Jay Reding.com

Rassmussen: McCain Ahead

With my usual caveats about the utility of polling this far out from an election, Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll shows John McCain well ahead of either Clinton or Obama. McCain leads Obama 50-41 and Clinton 49-42. This sample showed Clinton narrowly ahead of Obama as well.

What does this mean? This far out, not much. However, it does indicate that McCain was the right choice for the GOP. After eight years of Bush, the GOP needs a figure that can reach out to independents. It was the shift in independent voters to the Democrats that made 2006 such a bloodbath for Republicans. McCain, even though conservatives have their issues with him, is someone who can attract independent-minded voters. In some ways, all the conservative backlash to McCain may help him—conservatives aren’t going to hand the election over to either Hillary or Obama, and the conservative backlash makes it more difficult to paint McCain as an extremist. Independent voters want someone who will exercise independent judgement—and McCain’s maverick rep helps him there. He wasn’t a “maverick” because it made him popular, or he would have pulled a Hagel on Iraq, he was a “maverick” because he was doing what he thought was right. Independent voters want to see that in a candidate, and McCain has that strong appeal.

On the Democratic side, Clinton is down, but not out. She’s going to fight on, and while some argue she has no realistic chance at the nomination, that isn’t going to stop her. In essence, the Democrats are stuck with a Catch-22. If they nominate Clinton, people will walk away from the party, and someone like Nader could break 10%. If they nominate Obama, they’ll marginalize older voters (who vote in droves) in the hopes of attracting younger voters (who eventually grow up and become Republicans). Plus, if Obama gets the nod it means key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania could be in McCain’s column. The electoral math doesn’t favor Obama—no Democrat will win Georgia or Mississippi. Winning Kansas and Nebraska is great if your goal is to beat Clinton in pledged delegates, but those states are so likely to vote Republican in November that they’re virtually irrelevant to the general election.

I would hate to be a Democratic superdelegate right now. There’s no good answer: either vote for Hillary in the hopes that she’ll peel off a state like Ohio from McCain and squeak in, or vote for Obama in the hopes that the Electoral College math will somehow add up. Neither of those options are particularly good ones.

At the beginning of the year, having a Republican nominee running ahead and the Democrats in a brutal internecine war would have been one of the least likely outcomes of this race. Then again, perhaps that’s why politics can be so interesting to follow…

7 responses to “Rassmussen: McCain Ahead”

  1. Mark says:

    “If they nominate Obama, they’ll marginalize older voters (who vote in droves) in the hopes of attracting younger voters (who eventually grow up and become Republicans).”

    Most of your analysis here is uncharacteristically reasonable….except for the continual perpetuation of the fantasy that young voters always grow up to be Republicans. The prevailing political mindset of one’s youth by and large colors their political leanings for life. In the 1980’s, the youth vote went stronger for Ronald Reagan than the electorate at large. Those voters are 40-somethings today and the most Republican demographic of voters in existence. Their parents (inspired by JFK) were Democrats in their youth and continue to be Democrats today….and their children today (inspired by Barack Obama) are Democrats and will continue to be Democrats when they get to be 40-somethings.

    “Plus, if Obama gets the nod it means key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania could be in McCain’s column.”

    And given that blacks will abandon Hillary in droves if she steals the nomination from Obama, she has no better chance at OH or PA than he does.

    “Then again, perhaps that’s why politics can be so interesting to follow…”

    At the end of the day, I predict this will be a very uninteresting election…at least compared to 2000 or 2004. It’ll be a replay of the 1996 low-turnout snoozefest where an uninspiring geriatric Republican faces against a Democrat who large segments of the party base are unenthusiastic about. Rather than a 10% showing for Nader like you predict, I just expect voter turnout well south of 50%.

  2. bobunf says:

    According to a Pew Research Study titled “The 2004 Political Landscape:”

    Age.…Rep Dem
    18- 29 26% 27%
    30-49 32% 30%
    50-64 30% 33%
    65-99 32% 38%

    These figures do not, to me, suggest any strong tendency for age to influence party affiliation.

    Bob

  3. Jay Reding says:

    bobunf: I’m not sure that proves your point — I think the results would be different if you tracked the political views of the 18-24 demographic over time. For one, there’ a pretty big difference in lifestyles between someone who’s in their early 20s and their late 20s that does seem to impact voting behavior. Looking at the exit polling from 2004 also shows a huge swing in the actual voting behavior. Using party ID doesn’t help much either, as most people are self-identified independents.

    I don’t think the argument that the youth vote doesn’t change holds much water. The youth vote always seems to break Democratic, yet that trend doesn’t remain true with older voters. There has to be some difference there, and when you look at the difference between the 18-24 and the 25-29 demographic you see a huge shift in voting behavior.

    I suspect that the reason is straightforward — what are the key traits of a Republican votes? They tend to be married, have a middle-class income, and go to church. And what happens around the age of 25-29 for most people? They tend to get married, start thinking about a family, and start making money. In short, they grow up and become much less like a Democratic voter and much more like a typical Republican one.

  4. Mark says:

    “The youth vote always seems to break Democratic, yet that trend doesn’t remain true with older voters.”

    In 1984, the youth vote went for Reagan with more than 60%, as opposed to Reagan’s 58% showing in the nation at large. These are the middle-aged Republicans today. The youth of today are likely to go more than 60% for Obama if he’s the nominee….and they will be Democrats a generation from now too. It’s not half as complicated as you’re trying to make it out to be.

    “And what happens around the age of 25-29 for most people? They tend to get married, start thinking about a family, and start making money. In short, they grow up and become much less like a Democratic voter and much more like a typical Republican one.”

    Your data largely concurs with the strong Republican numbers of Generation Xers who were Republicans even in their youth. We’ll see if the trends hold in the election cycles to come, as nothing in the public opinion polls indicate a great deal of appetite for shrinking government and starting more wars.

    Do you really believe voters in the 25-29 age range will be voting for John McCain over Barack Obama on November 4?

  5. bobunf says:

    According to the Pew study cited above:

    Age.…Indentified as Rep or Dem
    18- 29 53%
    30-49 62%
    50-64 63%
    65-99 70%

    Which, to me, suggests that most people do not self-identify as independents.

    I agree that it seems logical that teenage Democrats would tend to turn into middle age Republicans, but I haven’t found any empirical evidence for such an assertion, and the Pew study does not, to me, suggest any strong tendency for age to influence party affiliation.

    Obviously, the study can and should be faulted as a means of providing evidence for this assertion since it looks at a snapshot of the population and does not control for variable such as education, ethnicity and gender. For example, one would expect a higher percentage of white females in the 65-99 age group than in the 18-29 age group.

    So, my question would be: What is the empirical evidence for age related changes in political orientation? I couldn’t find any, which certainly doesn’t say such doesn’t exist. Your link doesn’t provide such empirical evidence.

    Bob

  6. bobunf says:

    Mark wrote, “Those voters are 40-somethings today and the most Republican demographic of voters in existence. Their parents (inspired by JFK) were Democrats in their youth and continue to be Democrats today.”

    The Pew study, cited above shows:

    Age.…% Difference
    18- 29 1% favorable to Democrats
    30-49 2% favorable to Republicans
    50-64 3% favorable to Democrats
    65-99 6% favorable to Democrats

    The differences, it seems to me, are too small and the confounding variables too numereous and important for the study to support such sweeping statements.

    Mark also wrote, “..if she steals the nomination from Obama…”

    If Hillary gets more votes, which is the only way she’ll get the nomination, how is that stealing?

    Bob

  7. Mark says:

    Bob:

    “The differences, it seems to me, are too small and the confounding variables too numereous and important for the study to support such sweeping statements.”

    These numbers only account for party affiliation. When accounting for the direction the independents from these age demographics break down, I expect a larger split between the Democratic-tilting youth and the GOP-tilting Generation Xers.

    “If Hillary gets more votes, which is the only way she’ll get the nomination, how is that stealing?”

    Barring 2-1 landslides in every remaining state, Hillary is past the point of being able to get more votes than Obama. The only way she can get the nomination is if superdelegates overturn the popular vote. Even if you don’t consider that stealing, I can assure that Obama’s youthful and African-American supporters will. Hillary can’t win the general without robust turnout from both groups.