Democrats love to quote the polls, or at lease the ones that show their advantages, such as the ones showing President Bush’s approval numbers in the low 30’s. But W isn’t running again: John McCain is. Neither the Democrats nor their allies in the MSM like to spend much time on polls that suggest the political landscape is less inviting for the Democrats than they would like us to believe.
The most significant change in poll results in the last few months has been in regard to public opinion on Iraq. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll the number of registered voters who want U.S. forces to stay in Iraq until it is “stable” is up to 43%. Moreover, voters favor the Iraq position of John McCain (35%) over that of Hillary Clinton (30%) and Barack Obama (27%).
This is not an isolated poll. A Newsweek poll from early March showed that percentage of Americans who think we have “made significant progress” in Iraq is up to 43%, a significant rise from 32% last spring. In a Pew Research poll from late February, 53% of the respondents (regardless of their views on whether we should have gone to war) think that we will definitely or probably succeed in our goals. (The percentage of voters [47%] willing to leave troops until Iraq is stabilized is virtually the same [45%] as those who want to withdraw troops immediately.)
In short, the issue that was supposed to be the death knell for the Republicans in 2008 no longer packs much punch. To the contrary, this is now potentially a winning issue for McCain. (If you did not see this explained on the front pages of the major newspapers or at the top of the network newscasts, you are not alone.)
The next most important tidbit of polling news comes from the head-to-head match ups in the presidential race. The MSM loves to tell us that 2008 is a doomsday scenario for the Republicans. The generic polls, they remind us, show that an overwhelming percentage of Americans want a Democratic president. For example, the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed a margin of 50-37% favoring a Democratic president.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, they will not have Mr. or Mrs. “Generic Democrat” on the ballot. When you look at the actual head-to-head match ups with McCain and Clinton or Obama the story is far different. According to the Realclearpolitics.com averages, McCain trails each of his potential rivals by less than 1% nationally, well within the margin of error. The story is even more promising for him in key swing states where recent polling shows him leading both candidates in Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania and essentially tied in Ohio. Keep in mind that the poll numbers for Obama come at a time when general election voters know very little about his stance on issues (e.g. his support for the Washington D.C. gun ban, plan to increase social security taxes, opposition to a border fence, and opposition to a partial birth abortion ban).
Now there are polls for Beltway incumbents that do matter. The three presidential contenders are members of the Senate and will have to convince voters they should think better of them than their Congressional brethren. Moreover, one third of the Senate and all of the House members will be on the ballot in November. If the MSM thinks that President Bush’s poll numbers in the 30’s are terrible, what does that mean for Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of Congress? Congress has approval/disapproval numbers that look like this:
NBC/Wall Street Journal: 19%/69%
Fox/Opinion Dynamics: 22%/68%
The MSM does not have much to say about these numbers, nor do they comment on whether the prospect of a Democratic-controlled White House and Congress might give some voters cause for concern.
Now the MSM’s selective focus on poll numbers also operates within the Democratic primary race. Having become infatuated with Barack Obama and declared that it is impossible for him to lose, they have not spent much time examining some troubling numbers for him. In Ohio, Texas and Mississippi, his share of support from white voter hovered around 30%. (Nor do we see many headlines remarking on his double-digit deficit in Pennsylvania.) All of this would, of course, suggest that the darling of the liberal media may have a weak base and face an uphill fight in key swing states against McCain in November.
“Facts are stubborn things,” Ronald Reagan liked to say. And polls provide some facts that the MSM would rather not focus on: McCain is running even with the Democrats, public opinion has shifted dramatically on Iraq, the country despises the Democratic-controlled Congress and Obama may have an electability problem. Polls can change and it would be foolhardy to think 2008 will be a walk in the park for Republicans. But, if you keep your eye on the polls, instead of the MSM headlines, you may have a less gloomy and far more accurate picture of what the 2008 election will look like.