Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

GOP With Slight Lead On Generic Congressional Ballot

Posted Aug 07, 2014 at 9:44 AM by Maurice Berger

A new poll by NBC/WSJ/Marist reports that Americans "are divided on congressional control for the upcoming midterm elections." By a margin of 43% to 41%, voters say they want to see congressional Republicans stay in control of the House, and, by the same margin, the Senate.

Democrat Leads F-13 Special Election

Posted Feb 17, 2014 at 8:36 AM by Maurice Berger

A new poll by the Tampa Bay Times in Florida reports that Democrat Alex Sink holds a +7% lead over Republican David Jolly in the FL-13 special congressional election, 42% to 35%.

Congress Is Very Unpopular

Posted Jan 29, 2014 at 8:06 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Gallup, "the enduring unpopularity of Congress appears to have seeped into the nation's 435 congressional districts, as a record-low percentage of registered voters, 46%, now say the U.S. representative in their own congressional district deserves re-election. Equally historic, the share of voters saying most members of Congress deserve re-election has fallen to 17%, a new nadir."

A 2014 Wave?

Posted Dec 30, 2013 at 12:05 AM by Maurice Berger

A poll by Washington Post-ABC News reports that 72% of those who disapprove of President Obama's job performance, say that they would vote for the GOP candidate for U.S. House in their district if the election were held today, while just 14% say they'd vote for the Democrat.    

GOP Now Leads Generic Congressional Ballot

Posted Nov 19, 2013 at 8:21 AM by Maurice Berger

A new poll by Fox News poll reports that Republicans now lead the generic congressional ballot, 43 to 40%, a startling tun-around from last month's survey in which Democrats led, 45% to 37%.

Is The US House In Play For Democrats?

Posted Oct 28, 2013 at 7:25 AM by Maurice Berger

According to an analysis by the National Journal, "the government shutdown and debt crisis has made 14 House seats more winnable for Democrats, according to new independent ratings released Thursday from The Cook Political Report. There are now -- for the first time this cycle -- more Republican seats 'in play' than the 17 Democrats would need to win in order to take the majority in 2014."


Will the Government Shutdown Hurt The GOP?

Posted Oct 02, 2013 at 8:31 AM by Maurice Berger

According a new Quinnipiac poll, the government shutdown has great potential to hurt GOP chances in next year's federal cycle: "Looking at the 2014 Congressional races, voters pick a generic Democrat over a generic Republican candidate 43% to 34%, the widest Democratic margin measured so far."

Democrats Ahead In Generic Congressional Ballet

Posted May 24, 2013 at 7:12 AM by Maurice Berger

While a year-and-a-half away, the 2014 election is not far from the mind of pollsters (and political parties). A new poll by Quinnipiac reports that American voters say they are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican for Congress in 2014 -- 41% to 37%. If this holds true, and Democrats gain seats in congress, it would, according to Quinnipiac, "violate the historical model of the president's party losing ground in the sixth year of a presidency."

Americans Access Congressional Leaders

Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:23 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a survey by Gallup, "the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate are a generally unpopular foursome, with Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi being the most well-known, but also the least well-liked. 31% of Americans view Pelosi favorably and 48% unfavorably. Her resulting net -17 image score compares with -11 for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, -10 for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, and -8 for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell."

Is Sanford Bouncing Back In SC?

Posted May 06, 2013 at 10:01 AM by Maurice Berger

A new survey by Public Policy Polling in South Carolina's 1st congressional district reports that the special election is too close to call. But it also shows a marked reversal of Republican Mark Sanford's standing in the district. Two weeks ago, PPP showed his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, leading by nine points, 50% to 41%. Today, the poll reports that the race is  too close to call, with Sanford edging Colbert Busch by +1%--47% to 46%.

Final Race Settled, US House: 234 Republicans, 201 Democrats

Posted Dec 04, 2012 at 9:26 AM by Maurice Berger

With the final US House race decided late last week (North Carolina Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre won his congressional reelection race), the 113th Congress will be represented by 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans. While the GOP retains control of the House, Democrats gained a total of eight seats overall in 2012.

PollTrack Analysis: Tomorrow's Special Election in NY-9

Posted Sep 12, 2011 at 1:30 AM by Maurice Berger

Tomorrow's special election in New York's 9th congressional district, for the seat vacated by Rep. Anthony Weiner who resigned earlier this year, a new Siena poll reports that the Republican candidate, Robert Turner, now holds a six point lead over David Weprin, 50% to 44%. If Turner should win in this vastly Democratic district, Weprin's loss may hold real implications for next year's election cycle. Anecdotal reporting suggests that some Democrats, upset with the Obama administration, may intend to send a message to the president by voting for Turner. The problem for the Democrats: if the heavily Democratic, New York district tips into the Republican column, then far closer swing states, such as Florida, Ohio, and even Pennsylvania--Obama's approval in the three states is somewhere in the mid to high 30s--are undoubtedly in play. The president's approval numbers at this point remain problematic. Two previous incumbents with relatively low numbers in their third year, but who went on to win reelection--Reagan and Clinton--were at this point in their presidency recovering politically, each nearing the 50% mark. Obama's present approval number averages 44%, far below the 48% thought to be a good marker of potential reelection. Stay tuned.


Americans Strongly Disapprove Of House Republicans

Posted May 31, 2011 at 2:00 AM by Maurice Berger

A poll by Democracy Corps reports that disapproval of House Republicans has dramatically increased from 46% in February to 55% in April to a whopping 59% in May.  Disapproval now outnumbers approval two-to-one; intense disapproval by three-to-one.

Are US Voters Angry With Incumbents?

Posted May 20, 2011 at 12:02 AM by Maurice Berger

A just released USA Today/Gallup survey roports that a mere 28% of registered voters believe that most members of Congress deserve re-election; this number ties the low set last year, before the GOP's historic gains. Gallup observes: "The anti-incumbent mood that led to sweeping changes in Congress after the 2010 elections persists, and the accompanying change in House leadership has not fundamentally altered the way Americans view Congress. Thus, incumbents remain vulnerable heading into the 2012 election cycle, though perhaps not quite as vulnerable as in 2010, given that voters are now more inclined to say their own member deserves re-election."

Election 2010: GOP Gains In State Legislatures Spell Trouble From Democrats

Posted Nov 09, 2010 at 2:07 AM by Maurice Berger

This Tuesday, the GOP score another, most unreported victory: at the state legislative level, the party elected a net gain of at least 680 seats to set a modern record.Come 2011, this may prove quite costly for the Democrats. Why? Because once census figures are crunched and adjusted it will be the responsibility of state legislatures--with input from Governors, another problem for Democrats can claim only 20 state houses, a net loss of at least 7 seats--to reapportion that state's congressional districts. With the power to shape--and manipulate districts--the GOP will have the edge in sculpting districts favorable to their party.


Posted Sep 28, 2010 at 3:30 PM by Maurice Berger

Until Election Day, PollTrack will place special emphasis on tracking the 2010 midterm election. Posts to the Presidential blog will be sporadic in order to concentrate on continual polling analysis of hundreds of gubernatorial, U. S. Senate and U.S. House races in our Writing on the Wall blog (on the top left of our homepage).

Republicans Lead Congressional Generic Ballot

Posted Jul 13, 2010 at 12:41 AM by Maurice Berger

A Democracy Corps survey is the latest to show Republicans leading Democrats in congressional races by six points, 48% to 42%. The poll--in line with most other gauges of party strength in the upcoming congressional elections--suggests a wide enough margin to be of real concern to Democrats.

Charlie Cook On Midterms: There Is A Wave Out There

Posted Jul 07, 2010 at 12:37 AM by Maurice Berger

Charlie Cook's latest reading on election 2010 sets an ominous tone for Democrats: "There is a wave out there, and for Democrats, the House is, at best, teetering on the edge . . . To be sure, things could change in the four months between now and November 2. The GOP's failure to get Republicans to vote in the May 18 special election in Pennsylvania's 12th District underscores that the party can't just sit back and await spontaneous combustion in terms of turnout. Still, the potential is here for a result that is proportional to some of the bigger postwar midterm wave elections. These kinds of waves are often ragged; almost always some candidates who looked dead somehow survive and others who were deemed safe get sucked down in the undertow. That's the nature of these beasts. But the recent numbers confirm that trends first spotted late last summer have fully developed into at least a Category 3 or 4 hurricane."

Gallup: Public Disapproval Of Congress At Near Low

Posted Jun 29, 2010 at 12:46 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Gallup a mere 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. Gallup's analysis does not bode well for the party now in power: "This year's low approval ratings for Congress are a potentially ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings. Specifically, in the five midterm elections in which Congress' approval ratings at the time of the election were below 40%, there was an average net change in seats of 29 from the president's party to the opposition."

New Poll Shows Democrats Leading Congressional Generic Ballot

Posted Jun 15, 2010 at 1:10 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Public Policy Polling survey reports that Democrats are now leading in the generic congressional ballot. Although the margin is small--43% to 41%--this survey marks the first time since December that PPP shows an advantage for the Democrats.

Democrats In Trouble In 2010 Mideterms?

Posted Jun 02, 2010 at 1:04 AM by Maurice Berger

A new survey suggests serious trouble ahead for Democrats in this November's midterm elections: The latest Gallup poll reports that Republicans now lead Democrats in the generic congressional ballot by six points, 49% to 43%. Gallup goes on to note that this is the largest GOP lead in the survey since it began in 1950.

PPP: Republicans Maintain Lead in Congressional Generic Ballot

Posted Apr 23, 2010 at 1:36 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Public Policy Polling survey reports that Republicans continue to lead Democrats in the generic congressional ballot, 47% to 42%. The survey analysis finds that "92% of Republicans are committed to supporting their party this fall while just 86% of Democrats are," a modest enthusiasm gap that could hurt Democrats come November.

Cook Report: Republicans Poised To Take Back Many Seats In The House

Posted Apr 21, 2010 at 1:19 AM by Maurice Berger

In a new and complex report, one of the nation's most experienced analysts suggests that the Democrats may be in trouble in this falls mid-term elections. The Cook Political Report now  projects that come November, the Republicans are poised to gain 30 to 40 seats in the House of Representatives. The GOP needs 40 seats to take control. "If the trend over the past  seven months continues," writes Cook, "the GOP will do even better."

Young Republicans More Enthusiastic About Midterm Elections

Posted Mar 10, 2010 at 12:13 AM by Maurice Berger

In an ominous sign for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, A Harvard Institute of Politics survey of 18 to 29 year-old voters, reports that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting and participating Democrats, with 41% of Republicans planning on voting, compared to 35% of Democrats and 13% of Independents.

GOP Leads Generic Congressional Ballot

Posted Jan 28, 2010 at 2:32 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new NPR poll, the GOP leads Democrats in the generic congressional ballot, 44% to 39%--a +5% advantage. 
In 2008, the Democratic advantage in the survey was +8%.
Among the most motivated voters, the GOP lead is even greater: "Most significantly, the generic ballot improves to blowout levels among the voters most interested in the elections.   Among the 70% of likely voters who rate their interest in the upcoming November elections as an 8-10 on a scale of 1-10 (where one means not interested/ten means very interested), the GOP lead on the generic ballot grows to 48%-38%.  Among 10s, it is a 50%-36% margin."

Congressional Generic Ballot: Democrats & Republicans Even

Posted Dec 08, 2009 at 1:37 AM by Maurice Berger

The congressional generic ballot, which asks voters to indicate for which party do they intend to voter for the US House of Representatives next November, now shows the two parties virtually tied. PollTrack's averaging of recent polls on the question shows a tiny +0.4% lead for the Democrats: DEM 44.8% to REP 44.4%.

Will "You Lie" Undo Rep. Wilson Politically

Posted Sep 15, 2009 at 1:07 AM by Maurice Berger

Following the media firestorm surrounding GOP SC Rep. Joe Wilson's during President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, a new Public Policy Polling survey finds that the congressman "went from being pretty safe for re-election to one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country." Democrat Rob Miller holds a one point lead over Wilson, 44% to 43%, in a survey conducted Thursday night and Friday morning. PPP also reports that "a majority of voters, 62%, in SC-2 disapprove of Wilson's outburst while just 29% were not bothered by it."

Will Older Voters Hurt Democrats in 2010 Midterm Election?

Posted Sep 08, 2009 at 1:25 AM by Maurice Berger

Will 2010 be the year of the angry white senior, especial in more localized House races? A recent analysis by the Cook Report suggests it may: "Today's divide . . . is the generation gap – no, make that gulf – that characterized President Obama’s victory in 2008. In 1992 and 2000, Bill Clinton and Al Gore performed just slightly better among voters 60 and older than they did among voters 18 to 29 years of age. But in 2008, Obama won 66 percent of voters 18 to 29 and just 45 percent of voters 65 and older – a staggering 21 point difference. Much has been made about how this disparity in support poses a big long-term problem for the GOP. That’s true, assuming younger voters maintain their current outlook towards the political parties as they age. But aside from flurries of stories about angry senior citizens packing town halls, precious little attention has been given to why the generation gulf poses a grave short-term threat to Democrats in 2010."

"Put simply, older voters dominate midterms and have consistently been Obama's weakest age group. Unlike Bill Clinton’s gender gap, Obama’s generation gap complicates Democrats’ midterm math substantially. There's little discernible variation in gender shares of the electorate from midterm to presidential years. But midterm electorates typically skew older and whiter than those in presidential years. According to exit poll data, voters over 45 comprised 54 percent of the total electorate in 2004 and just 53 percent of the electorate in 2008, but they were 63 percent of all voters in 2006. And diminished turnout on the part of African-American and Hispanic voters, which was a factor in 1994, looks like a double whammy for Democrats."

GOP Catches Democrats On Generic Congressional Ballot

Posted Jul 31, 2009 at 1:34 AM by Maurice Berger

Is the Democratic brand in trouble? After years of leading the Generic Congressional Ballot--often by wide margins--the Democrats have fallen slightly behind. According to a new NPR poll, "The so-called generic ballot question was also very close. Asked whether they would support a Democrat or a Republican for Congress in 2010 if the election were held today, 42 percent said they would choose a Democrat and 43 percent a Republican, a difference well within the poll's margin of error (plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for each number in each question)."

Congressional Generic Ballot Remains Tied

Posted Jun 19, 2009 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Rasmussen Reports, the Congressional Generic Ballot remains tied: "39% would vote for their district’s Democratic congressional candidate while 39% would choose the Republican. Support for both parties dropped one point from last week. Support for Democratic candidates is just one point above its low point for the past year. Support for the GOP is just two points below its highest level found over the same time period. Men favor the GOP by a five-point margin, while women prefer Democrats by the same margin." In what may be a red flag for the Democrats, voters not affiliated with either party favor the GOP 33% to 23%.

Charlie Cook's Crystal Ball: Congressional Midterm Elections, 2010

Posted Jun 10, 2009 at 1:50 AM by Maurice Berger

The brilliant political analyst Charlie Cook--taking an early look at the electoral landscape for the 2010 congressional midterm election--predicts a split decision, "with Republicans picking up a few House seats but losing a Senate seat or two. The difference is that Democrats have the larger number of vulnerable House districts, while Senate Republicans have more seats that are in serious jeopardy."

Cook on the House: "Having gained 54 House seats over the past two elections, Democrats now represent 49 districts that GOP presidential nominee John McCain won last year. By comparison, Republicans represent 34 districts that Obama won. Simple arithmetic indicates that in the absence of overwhelming hostility toward the Republican Party, the GOP ought to gain a few, maybe even a dozen or so, House seats."

Cook on the Senate: "On the Senate side, the math is a bit different and is not driven directly by the results of the past two elections. In 2010, Republicans will be defending 19 seats, only one more than Democrats will. Originally, Republicans would have had 20 seats to defend versus 15 for the Democrats, but that changed with Joe Biden's election to the vice presidency and Hillary Rodham Clinton's selection as secretary of State. Two Democratic seats that would not have been up again until 2014 and 2012, respectively, will be in 2010. Add in Arlen Specter's party switch, and next year's lineup brings almost complete parity in the parties' exposure."

For more of Cook's fascinating analysis click here.

Democrats Move Ahead On The Generic Congressional Ballot

Posted May 28, 2009 at 2:19 AM by Maurice Berger

Parhaps as a testament to President Obama's high level of popularity over the past month--and the public's increasingly negative view of the GOP--Democrats have moved ahead slightly on what had been a tied generic congressional ballot: "Democratic Congressional candidates have moved further ahead of Republicans this week in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot." The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that "41% would vote for their district’s Democratic congressional candidate while 38% would choose the Republican. Support for Democrats is up one point from last week, while support for the GOP has dropped a point. The latest results mark the lowest level of support for the GOP since April 12, while they mark the highest level of support for the Democrats since the end of March."

The Hill: No National Implications For NY-20

Posted Apr 16, 2009 at 2:09 AM by Maurice Berger

The Hill argues that the razor-thin closeness of the special election in NY-20--a race that is bound to end close given the breakdown of the vote count--gives neither party an advantage in the national preception of the health of the Democratic and Republican brand: "Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made the contest a central focus of his first two months as head of the GOP, and NRCC chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) have each invested their own reputations on Tedisco's behalf. Without a clear win, some could lose confidence in all three leaders. Tedisco also publicly distanced himself from the national party and said he would run a local campaign without the NRCC's message, giving pundits the opportunity to recall that having an "R" after one's name, at least in the Northeast, is still political suicide."

The Hill continues: "Democrats spent less on Murphy's behalf, but by allowing both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to get involved in the race, they ensured any result would be seen as a national referendum on the early days of the administration, when many bold economic policies dominated headlines. A loss for Murphy would certainly be viewed as a reproach of the president. With much risked and with such a close election, either Scott Murphy or Jim Tedisco will be headed to Congress. But both parties failed in their quest; Democrats did not win a sweeping victory for Obama's agenda, while Republicans -- most notably Steele -- could not prove the party is on an early course for a comeback."

Generic Congressional Ballot Virtually Tied

Posted Apr 09, 2009 at 1:55 AM by Maurice Berger

In what may be a bit of a red flag for the Obama administration, a new poll of registered voters indicates that they are evening divided in terms of the party they would vote for if congressional elections were held today: "Republicans have pulled within one point of Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 40% would vote for their district’s Democratic candidate while 39% would choose the Republican. Support for Democratic congressional candidates fell two points this week, while support for GOP candidates gained one point to tie its highest level this year so far. Three weeks ago, Republicans took a two-point lead over Democrats, their first in several years, but that quickly reversed the following week. Democrats began the year holding a six- or seven-point lead over the GOP for the first several weeks of 2009. Recently, the gap has been smaller. Prior to the current update, Democrats have held a three-or-four point advantage for three of the prior four weeks."

Americans Love Obama, Pelosi Not So Much

Posted Apr 03, 2009 at 2:14 AM by Maurice Berger

While President Barack Obama's approval rating remains high, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's is not as well regarded by  American voters: 60% of U.S. voters now have an unfavorable opinion of Pelosi, including 42% Very Unfavorable, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. "A growing number of her doubters seem to be fellow Democrats. While these are Pelosi’s highest negatives yet in the current session of Congress, Republican congressional leaders haven’t been the beneficiaries. Their numbers remain virtually unchanged. 34% have a favorable view of Pelosi, with9% 9% Very Favorable. Just 7% have no opinion of the lawmaker."

NY-20: National Implications Or Just Two Close To Call

Posted Apr 02, 2009 at 1:49 AM by Maurice Berger

The national parties are trying hard to spin the results of the special election in NY-20. Democrats say their "voter models" for absentee voters in the district indicate a win for Murphy. Republucans say that more GOP voters requested absentee ballots than Democrats. Whatever the logic, the parties are trying to create the perception that their guy won. As Florida 2000 proved, who ever comes out on election day "ahead," if even by a few hundred votes, is in a better position with regard to public perceptions about, and expectations for, the outcome. We'll it now looks like NY-20 is even more of a tie than first reported. According to the Albany Times Union, the "too-close-to-call race in the 20th Congressional District between Republican Jim Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy just got considerably closer. Following a review of votes in Columbia County, Murphy still leads Tedisco — but only by 25 votes, 77,217 to 77,192. That result peels off 127 votes for Murphy and 93 for Tedisco from last night's results." On election night, the final margin was alternately reported as 59 (by the Times Union) or 65 (the Associated Press and The New York Times). The narrowing of the gap doesn't change an essential reality: no winner can be declared until after thousands of absentee ballots are counted, a process that can legally continue until 13 April.

NY-20: National Implications?

Posted Apr 01, 2009 at 1:58 AM by Maurice Berger

With the NY-20 special election ending in a virtual tie--with Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco at 50% each--it's hard to ascribe a trend to the results. Indeed, as PollTrack has observed before, the traditionally low turnout in special elections almost guarantees that the results will be ambiguous at best. But there are two take aways from yesterday's content: [1] Even after the national GOP poured a good deal of time and money into the local contest, in a district with a decided Republican advatage in registration, its candudate still lost. There cannot be joy in the offices of the RNC this morning. [2] The extreme closeness of the race--in a swing district where Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand nevertheless won by a large margin last November--suggests that the district, and by a slight stretch of the imagination, the nation remains more divided than many pundits realize.

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.

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."