Monday, March 1, 2010

A Pox on Both of Your Parties

Let's face it--the American electorate is (to put it mildly) ticked off. National poll numbers are showing that the Democratic "majority-party" is out-of-favor with the electorate--but just as curiously, so is the Republican "minority-party." Why the "quotation marks" around "majority" and "minority"? Because we're not a "majority-party" nation, but a coalition country--but more on that later.

If one was a political analyst, one would think that the majority party's detriment is the minority party's gain--but not this year. Even in North Carolina, voters are expressing outrage at both parties--and it's incumbents that should be shakin' in their shoes right about now. With the filing deadline passed for the upcoming primary election (May 4), there are a slew of challengers facing off against incumbents. Typically, the safe bet is on the incumbent (name recognition, fundraising capabilities, strong organizational support)--but maybe not this year. It could be that both Democratic and Republican incumbents are the bulls eye of the American voter this year.

From a recent PPP survey of North Carolinians (788 respondents):

  • Democratic Party Favorables/Unfavorables: 38%/51%
  • Republican Party Favorables/Unfavorables: 32%/48%

So if you're a disgruntled voter, where ya gonna go?

Here's another question they asked: "Generally speaking when you vote this fall do you plan to support incumbents or vote for challengers?"
  • Incumbents: 13%
  • Challengers: 31%
  • Not sure: 56%

Yikes. While it may seem early in the election season, to have only 13% of the electorate express a desire to return their current officerholder to another term doesn't seem to bode well for those folks running for re-elect. In particular, "independents" in the survey had no warm and fuzzy feelings for either party:

Among independents:

  • Democratic Party favorability/unfavorability: 26%/55%
  • Republican Party favorability/unfavorability: 21%/52%

While Democrats were split (21/21) over whether they would favor an incumbent versus a challenger and Republicans favored a challenger (42%) to an incumbent (7%), independents said that they would favor a challenger (32%) over an incumbent (7%), with 61% still not sure what they will do. Not a good sign, I'd say, for those folks seeking to hold their seats. I doubt that many current officerholders will be using the "power of incumbency" this year and reminding folks that they are the ones already in this mess. Even those incumbents with many years service may be running as a "newbie" this fall, if they can make it past their primary challenge.

As to the coalition vs. majority-party nation, while it may seem to some that the wins for the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 were a radical shift in party alignment in the nation according to exit polls, don't bet on it: while party identification in the 2008 election benefited the Democrats slightly to the detriment of the Republicans, the ideological identification of the nation didn't change any from 2004. Meaning, we're still the same ideological country as we were when we re-elected George W. Bush, but we're more willing to change our party labels than we are ideological labels. Two years of good runs may catch up with the Democrats this fall, but the old line in campaign politics is that "you can't beat someone with no one."