November is fast approaching, and will there's still 6 months and a lot of ground to cover, things are looking really good for the Democrats, at least this week.
First off, there's a race in June that could be a bellweather. A few weeks ago we had a special election in California's 50th District to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who is unable to perform his Congressional duties from jail. In a district with a decided advantage in party ID for Republicans, our candidate's in a dead heat:
One week after the primary election, Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray are locked in a statistical dead heat, with 45% for Bilbray and 43% for Busby, with 3% for minor candidates Libertarian Paul King and Independent William Griffith and 8% undecided.
These data reflect the strength of Busby's candidacy for a number of reasons. First, the election is tied despite the significant Republican registration advantage reflected in our sample of 50% Republican to 32% Democrat. Secondly, Busby is able to maintain her competitive level of support despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the National Republican Congressional Committee in anti-Busby attack advertising on television immediately after Busby's primary win. These ads were unanswered by either the Busby Campaign or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the survey period.
Busby has an ad up now. This election is set for June 6, at the same time as California's primary (which has a couple hotly contested races on the Democratic side, which could raise Dem turnout). A pickup by Busby will be a very good sign headed into November. She'll have some of my money in the next week or two.
As far as the general election, there are encouraging signs all over the map. USA Today had an interesting article about hopes for a Democratic realignment in the Northeast:
(Kirsten) Gillibrand is among more than a dozen Democratic candidates in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania who hope to turn the region's pockets of red — House districts held by Republicans — to blue. The region, where John Kerry beat Bush handily in 2004, is fertile ground for Democrats to pick up many of the 15 seats they need to regain House control.
"If there is a (Democratic) wave this year and it's going to hit anywhere, it's the Northeast," says Amy Walter, analyst at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "That is where Bush's weakness is felt."
Indeed, with Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Clinton running so strong against token competition in New York, their coattails alone could lead to half the number of seats needed to flip the House into Democratic hands.
In Ohio, the Democratic gubenatorial candidate has been endorsed by the NRA:
"The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) has endorsed Ohio gubernatorial candidate Congressman Ted Strickland for the May 2 primary election, the Strickland for Governor campaign announced today.
Strickland received an "A" rating from the NRA based on his consistent legislative record in support of Second Amendment rights in Congress and his responses to the 2006 NRA candidate questionnaire.
Ohio is a state with lots of sportsmen, and the Democrats haven't won a statewide race here in over a decade. So showing bona fides to hunters is a big deal. The latest polling shows Strickland up by 17 points in his race against Ken Blackwell, and shows Democrat Sherrod Brown in a statistical dead heat for Senate against Mike DeWine.
This article at Congressional Quarterly shows that we may even have a shot at picking up WYOMING'S Congressional seat:
Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin is a known commodity in Wyoming, which has fewer people than any other state and an electorate in which Republican registrants outnumber Democrats by a 2-to-1 ratio.
Yet Cubin — who first won for Congress in 1994 — is not the most popular Republican to have held Wyoming’s only House seat, which previously was held by current two-term Sen. Craig Thomas and incumbent Vice President Dick Cheney. While the GOP ticket of President Bush and Cheney was sopping up 69 percent of the Wyoming vote in 2004, Cubin was elected to a seventh term with 55 percent.
This modest vote share — combined with the emergence of a Democratic challenger, Gary Trauner, who has a business background and some fundraising potential — has spurred CQPolitics.com to change its rating on this year’s House race to Republican Favored from Safe Republican.
The new rating means that the odds still strongly favor Cubin’s re-election, but that an upset cannot be completely ruled out.
Her opponent, Gary Trauner, has raised almost as much money as Cubin in the first quarter of the year. Remember, the Governor of Wyoming (Dave Freudenthal) is a Democrat who is well-liked.
Finally, this is pretty incredible:
“Democrats outdid Republicans last year in attracting political donations from investment banks, brokerages and fund managers for the first time since 1994.” Democrats received approximately $13.6 million of $26.3 million given by the financial industry in 2005.
Said one industry wag: “When the party with no power can raise more money than the party with all the power, it means people are pretty disturbed about the country's condition.”
If the suits are looking for change, we're in for a hell of a ride.
In the final analysis, I don't think you can put it in the books yet that the Democrats will take back Congress. One things Republicans are great at is campaigns (it certainly isn't governing). But these are very good signs, and should bolster the party leaders to continue to make clear distinctions on the issues and draw clear lines to give voters a real choice in November.