Newsweek cover, Nov. 2009.
Demoralized Democrats looking for hope after Tuesday's mid-term election spanking got some glimmers this morning from progressive pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist Robert Borosage.
Yes, the GOP won a "sweeping victory," says Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future.
Yes, it was a "big, historic election," says Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Research.
And, yes, President Obama and Democrats utterly failed to construct an economic narrative that "spoke to voters."
But exit polls Greenberg's firm conducted in the hours after the election suggest that voters were sending a protest message and not embracing the Republican Party and its policies, they argue.
The survey showed an electorate frustrated with President Obama's action on the economy and fed up with Washington writ large - from the bitter partisanship to the influence of money and lobbyists.
"Naturally, conservatives claimed this as an ideological victory," Borosage said during a conference call with reporters. "We think it's worth taking a closer look."
Responses to their poll, they say, suggest that the Democrats' best hope for holding the White House in 2012 involves doubling down on a progressive agenda, not compromising on core party issues.
But… there was significant bad news for Democrats, according to Greenberg's exit polls:
- The party lost ground with independent voters, suburbanites, and, especially, white men without a college education.
- The shift was particularly acute in the blue collar, industrial Midwest.
- The Wall Street bailout was "truly damaging to the president," and those who viewed banks as responsible for the economic crisis voted Republican.
"The 'on your side' question is a big one for the president," Borosage said.
Those surveyed expressed frustration with what they perceived as the nation's decline, with 89 percent agreeing with the statement that "America is falling behind" in the global economy and need a competitive strategy to revive the middle class.
On the glimmer-of-hope side of the ledger, Greenberg's poll also found that:
- People, Borasage says, are looking for "a big vision"
- The popularity of the Republican Party has not changed over the past three elections
- Voters remained pre-disposed to support the president, and are generally hopeful about the country's future.
What moves people to vote for Democrats?
Here's their prescription:
Focus on American jobs vs. outsourcing. Focus on a "keep your hands off" Social Security and Medicare message. Focus on the downside of repealing health-care legislation and the influence of Tea Party Republicans. And focus on the Republican support for continuing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.
Compromise on those issues?
Survey says: bye-bye White House.
Obama, they argue, is in a modestly stronger position than President Clinton was in 1994 when he took his own mid-term shellacking. It will be up to him, Borosage says, to lead, allay fears, and drive "bigger, more optimistic agenda.
"And then let Republicans kill it."