Column for 15 October, 2006
“At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ! or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.”
These are good days to be a Democrat, or so you might believe from the polls. Recent data gives Democrats a historically large lead over Republicans in the generic Congressional ballot, anywhere from 21 points (according to CNN) to 23 points (according to Gallup). The mean of these polls (all taken after the disgusting Mark Foley scandal broke) would have the Democrats getting 53.7% of the Congressional vote total and Republicans an anemic 38.1%. Putting this in perspective, in 1994 Republicans got 52.4% of the total vote and Democrats 45.2%, which translated into 230 seats for the GOP (and control of the House for the first time in 40 years). Approval of Congress is at a ten year low of 32% and voters say they trust Democrats over Republicans by 54% to 35% to deal with the biggest problems facing the nation. The well-respected political prophet Charlie Cook ranks 43 seats currently held by Republicans as “competitive” (bearing in mind that the Democrats only need to pick up 15 seats to take control of the House). At the same time, President Bush’s numbers are again getting worse after a slight uptick, now as low as 34% according to a New York Times/CBS Poll. The same poll had an astonishing 83% of respondents agree that Bush was “either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going.” The Senate is somewhat more problematic; the Democrats need six seats to take control, a tall order, even in a year when the Republicans are saddled with pathetic racist wannabes like George Felix “Macaca” Allen in Virginia. Finally, there is some indication that self-proclaimed conservative Christian Evangelicals, at least some of them, are starting to lose their affinity for a party that not only shelters online child sex predators, but holds Evangelicals in what conservative pundit Tucker Carlson called “pure contempt,” with Karl Rove privately referring to them as “the nuts.” In a tight election year, it wouldn’t take many Evangelicals staying home on November 7 to make a big difference.
Sounds great for the Dems, huh? Time to break out the white wine and brie. Nancy Pelosi, Van Taylor’s worst nightmare, should start getting used to hearing “Madam Speaker.” Hillary can prepare to move the furniture she and Bill stole back into the White House. Not so fast, liberal commie terrorist-appeasers! There are a few things to bear in mind as we lurch closer and closer to Election Day. First, this is Congress, not parliament. Representatives are elected by districts, not proportionally, and the Republicans drew the maps, particularly here in Texas and in Georgia, where Tom DeLay’s lickspittle minions used scientific, computerized redistricting to abolish democracy and punish rural voters for daring to defy the will of the Great and Powerful Tom. So winning a large number of the total votes cast nationwide doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats would win a correspondingly large number of seats, especially when you factor in lopsided races (such as in heavily minority districts where Democrats always win by big margins). Second, “generic” doesn’t appear on the ballot. In other words, voters may say in general they prefer Democrats for Congress, but that doesn’t automatically translate into preferring the Democrat in their particular district over the Republican in their particular district. Also, Democrats historically do better on generic ballots than they do in actual votes cast, going back as far as 1946. Third, Republicans have a LOT of money and the will to spend it. GOP officials have been indicating since September that they are ready, willing and able to dump as much as $50 million, most of it on attacks ads. Now, granted, this attack was supposed to start a month ago, but you can easily imagine that Karl Rove’s electoral machinery of evil has had to work overtime dealing with numerous scandals. Money is, of course, the mother’s milk of politics, especially in US Senate races, where candidates have to spend huge wads of cash just to be heard over an entire state. Fourth, for the paranoid among you, more and more states are using Diebold voting machines, which are ridiculously easy to hack. Fifth, Republicans are good at getting their people to the polls. John Kerry actually won nearly nine million more popular votes in 2004 than Al Gore did in 2000 (and, of course, Al Gore won the popular vote, then), but he still lost, because the Bush campaign increased his vote total by nearly 12 million. And, sixth and finally, as I have frequently said, never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Good poll results are like beer; a couple are okay, but a few too many and you start to feel ten foot tall and bulletproof. If the media stories all seem to indicate that Democrats have it in the bag, their voters are less likely to be motivated to come out and vote.
On the fence, you say? Darn right! In 2004, I read all the tea leaves to indicate that George W. Bush was in for a whupping and I bragged all about it in this column, only to end up with egg on my face come election day. As the old saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Right now, I am still cautiously optimistic that Democrats will take the House, likely with less than a 25 seat gain. I am much less sure of the Senate. But, again as I have said before, it’s a million years between now and Election Day.