Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jim Doyle: Doing the Right Thing for Himself... and for the Democratic Party

I've been working on a major post showing what polling tells us about the likely direction of Jim Doyle's reelection campaign. I collected all the available polling data on Doyle over the past four years, including cross tabs which are where the good stuff is buried, and I put everything into Excel so I could slice and dice it.

Big waste of time, given Doyle's announcement that he won't be running. But I thought I'd share a few charts because they show just how tough it would have been for Doyle to win. Doyle's predicament is largely due to national trends beyond his control. Nothing fair about politics. Announcing fairly early that he won't be running again cripples Doyle legislatively, and makes it harder for him to solidify any sort of positive legacy, but it does give Democrats the best possible chance to win next year. Got to admire him for that...

Anyway, on with the charts. This data is from the SurveyUSA tracking poll, which they do almost every month for every federal elected official and governor. The benefit of a tracking poll is consistency. All pollsters have biases (intentional or not) due to the choices they make in their sampling techniques and models. This makes it difficult to spot more subtle trends when comparing polls from multiple pollsters. Tracking polls have the same sort of biases, of course, but as long as the pollster doesn't change anything, those biases have no effect on trends.

The first chart shows Doyle's approval and disapproval from the end of '06 until now. It's pretty grim:

The next chart shows Doyle's net approval (approval minus disapproval) for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Doyle has lost significant ground with all three groups. This is probably why he decided to throw in the towel. There's just no obvious policy or ideological direction that will win him enough support to succeed in '10. If he tries to appease one group he'll just piss off the others:

Doyle's misfortune is a blow to the Party, but it opens new opportunities for other Democrats. The next year or so is going to be very exciting for political junkies in Wisconsin. I can hardly wait!

Note on the charts: The trendlines in the first chart are three month moving averages; in the second they are six month. The data in the second chart is noisier because it's a sub-sample of the total data, so I used a longer average to make the charts more comparable.


Anonymous said...

JD was the last of a career politician. This term should be abandoned in Wisconsin as we set a new example of progress and change in the face of change and uncertainty. We can no longer rely on party politics to put the best in place. We the people must accept the way things were they will never be again.

The Sconz said...

The most obvious thing to say is that these numbers will take a toll on Barbara Lawton's campaign, even if she has been working to distinguish herself from the governor recently. Voters associate the LG with the G – it's inevitable.

But it's way too early to draw big conclusions. Things could change – I don't think a governor's approval rating will go up as fast as a president's if we, say, get out of the recession, but those "unfair factors" could change in Doyle's favor as well.

What would be ironic would be if Ron Kind campaigns as being a "Madison outsider" – from DC! It's so often done the opposite way, it'd be funny if he pulled it off.

Russell Wallace said...

Anon, Doyle is in no way the last of the career politicians. Just look at the list of people considering a run for governor. And it's nearly impossible to come up with the kind of money you need to run a competitive gubernatorial campaign without the backing of one of the major parties.

The only possible way to change those realities is public financing of elections.

Russell Wallace said...

I agree with you about Lawton, Sconz. She's in a tough position right now, although her ties to Doyle are only part of her problem. Truly ironic that Doyle never wanted her as Lt. Gov., and would gladly feed her to the sharks if he could. Then again, I guess he has, in a way...

Looks to me like Doyle's machine will get behind Kind. I heard rumors several months ago that Doyle was maneuvering to make Kind his heir apparent. If true, Lawton and Falk are screwed, and the primary will likely come down to Kind and Barrett.