The Campaign Spot

Looking Hard at that CBS News Poll…

Either the CBS News poll is an unbelievable, crazy, way-out-of-whack outlier, or McCain isn’t actually doing as bad as we thought he was.

They have McCain winning independents, 44 percent to 39 percent. On October 1, it was reversed, 43 percent for Obama to 38 percent for McCain.

Obama’s getting 7 percent of Republicans. McCain’s getting 10 percent of Democrats. They’re about the same among their bases: McCain has 86 percent of Republicans, and Obama’s got 85 percent of Democrats. They have a specific subset of voters called “Clinton supporters,” where Obama has 66 percent and McCain has 26 percent.

And yet they still have Obama ahead, by 4 among registered voters, among 3 by likely voters.

Now, look, if you offered Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis, a guarantee that:

  • McCain wins independents by 5 percent
  • that McCain’s share of the Democrat vote will be 42 percent higher than Obama’s share of the Republican vote
  • that McCain carries a quarter to a third of Hillary supporters
  • and that each guy gets about the same percentage of their base

…I think they would take that deal in a heartbeat. CBS’ poll is about 8 percent more Democrats than Republicans. I know the Obama campaign is promising the biggest, most extensive, most expensive and most overwhelming get-out-the-vote effort since… well, the promises of the Kerry campaign. They’ve spent a ton, and they’ll definately get some impact for all the resources they’re pouring into it. But will the makeup of the electorate really be 36.5 percent Democrat, 28.3 percent Republican, and 35 percent Independent, as in CBS’ unweighted sample?

Kirsten Soltis laid out why there isn’t much historical precedent for this:

In 1988, Democrats had a three-point party ID advantage over Republicans (38-35). In 1992, Democrats still had a three-point party ID advantage over Republicans (38-35). In 1996, that advantage increased to four – a shift of one point (39-35). In 2000, Democrats were steady, up by four (39-35), and in 2004 they dropped to even (37-37).

During presidential years, over the last five presidential elections, the biggest party ID gap was four points, and the greatest swing was four points as well.

Arguments can certainly be made that in this environment, Democrats should be expected to have a huge partisan shift in their favor. But note that in 2006, when Democrats clearly found enormous success at the ballot box, that the advantage in party ID was only three points (38-35). Polls leading up to the election showed party ID gaps as big as eleven points (Newsweek’s poll on Oct 5-6, 2006), rarely showing party ID gaps of less than +5 for the Democrats.

That’s worth repeating — in the best year for Democrats in congressional races since 1974, the partisan makeup of the electorate was 3 percent, and every major poll overestimated the party ID gap.


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