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Full Coverage of NY-20: Spread The Word

Posted Mar 31, 2009 at 5:36 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack is one of the few websites offering fresh reporting on today's special election in New York's 20th Congressional District. If you like what you are reading, SPREAD THE WORD. We'll have reports from our political director, Maurice Berger (who is also a part-time resident of the 20th Congressional District) throughout the day--both on our Presidential and Writing on the Wall Blog pages. These reports should satisfy political junkies as well as anyone interested in the NY-20 race, its outcome, and its national implications.

Some Perspective On The National Implications Of NY-20

Posted Mar 31, 2009 at 5:30 AM by Maurice Berger

The esteemed polytical anaylast Charlie Cook--one of the very best in the business--cautions political observers to be cautious about the results of today special election in New York's 20th Congressional District to fill the seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand: “Assuming that the margin in this upstate contest to fill the seat of newly-appointed Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is three or four points or less, my advice is to respond ‘that’s nice,’ then yawn, and walk away… What is more important is if there is a uniform direction to several odd-year elections. If, for example, Republicans were to win tonight and knock off Gov. Jon Corzine in New Jersey in November, and pick up the open governor seat in Virginia, then it is fair to say that they will have exorcised the demons of 2006 and 2008 . . . If Democrats hold NY-20 as well as New Jersey and Virginia, they can enter 2010 knowing that even if the wind isn’t at their backs, there also isn’t a headwind.” PollTrack agrees with Cook. Is is doubtful that the outcome of NY-20 will serve as a bellwether. Rather it could hint at an impending problem for one of the national parties, at best.

NY-20: A Referendum on Obama?

Posted Mar 31, 2009 at 2:06 AM by Maurice Berger

Voting has begun in the special election in New York's 20th congressional district to fill the seat vacated by now US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Will the outcome have great national significance? Will it be seen by the media as an early referendum on the new Obama administration? PollTrack notes that while the central issues of the campaign--the state of the economy and the loss of jobs in the district--dominated the debate between Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco, it's hard to say that the results this evening will shed light on the state of the national electorate.

Special elections are generally decided by a relatively small sector of registered voters. Often the part faithful have an advantage. And in New York's 20th, the Republicans have a decided edge: There are more than 477,000 registered voters in the district, with Republicans enjoying a 70,000 voter registration advantage over Democrats. Independents make up a quarter of the voting population. Even with a highly competitive election in 2008--and Obama enjoying enough support in this traditionally Republican district to win it with 51% of the vote--its VERY popular Democratic congresswoman, Kirsten Gillibrand, won reelection by 80,000 votes. A solid majority, yes. But achieved in a highly competitive environment, favorable to Democrats with a very popular candidate at the head of the ticket.

Today's outcome will come down to turnout. As CQ's Politics reports, if the election is tight, as most polls suggest, the election may not be decided easily: "Turnout is expected to be low, given that it is a special election at an unusual time and there are no national races on the ballot. If the vote is close, it could take weeks to sort out a winner, said John Conklin, director of public information at the New York Board of Elections. “If the result is significant, meaning [the victor] won by 20,000 or 30,000 votes I don’t think the House will wait for our certification,” he said. However, if the result is determined by a few thousand votes or less, “It will be a while because the Justice Department requires us to wait until at least April 13 for the military and overseas ballots” to arrive and be included in the official count."

Close or otherwise, the result may well seem like a national referedum, not because it validates or invalidates specfic policies of the Obama adminstration but because of the increasingly intense involvement of the national parties and even the president himself (who taped a TV commercial for Scott Murphy last week). In other words, no matter who wins, the well reported and debated involvement of such national figures as Obama and the new GOP chairman, Michael Steele, will undoubtedly spur the media and political anaylsts to spin the election's results as a kind of gauge of national sentiment, especially in a classic swing district such as NY-20, where Republicans have dominated for decades but where Democratics have made solid inroads over the past two cylces.

Obama's 2008 Victory May Have Been Narrower Than It Seems

Posted Mar 30, 2009 at 2:03 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new analysis, in which the 2008 presidential election was re-run using a district-based system of awarding electoral votes, used only in two states (ME and NE), instead of the winner-take-all Barack Obama still would have defeated John McCain, though the Electoral College tally would have been closer than the actual 365-173 margin of victory.

The CQ Politics analysis concludes that Obama would have beaten McCain 301-237 "using a district-based system, under which a candidate receives two electoral votes for winning a state and one electoral vote for every congressional district he or she wins. Only Maine and Nebraska allocate electoral votes in this fashion. The analysis found that Obama won 242 districts and McCain won 193 districts. Obama also posted another 59 electoral votes by carrying 28 states and the District of Columbia, which is entitled to three electoral votes under the 23rd Amendment. McCain would have received another 44 electoral votes as a result of winning 22 states." PollTrack observes that such results suggest the country remains more politically divided than the initial 2008 results suggest, divisions that now appear to be playing out in the polling that gauges political sentiment in the upcoming congressional elections of 2010. Such surveys now indicate an electorate evenly divided between support for Democrtic and Republican congressional candidates.

Republican Party Increasingly Irrelevant To Young Voters

Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 1:49 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Democracy Corps surveys suggests storms clouds ahead for Republicans--the increasing disaffection of young Americans from the party and its ideology: the "post-election survey of youth shows the Republican Party growing more and more irrelevant to America’s young people. In marked contrast, young people’s support for the President has expanded beyond the 66 percent support they gave him last November. However, progressives have work to do among these voters—and would be voters—as well, as this survey signals insufficient enthusiasm for participating in the 2010 elections.

Democracy Corps continues: "In a recent interview with Rachel Maddow, John McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain warned her party that it was, “on the precipice of becoming irrelevant to young people.” This conclusion comes in the wake of a 66 to 32 percent drubbing by young people in the 2008 elections. Our survey of young people taken three months after the election underscores the alienation of Republicans from the millennial generational. By a 59 to 14 percent margin, young people prefer the Democrats when it comes to “paying attention to issues that affect younger people,” a six point gain since 2007."

More Than 40 Million Viewers Tuned Into Obama's Primetime Press Conference

Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 2:28 AM by Maurice Berger

In what is undeniably a testament to President Obama's popularity, Nielsen reports that 40,354,000 tuned in on Tuersday evening 24 March to watch the second prime time news conference of his presidency. The networks carrying the press conference were ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, CNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, mun2. NBC led with 9.8 million, followed by ABC with 8.7 million, CBS drew 8.3 million and Fox had 4.3 million. The President’s first prime time press conference was watched by 49.5 million people on eight networks on February 9, 2009.

Strong Majority Of Americans Support Alternative Energy

Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 1:30 AM by Maurice Berger

According to an annual energy policy survey by the Gallup organization, a vast majority of Americans "endorse increased government efforts to encourage energy production from alternative sources of energy, but at the same time do not believe the government should reduce its financial support for the production of energy from traditional sources. Only 30% think the government should decrease the monetary support and incentives it provides to producers of energy from oil and gas." These numbers suggest that most Americans approve of the Obama administration's emphasis on renewable and alternative energy sources, but also that most do not want the nation to abandon more traditional energy sources, such as oil and gas.

Gallup continues: "More than three-quarters of Americans say they support increased government financial support and incentives to produce energy from alternative sources, while just 8% say the government should do less in this regard and 13% say it should continue what it is doing. And while Americans are far less likely to favor increased government aid to produce energy from traditional sources -- only 39% hold this view -- another 28% want these efforts maintained. Thus, two in three Americans think government should continue to support energy production from oil and gas at either current or heightened levels. Just 30% call for a reduction in these efforts."

Hypothetical 2012: Obama Trounces Palin

Posted Mar 24, 2009 at 2:05 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Public Policy Polling survey, Obama would easily defeat Republican Sarah Palin in 2012 in a hypothetical match up, suggesting that such a contest would result in the largest popular vote blowout since George McGovern ran against Richard Nixon in 1972: "Obama leads Palin 55%-35% in the hypothetical contest. He has an 89%-7% advantage among Democrats. Among Republican he trails 66%-17%. Last year exit polls showed Obama winning only 9% of the Republican vote, so it appears Palin would lose a lot more voters within her party than McCain did. It’s also worth noting that while only 3% of Democrats are undecided about who they would support in an Obama/Palin contest, 18% of Republicans are, an indication of even more hesitation with some GOP voters about supporting Palin if she ended up as the nominee"

Obama's Approval Rating Slips Considerably Among Independents

Posted Mar 23, 2009 at 2:15 AM by Maurice Berger

While Barack Obama's overall approval ratings have slipped since he first too office--from as high as +70% to as low as 56% now--most of his loss, up until now, has come from Republican voters. A recent American Research Group poll, however, reports that Obama has slipped considerably, if not ominously, among so-called independent voters who profess allegeance to no political part: "Independent voters are split on the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president, lowering his overall job approval rating to 56% from 60% a month ago . . . . Among all Americans, 56% approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president and 37% disapprove. When it comes to Obama's handling of the economy, 49% approve and 44% disapprove. Among Americans registered to vote, 57% approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president and 37% disapprove. A total of 47% of independent voters approve of the way Obama is handling his job and 46% disapprove. In February, 53% of independents approved and 39% disapproved."

PollTrack sees these numbers, if accurate and confirmed by other polling organizations, as the first sign of trouble for the president, re: his national standing. Since Republicns are moving away from Obama, and Democrats remain very suppportive, any erosion of the independent demographic could conceivably tilt overall national support away from Obama. Given the political rough spell experienced by the administration over the past few weeks (Obama's polling average of 60%, while average for a new president, is down considerably from January), are these numbers merely fleeting or are they predictive of a downward trend?

Gallup: Economy Trumps Environment

Posted Mar 20, 2009 at 1:37 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Gallup, for the first time in the polling organization's 25-year history of asking Americans about the "trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent. Gallup first asked Americans about this trade-off in 1984, at which time over 60% chose the environmental option. Support for the environment was particularly high in 1990-1991, and in the late 1990s and 2000, when the dot-com boom perhaps made economic growth more of a foregone conclusion. The percentage of Americans choosing the environment slipped below 50% in 2003 and 2004, but was still higher than the percentage choosing the economy. Sentiments have moved up and down over the last several years, but this year, the percentage of Americans choosing the environment fell all the way to 42%, while the percentage choosing the economy jumped to 51%." No doubt, the reason for this shift in American sentiment on the ecology almost certainly has to do with the current economic recession. As nearly all recent Gallup surveys suggest, the economy is foremost in Americans' minds.

Majority Support Obama's Lifting Of Stem Cell Restrictions

Posted Mar 19, 2009 at 12:40 AM by Maurice Berger

A majority of Americans support President Barack Obama's executive order doing away with the rules on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that were in place under the Bush administration: 38% of Americans said in the poll conducted late last month, that "they support easing those restrictions and another 14% said they favor no restrictions at all. About 4 in 10 Americans favor keeping the Bush restrictions or eliminating federal funding altogether . . . Americans' views on government funding for stem cell research have remained fairly stable since 2004, with the majority consistently supporting fewer restrictions on funding, rather than maintaining or strengthening the current restrictions. . . . While a strong majority of Democrats support fewer or no restrictions (64%), a majority of Republicans support keeping the Bush administration restrictions or not funding the research at all (57%). Notably, relatively few Americans of any political background favor the more extreme positions: no restrictions on government funding or not funding stem cell research at all."

Democratic Support Up A Tick On Generic Congressional Ballot

Posted Mar 18, 2009 at 1:11 AM by Maurice Berger

In a bit of bright news for the Obama administrations and congressional Democrats, the party has "managed to move slightly further ahead this week. . . . The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 42% of voters said they would vote for their district’s Democratic candidate while 38% said they would choose the Republican. In recent weeks, the Democratic advantage on the Generic Ballot has ranged from one-to-four points. Democrats enjoy a larger advantage when it comes to partisan identification among the electorate."

Consumer Confidence At Highest Level Since November 2008

Posted Mar 17, 2009 at 1:07 AM by Maurice Berger

Is it a statistical blip or do Americans see the tide turning in a recession that has plagued the nation since December 2007: After five days of steady gains, the Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures consumer confidence on a daily basis, is now at its highest level of 2009. In fact, confidence is now at the highest level since the morning after Barack Obama was elected President in November. The moved up another point on Sunday to 67.0. That’s up ten points from a week ago and up ten points from a month ago. However, it remains down nine points from a year ago." Only time will tell if we're moving up from the bottom or experiencing a lull in what has been a year-long dowaward spiral. 

Approval For Congress Hits Four Year High

Posted Mar 16, 2009 at 1:37 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Gallup Poll, "Americans' job approval rating of Congress is up an additional 8 points this month, after a 12-point increase last month, and now stands at 39% -- the most positive assessment of Congress since February 2005. Americans who identify themselves as Democrats are mostly responsible for the improved ratings of Congress measured in the March 5-8 Gallup Poll. After showing a 25-point increase in their approval of Congress from January to February and a further 14-point increase in March, a majority of Democrats (57%) now approve of the job the Democratically-controlled Congress is doing. Independents also show improved ratings of Congress, but not nearly to the extent that Democrats do. Republicans' evaluations of Congress have changed very little this year."

Increase In The Number Of Americans Who Say They Are "Suffering"

Posted Mar 13, 2009 at 1:58 AM by Maurice Berger

The number of Americans who say they are "suffering" as a result of the nation's economic downturn has increased. Gallup reports that the "number of Americans classified as 'suffering' has increased by 3 million over the past year. While an average of 3% of Americans were suffering in February of 2008, the number has remained higher over the past 12 months, consistently between 4% and 5%. While a monthly high of 5% was recorded last June when gas prices spiked, some days in March have reached 6%, suggesting suffering is only on the uptrend."

The Gallup-Healthways Life Evaluation Index asks at least 1,000 Americans each day to "evaluate their current lives as well as their expectations of where they will be in five years using a 'ladder' scale with steps number from 0 to 10, where '0' indicates the worst possible life and "10" the best possible life. Americans in the 'thriving' group say that they presently stand on step 7 or higher of the ladder and expect to stand on step 8 or higher five years from now. Americans in the 'suffering' group, on the other hand, say they presently stand on steps 0 to 4 of the ladder and expect to stand on steps 0 to 4 five years from now. Those who are neither thriving nor suffering are considered to be 'struggling.'"

Indeed, the public's overall view of the economy remains bleak. According to an Ipsos/McClatchy poll, 57% of Americans believe that the worst is yet to come as far as the economy is concerned. 35% say it has stabilized but not yet begun to improve; only 3% believe the country has turned the corner.

Americans Expect 1930s-Style Depression

Posted Mar 12, 2009 at 12:32 AM by Maurice Berger

When it comes to the economy, Americans are decidedly pessimistic. According to a new Rasmussen Reports survey, 53% now think the United States is at least somewhat likely to enter a 1930’s-like depression within the next few years; 39% think it's unlikely. 19% say a Depression is Very Likely, 7% say it is not at all likely. The latest results are more pessimistic than those found in early January, notes Rasmussen, "when 44% said a 1930’s-like depression was likely in the next few years, and 46% disagreed." Pessimistic or otherwise, Americans also expect "the U.S. economy will be stronger in five years than it is today, but most also expect very little to change in the next 12 months."

Republican Voters See Their Party As Leaderless

Posted Mar 11, 2009 at 2:06 AM by Maurice Berger

A hefty majority of Republican voters now see their party as leaderless, according to a new poll. 68% of Republican voters say their party has no clear leader; another 17% are undecided:"Just 5% view either John McCain, the GOP's unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate, or new party chairman Michael Steele as the party's leader. 2% see conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh in that role, 1% name McCain's running mate, Alaska Govenror Sarah Palin. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner are each seen as GOP leader by less than one-half of one percent." These numbers suggest problems ahead for a party that needs to regroup and sharply hone its message in anticipation of the 2010 mid-term elections. 

Voters See Bi-Partisanship As A Fading Dream

Posted Mar 10, 2009 at 2:06 AM by Maurice Berger

Just about half of the nation's voters--49%--now believe politics in Washington will be more partisan over the next year. This number represents a 9% gain since early February and a 15% jump since early January: The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just "32% expect more cooperation between the two sides over the coming year. That’s down from 48% in January."

Rasmussen also reports a much smaller shift in perceptions of President Obama's governing style. 39% believe he is "governing on a bipartisan basis, down from 42% a month ago. The number who believe he is governing as a partisan Democrat has gone up four points to 43%. But more voters think that members of Congress from both political parties are more partisan than Obama. 50% of voters say congressional Republicans are acting in a partisan manner. 60% say that congressional Democrats are behaving as partisans."

Americans Slightly More Satisfied With State Of The Nation

Posted Mar 09, 2009 at 2:19 AM by Maurice Berger

Americans are slightly more satisfied with the state of the country, according to a new Gallup poll: While overall satisfaction remains low, at an average of 21% for the past week, this number represents a slight improvement from the 14% satisfaction rating in early February: "Gallup has measured national satisfaction daily since Barack Obama took office, and also did so in late October through December 2008. In the latter part of 2008, satisfaction ratings ranged from a low of 9% in Dec. 12-14 polling to a high of just 14% in the first few days after the election and after Thanksgiving. Little seemed to change when Obama first took office -- in Jan. 21-23 polling, 14% of Americans said they were satisfied. After showing a brief improvement in late January, the percentage who reported being satisfied with the state of the nation settled back to 14% by early February. But since that time, satisfaction has shown a slight but steady improvement, and has been 20% or higher each of the last seven days."

Republicans Pull Close in Generic Congresional Ballot

Posted Mar 06, 2009 at 1:28 AM by Maurice Berger

In what may suggest a looming problem for the Obama administration in the 2010 congressional elections, a new Rasmussen survey reports that "the race between Republicans and Democrats has once again tightened up in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. For the third time in the last four weeks, Republicans have pulled to within two points of the Democrats. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 41% of voters said they would vote for their district’s Democratic candidate while 39% said they would choose the Republican. While support for the Democrats has not changed since, support for the GOP has increased two points."

Voters Concerned Most About The Economy

Posted Mar 05, 2009 at 1:04 AM by Maurice Berger

In a new poll registering voter concerns, the economy still comes out on top. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey found that 86% of likely voters consider the issue to be very important in terms of how they vote in elections, and another 11% consider it somewhat important. Only 1% do not consider it an important issue. "The percentage of voters who see the economy as a very important issue has reached its highest level in recent years, up from 83% just days before Barack Obama was elected president. Nearly as high in terms of voter concern is the issue of government ethics and corruption. 81% consider it a very important issue, up from 74% in October 2008. Another 15% consider the issue to be somewhat important, while only 3% do not consider it to be important." The intensity of issues that voters consider "very important" breaks down as follows:



Gov't Ethics/Corruption






Nat'l Security/War on Terror


Social Security


Health Care




War in Iraq




Initial Reaction To Obama Budget Plan Is Modestly Positive

Posted Mar 04, 2009 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Gallup Poll, "Americans' first reactions to President Barack Obama's new 10-year budget plan are more positive than negative, although a sizable group of Americans say they haven't been following news about the plan and have not yet formed an opinion." 44% say their reaction to the new plan is positive and 26% saying it's negative, with the rest having no opinion. There is a clear partisan divide in opinion: "The poll data clearly show that Americans are sharply divided along party lines in their initial reactions to the budget plan, which includes $3.6 trillion in spending in 2010 and a wide variety of spending plans and tax adjustments in the years thereafter. More than 6 in 10 Republicans say their first reaction is negative and nearly 7 in 10 Democrats say their reaction is positive. Reaction to the plan is more evenly divided among independents, but is generally more positive than negative."

Conservative Republicans Pick Romney for 2012

Posted Mar 03, 2009 at 1:25 AM by Maurice Berger

For the third straight year, Mitt Romney has won the presidential preference straw poll of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with 20% of the vote. Bobby Jindal finished with 14%, just ahead of Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, who got 13% each. Newt Gingrich finished with 10%, Mike Huckabee 7%, Mark Sanford 4%, Rudy Giuliani 3%, Tim Pawlenty 2%, Charlie Crist 1%, and 9% said they were undecided. The organization, which supports right-wing Republican values and candidates, is exceptionally conservative:95% said they disapproved of the job President Obama is doing, 80% "strongly disapproving.” Probably not significant enough to be taken seriously at this point, the CPAC straw poll is a notoriously inaccurate at predicting the eventual Republican Party nominee. In 1999, it awarded the straw poll victory to Steve Forbes. In 2005 and 2006, it went to George Allen, and in 2007 and 2008, to Mitt Romney.

Two-Thirds of Americans Rate Economy As Poor

Posted Mar 02, 2009 at 2:12 AM by Maurice Berger

In an indication that Americans remain pessimistic about the nation's economy future, the vast majority of respondents in a recent poll now rate the economy as poor: According to Rasmussen Reports, just 8% of adults rate the economy as good or excellent and 66% say the economy is poor. Meanwhile only 11% say the economy is getting better and 66% believe it is getting worse. 81% think the United States is currently in a recession, while 8% disagree. This lack of confidence represents one of the most daunting challenges facing the new Obama administration. In recessionary times, a lack of optimism can suppress consumer spending, leading to a vicious cycle of economic anxiety and decline.



2012 GOP Race For President Begins

Posted Mar 02, 2009 at 2:11 AM by Maurice Berger

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll of registered Republican voters suggests that Sarah Palin has a slight--but only slight edge--in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination for president: 29% of say they are most likely to support Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. "Right behind the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and well within the poll's 4.5% sampling error, is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. 26% of those questioned say they are most likely backing the former, and possibly future, Republican presidential candidate. 21% of Republicans polled say they most likely would support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another GOP hopeful from the last campaign who may put his hat into the ring again. 9% say they would probably back Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal." The poll was taken before Jindal's primtime response to President Obana's Monday night address to congress, a performance that has met with considerable criticism from a number of Republican commentators. 10% of respondents support other candidates.