seem to realize they'll all have to be on the same page to avoid repeats of the disastrous 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
The generic Congressional numbers aren't that important. Unless Bob Etheridge ends up getting into the Senate race there's really only one seat that's shaping up to be at all competitive next year, and that's Larry Kissell's. We'll likely do a poll on how folks think he's done in his first year sometime next month.

The legislative numbers are more meaningful because there are probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple dozen seats that could be closely contested next year. A Republican takeover of the legislature is entirely possible in this climate. It just remains to be seen whether they'll be able to raise the money and recruit the candidates to take advantage of it. Democrats at the state level have often been able to weather bad years for the national party because of superior campaigns and fundraising.

And of course the election is 13 months away. Six months ago it would have been almost unthinkable that Democratic prospects could decline so much in such a short period of time, and there is certainly a possibility that things will be much rosier for the party a year from now than they are today.

This analysis is also available on our blog: