Friday, June 25, 2010

Looking at Moderate Republicans

The Republican Party has been lurching to the right so far this election cycle, nominating the most conservative candidate possible in a number of key races. In some ways this is working to the party's considerable advantage, as it's getting voters on the right wing of the party fired up about this fall's election in a time when many Democratic voters have gotten complacent. But our polling data also indicates that it's turning off moderate Republicans, a problem for the party that could become particularly acute in 2012.

Our national poll in March found that 44% of moderate GOPers think their party has become too conservative. We saw the ramifications of that in our polls of Pennsylvania and Texas this week. In both cases the party nominated the more conservative contender, with Rick Perry beating Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas Gubernatorial primary and Pat Toomey more or less pushing Arlen Specter out of the GOP and clearing the field for himself in the Pennsylvania Senate contest.

In the Texas race moderate Republicans actually like Bill White better than Rick Perry. White has a +17 net favorability with them at 29/12, while a majority of them disapprove of Perry by a 53/35 margin. Perry still leads with moderate Republicans but it's only 50/39 and that's a big part of why that race is so close right now.

It's not quite as dramatic in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Pat Toomey's favorability with the moderates in his party is a tepid 30/25, but he leads Joe Sestak 58-21 with moderates. Still that 21% of undecideds has to be a concern for Toomey if those Republican voters aren't committed to him yet in a year when GOP voters are supposed to be pretty universally fired up and on the same page.

Turning off the moderate Republicans may not prove to be that big of a problem for the GOP this year because the enthusiasm gap has the potential to override any negative effect. But it's a pretty sure bet that Democratic voters, who are still pretty fond of President Obama, will come back out in 2012 to support his reelection and if a solid chunk of moderate Republicans are added to the Democratic base in 2012 there's a good chance we'll see an election with a pretty similar outcome to what happened in 2008. This Tea Party stuff may serve the GOP fine in an off year election, but whether it can do the same in a Presidential year is likely to be a whole different story.


DBL said...

On the right, most people think of themselves as conservative. Those that think of themselves as moderate are going to be pretty far to the center. They likely have voted Democratic often, just as "conservative Democrats" will vote Republican.

I wouldn't think 44% is out of line. People can latch onto one issue difference and think their party is to far one way or another. I'd bet that if you polled conservatives you'd get a number close to that who feel the party has moved too far left.

You probably would get as high a number on the left with Democrats who consider themselves conservative.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting that even though the GOP is moving right, the democratic party is still much further left than the GOP right. After the election in November, the Dems will really have only a couple of moderate senators after Bayh leaves, lincoln is voted out, and Dorgan in ND. Really just Lieberman, Landrieu and Nelson.

The Democratic party is probably the farthest left it has ever been in its history. That has to come into consideration when looking at the candidates the GOP are nominating to face them.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you're hilarious. There are no moderate Republicans left except Snowe and Collins.

DBL said...

You'd have to be pretty far left to paint Brown, Voinovich, and Gregg as anything but moderates. Castle, Kirk, Ayotte, and Portman are all moderates. It remains to be seen where Fiorina stands.

NRH said...

I think Scott Brown has to be placed in the 'moderate' group, if only because he's at least positioned himself as a 'gettable' vote several times. He's aware that he has to run again in two years, so he can't go full wingnut. He hasn't actually voted for many Democratic priorities with high support in his state, and will be easily one of the most endangered senators in 2012 by simple virtue of being a Republican in Massachusetts, but he at least is much less far-right than the bulk of the Republican caucus.

If you want to compare extreme partisanship in the caucuses, though, just look for how many Republicans in the Senate have given any inklings of willingness to support any agenda advanced by Obama, and how many Democrats voted in favor of at least one major Bush priority during *his* time in office. Many Democratic Senators voted for at least one Bush-backed bill, but zero Republican Senators have supported any significant initiatives coming from Obama.

NRH said...

Voinovich is hardly a moderate by absolute standards; within the Republican caucus he might be considered one, but the two caucuses themselves are decidedly far from centrist - there's a wide ideological chasm between them. Gregg is far worse in that regard. If you rate them like National Journal does, relative to the Senate, the two of them appear near the middle. If you rank them instead by organizations that do conservative/liberal scores, it becomes exceedingly clear that they are nowhere near the middle.

As an example, Progressive Punch scores liberal votes; the higher the number, the more liberal the Senator's lifetime record. Obviously Republicans get low scores, but what's particularly noticeable is that virtually all Democrats score above 70 and virtually all Republicans score below 30 - there's a gaping partisan divide (and Voinovich and Gregg aren't near being in that gap).

On the other side, the American Conservative Union provides its conservativeness ratings (though not as nicely tabularized and sortable). Gregg scores an 81 out of 100 (this time with higher numbers being more conservative). Voinovich scores 71. Collins and Snowe score 48. Ben Nelson scores 44. Evan Bayh has a 40. Nobody else has a value between 60 and 40. These were the 2009 ratings, since they had the full year to evaluate; Scott Brown therefore doesn't appear.

Both sides agree in general terms that there's a yawning divide between the parties, and who's definitely in the middle (Nelson, Collins, Snowe, and almost certainly Brown). Neither side puts Voinovich or Gregg terribly close to that position. Even Bayh and Lieberman, for that matter, are generally reliable Democratic votes, with specific areas they dissent on outweighed by their general tendency to stick with the party (though Lieberman's score is well below what a Connecticut Democrat would be expected to show).

Dustin Ingalls said...

"Castle, Kirk, Ayotte, and Portman are all moderates. It remains to be seen where Fiorina stands."

Fiorina's not going to be elected, and Portman and Kirk are only 50-50 shots at best. Yeah, Ayotte and Castle will likely restock the moderate GOP wing, but the point remains that that wing has been diminishing in its prominence within the GOP--they're shunned and continually pushed out by an increasingly hard-line conservative GOP electorate and leadership and by an increasingly Democratic Northeast. At the same time, sometimes those moderates have tremendous power in a divided Senate because they can swing over and vote with the Dems if they get what they want on a bill.

"If you want to compare extreme partisanship in the caucuses, though, just look for how many Republicans in the Senate have given any inklings of willingness to support any agenda advanced by Obama, and how many Democrats voted in favor of at least one major Bush priority during *his* time in office."

Exactly, or even look at how willing the Democrats have been to accommodate Republicans during this Congress, versus how much the GOP shut out Democrats during the Bush Congresses.

NRH: Yep, so like I said, Collins and Snowe are really the only moderate Republicans left in the Senate.

NRH said...

Ayotte hasn't given any positions that indicate she'd be anything other than a party-line Republican, so it's hard to see where claims of her 'moderation' come from. She's in an increasingly-tight Republican primary that still has a ways to go, and her strategy thus far of "don't tell anyone any actual positions" has started to break down, but thus far the biggest things she's done have all been doctrinaire Republican attacks. She has no voting record to base any 'moderate' claims on, and the two most prominent things she did as New Hampshire's Attorney General were to pursue a Supreme Court challenge to Roe V. Wade, and to briefly sign onto an amicus brief against marriage equality before being forced to withdraw on the grounds that New Hampshire already allowed it. If anything, she's to the right of Gregg.

Castle is a more interesting case. He's been less partisan historically, but in 2009 he hung tough with the Republicans in a unanimous anti-healthcare vote, despite knowing he was running for Senate in a distinctly Democratic state, when showing a degree of bipartisanship could have been very helpful to him. He's got more currents pushing him to consider working with Democrats, but he hasn't shown any willingness to push back against pressures from the right.

herbs814 said...

The Tea Party won't be effective nationally?!?!?! What a JOKE! That's like someone in the 70s saying the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority wouldn't become a political force nationally.... or that Prop 13 wouldn't lead to lower taxes nationally.

Not only will the Tea Party be a national political force, the Tea Party will be THE national political force. When the history books are written, it will recall the overwhelming national success of the Tea Party... and everything else will be a mere footnote to the Tea Party's spectacular success as a popular movement.

NRH said...

The Tea Party isn't even effective at its own convention, in fact. Cancelling a convention two weeks before it was supposed to happen is not a sign of a sudden realization that Vegas is hot in the summer. It means they couldn't get attendees in the wake of the humiliating public debuts of Tea Party favorites Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Marco Rubio, and Ken Burns.

Libertarians had a brief moment of relevance, which thankfully peaked in the summer of 2009 and is declining visibly. Do please try to find some way to claim that an inability to get enough people to support a national convention is a sign of strength. Netroots Nation, by contrast, is on its fifth year of growing attendance.

Anonymous said...

A few polling results came out of recent that may/maynot change a few people's minds on the issue of conservatism and it's impact on the political process. Lets see!
Gallup on 6/24 reported that their poll revealed that 42% of those being polled referred to themselves as "conservative", while 35% stated that they were "moderate" and another 20%,"liberal". The "consevative" number was the HIGHEST that Gallup has recorded since first posing that question in 1992. On the other hand, the "moderate" number was the LOWEST recorded by Gallup, also since 1992. In addition, 72% of Republicans called themselves "conservative" (a record HIGH), while 24% called themselves "moderate" (a record LOW).
In yet another Gallup poll, reported on 6/14, 49% of those being polled viewed the Democratic Party as being "too liberal", UP from 39% in 2008, while the Republican Party was considered as being "too conservative" by 40%, DOWN from 43% in 2008.
Rasmussen on 6/20 reported that Republican candidates were favored over Democratic candidates, amongst likely voters by a 44%-36% margin
A NBC News/ Wall Street Journal Poll, reported on 6/25 that 62% of it's respondents felt that the country was currently heading in the "wrong direction". 29% disagreed. Polls by CBS/N.Y. Times, Pew, Rasmussen, Gallup, CNN/ORC, Zogby and others reported similar results.
Rasmussen on 5/7 reported that Republicans are trusted over Democrats on 8 of the 10 most important issues now facing the American people.
I could go on, but........!
So, is conservatism or the label "conservative" a problem for the Republican Party? I think NOT!

NRH said...

I don't see anything in that Gallup poll about the Tea Party un-cancelling its convention or regaining any relevance - trying to change the topic, (KFC - Spices)?

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