Two Midterms At Once

There are two houses of Congress — and this year, that means that there are two different midterms.

I think that Tom Jensen has a point here:

Candidates matter- but they matter a lot more in Senate elections where voters really get to know them than in House elections that are much more likely to be determined by the national tide. We’ve seen time and again in Senate races this year that the better voters get to know the Republican candidates the less they like them. But unfortunately for Democrats I don’t know that voters ever get to know the House candidates well enough for that same effect to occur.

Jensen’s Public Policy Polling has a clear ideological sympathy for Democrats, but it is a highly respected outfit. When it talks, I listen, and I think he’s making sense.

I see no reason to believe that the Republicans will fail to take the House in this cycle, and as the New York Times reported the other day, the GOP is expanding its field.  But over the last few days, Senate polls have started to tilt back toward the Democrats: Manchin either slightly up or tied in West Virginia, Bennet closing fast in Colorado (and even up in a PPP poll), Reid and Giannoulias climbing back into dead heats in Nevada and Illinois, Murray beginning to cruise in Washington.  Now, we even have a poll reporting a small lead for Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania (caveat emptor: that poll is a DSCC internal).  Update: yet another Democratic internal shows this race as a toss-up, with Sestak in a statistical tie.  As the piece says, certainly the NRSC sees it that way: after ignoring this race for months, it has launched its first ad against Sestak.

Jensen’s logic makes sense.  Most House races are not high on anyone’s radar screen: the GOP candidate might as well be the proverbial “generic Republican.”  And that means he’ll win.  But in Senate races, the voters are actually finding out something about Republicans — and they are running away from what they see.

Keep that in mind next time the Villagers say that the electorate has endorsed Republican policies.  They haven’t.  The economy is terrible, and voters are angry.  End of story.

In the meantime, you can keep the pressure on by providing money to key races here.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

8 thoughts on “Two Midterms At Once”

  1. Those without money can do GOTV work.

    I'm using Call Out the Vote which is a project of the PCCC and democracy for America. Organizing for America is also doing phone banking for all democrats – personally I can't stomach working for Blue Dogs, but your mileage may vary.

    Put in 2 hours or more in the coming 19 days. You can make a difference that goes beyond your vote.

  2. Thanks.

    It's worth putting links up on the front page I'd think. Better turnout matters, and both OFA and PCC have good lists that will result in higher vote totals for their respective candidates.

    I don't know if non US citizens can volunteer, but disenfranchised US citizens should have no issues, and it may be a step towards getting their vote back.

  3. I might be saying something obvious here, but the Democrats won back to back elections that involved massive gains in the House. They won in districts that, in a normal year, where small gains might be involved, that they wouldn't win. The distinction between a red and a deep red district is somewhat vague, but the Democrats undoubtedly made gains in each type of area. Even if such districts are changing, the change isn't that quick, and a switch back to a Republican representative isn't necessarily indicative of a complete rejection of Democrats. It's much more likely that it's a reversion back to what is, right now, their ideological mean. Remember that there are some very red districts in some very blue states, which can exacerbate gains what normally wouldn't happen.

    Perhaps the academic literature contradicts me on this, but I believe that once a district elects a Democrat (or Republican) under anything resembling normal circumstances, there's a greater chance of that happening again. Maybe that's only because certain types of districts are electing certain types of House members, but if there's some chance of a relative mismatch, then there's always a chance that the Democrats could win back the district.

    Unless election night turns out to be really, really, really bad, and Democrats lose 80 seats, losing the House won't be the end of the world, at least as far as winning it back goes. If we are bound to lose it, keeping the losses around 50 will be, relatively speaking, a good thing. A robust presidential campaign could make it easy to win back the House in 2012, assuming we lose it at all. Call me crazy, but a few more days of relatively positively poll numbers and talk of strong ground operations in certain friendly states, like Nevada, combined with a little blind hope, will make me believe we'll hold it, even if it's only by a few seats. There are four seats that look likely for us to take, and that alone pushes the number up to 43. If we can somehow make a few others competitive, we will keep pushing that number up.

    Here's to hoping.

  4. Since Senate candidates matter more than House candidates and are better known by the voters, have you seen this absolutely hillarious video of Democrat candidate in South Carolina, Alvin Greene:… ? This video is absolutely hysterical. We've got the drive-by media running around hyping up some witchcraft of Christine O'Donnell in high school, but who's pointing out the idiot candidates running the left is throwing up? It's a good thing that Alvin Greene is running for the big-times in Senate and is not off anybody's radar by running for the House. And remember, DeMint started the recession…

  5. The big difference, Bux, is that nobody is quite sure how Greene got on the ballot. (In fact, the Democratic party in South Carolina looked into having him removed, I am pretty sure.) This race was never on anyone's radar, and whatever attention it was attracting after he won was only because Greene was such a strange and sad presence. O'Donnell, on the other hand, won a primary that few expected her to win up until the very end, and her victory, which was due to Teabagger support, threw what should have been a definite Republican seat into the Democratic column. Plus, while wasn't a well known figure, she has a history going back into the 1990s of making bizarre comments on television and supporting absurd causes.

  6. I have absolutely no idea what your point is Brian J. If you're trying to point out that O'Donnell blew it for an otherwise potential Republican victory whereas DeMint was expected to win even if Mickey Mouse was nominated for the Dem candidate, no duh. That might make a difference in terms of final election outcomes but not in terms of proving that whacky candidates don't exist on the left, which was my point. If you're trying to say that the difference between these two is that the Republicans backed O'Donnell whereas the Dems did not back Greene, you've fallen in the trap of equating tea party candidates with tote-the-party-line Republicans, even if most tea party candidates happen to be running on a Republican ticket. As has been pointed out on this site, the Republican party was hardly unified in getting behind O'Donnell.

  7. The point is that a O'Donnell was being taken seriously by a solid part of the Republican base in Delaware. Nobody expected her to win up until the end, but it was not a complete and utter surprise like it was in South Carolina. To this day, I don't think anyone has presented an explaination for how Greene won other than, "He was there, and he wasn't someone else, so people voted for him." In other words, he was there almost as an accident, and O'Donnell wasn't. The Republican party nationally might not be behind O'Donnell–which makes sense, since she is going to lose badly–but the base of the party in Delaware was. There wasn't any such base of support for Greene in South Carolina, and there certainly wasn't any such base of support nationally, as nobody knew who he was. It's a big, big difference.

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