The Self Made Pundit
Monday, September 30, 2002
I have never thought much of most reporting on election campaigns. Such pieces tend to be shallow in their analysis and do little more than repeat conventional wisdom, cite a few scattered polls and throw in a jumbled historical reference. Exhibit A is today's Washington Post piece on the midterm Congressional elections. Claiming that "September has seen Republican prospects brighten," the Post summarizes the election as follows:
Democrats face an uphill battle to recapture control of the House in November's midterm elections, while Republicans have marginally improved their position in what remains a tense and wide-open fight for control of the Senate, according to party strategists, independent analysts and current polls.
As backup for this sweeping statement, the Post describes a few races considered to be tossups and quotes independent analysts Stuart Rothenberg and the Cook Report. However, the article simply ignores recent national polls indicating that Democratic Congressional candidates have actually gained ground in recent weeks. The Post even ignores its own recent poll which found that Americans polled Sept. 23 to 26 preferred Democrats for the U.S. House by a margin of 46 to 42 percent, a turnaround from that poll's results earlier this month, which Republicans led by a 49 to 41 percent margin. Similarly, the most recent Newsweek Poll found Democrats gaining ground and leading among registered voters polled Sept. 26 to 27 by a margin of 47 to 40 percent. The Post article would have been more substantive if it had at least attempted to analyze the midterm elections in light of these poll results showing Democrats gaining support.
The Post article's attempt to look at the Big Picture of historical election results was even more inept. For its historical overview, the Post stated:
One thing is certain: One party or the other will defy history's odds in House races. The party in control of the White House usually loses seats in midterm elections, but no party has gained seats since Republicans did it in the early part of the 20th century and Democrats gained in each of the last three.
The Post is simply wrong on its history. Not only did the Democrats gain House seats in the midterm elections of 1998 and 1934 while in control of the White House, but the Republicans have never gained House seats in any midterm election in which they controlled the White House.