Many media pundits say it’s a foregone conclusion that Democrats will reclaim at least one and possibly both chambers of Congress in the November elections. But speaking to the NAM National Public Affairs Steering Committee last night, GOP political strategist Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group, cautioned against buying into the prevailing wisdom.
In two of the three past mid-term elections, he reminded us, the outcome was exactly the opposite of the conventional wisdom. In 1998, Republicans were expected to make sizable gains in the mid-year elections and it didn’t happen. In 2002, riding on the “corporate corruption” theme, he said, Democrats expected to make huge gains and again it didn’t happen.
Off-year elections, he reminded us, are about intensity. If both parties’ voters are equally intense, then it’s largely a wash, and national themes become less relevant. Democratic voter intensity is currently high, but there is still plenty of time for the Republican base to be energized, he said. Republicans will frame the 2006 elections not as a referendum on the current Congress or the Bush Administration, but as a choice between two political parties and the ideas they espouse, Goeas said.
For the numbers…Goeas said his latest poll shows a 37 percent approval rating for Congress, but 63 percent approve of the job being done by their own member of Congress. President Bush’s approval rating is 2 percent higher than Congress at 39 percent. Democrats lead Republicans on the generic ballot by 7 percent. Looking ahead to 2008 and the presidential race, Sen. John McCain has a positive-negative ratio of 65-18 percent. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s negatives are 51 percent, the same as Vice President Cheney’s.
Fasten your seat belts for what should be an interesting election season.