Monday, September 24, 2007

Does the data really support the story?

Betsy Newmark links to a Washington Post story this morning about the potential drag on Congressional Candidates from either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And the takeaway seems to be that maybe Hillary is going to hurt Democratic congressional candidates. As Betsy says,
Of course a poll a year out from the election without the name of their Republican challengers is very iffy. But the trend invites that sort of campaigning. The Democrats will probably respond with ads tying the Republican to George W. Bush. But Bush isn't on the ticket.


On the last part of that, hey, no question. The Democrats are clearly going to campaign against Bush. And he's clearly not running. (As I noted two years ago ["certainly sounds disturbing, or at least it would if he were running for anything again"], and which El Rushbo actually read on the air.)

And I agree that the Republicans will run against Hillary all the way up and down the ticket. Frankly, they would be foolish not to. And I have never been of the opinion that the Republicans are actually big underdogs in the presidential race. They aren't going to nominate anyone who is a part of this currently unpopular administration, I expect that Iraq will not be a big drag next year, and they aren't going to nominate anyone whose negatives are as high as Hillary's. She's won in New York, she's winning among Democratic partisans - I remain convinced that she is NOT a great candidate for a general election, and that the more people see of her, the more likely they are to decide that they don't want her on their television sets and radios every day for the next four years.

All that said, the fact is that what the Post did is essentially a push-poll. It's one thing to say "Some people say [your Democratic incumbent] is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton," and something completely different to say, as the Post's poll said, "some people say [your Democratic incumbent] is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and will support her liberal agenda of big government and higher taxes if she becomes president." Not that the Republicans won't do just that, but the story is focused on the name dragging down the results. The point is "Clinton and Obama ...even potentially serving as a drag." Given the additional pejorative language that the question is loaded with, it's not clear at all that the data actually supports that. People could easily be responding to the "higher taxes" as opposed to the "Hillary..." And the fact is, Republicans are going to talk about "big government and higher taxes" no matter who the Democratic candidate is, as they've done in every single national election since at least 1980...

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