New Republic baselessly asserted Dem "problem": "[L]iberal elites are disproportionately powerful in primaries ... have nominated a succession of losers"

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

New Republic special correspondent Thomas B. Edsall claimed that "the wing of the [Democratic] party that saw no strategic error in nominating McGovern, Dukakis, and Kerry still controls the primaries." In fact, exit polling from the 2000 and 2004 New Hampshire primaries and entrance polling from the 2000 and 2004 Iowa caucuses do not indicate that John Kerry and Al Gore performed better among "liberal elites."

In his August 10 New Republic Online article titled "Losing Strategy," New Republic special correspondent Thomas B. Edsall wrote that the "Democratic presidential primary electorates continue to be dominated by an upscale, socially (and culturally) liberal elite." Edsall, a former political writer for The Washington Post, asserted "that liberal elites are disproportionately powerful in primaries" in which they "have nominated a succession of losers, including [1972 Democratic presidential nominee] George McGovern, [1988 Democratic presidential nominee] Michael Dukakis and [2004 Democratic presidential nominee and current Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA]." Edsall claimed that "the wing of the party that saw no strategic error in nominating McGovern, Dukakis, and Kerry still controls the primaries." In fact, exit polling from the 2000 and 2004 New Hampshire primaries and entrance polling from the 2000 and 2004 Iowa caucuses do not indicate that contest winners and eventual nominees Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore performed better among "liberal elites." Indeed, the polling showed that Kerry and Gore did not perform as well with voters with higher incomes, more education, more Internet usage, and voters who were self-proclaimed liberals as they did among lower-income voters, voters with less education, voters who rarely or never used the Internet, and moderates and conservatives. Further, Edsall called terrorism the Republican "trump card," despite recent polling that indicates the Republican advantage on the issue has been virtually wiped out, if not reversed.

According to an entrance poll for the 2000 Iowa caucuses, Gore's worst performance, compared with opponent and former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), among any income group, was among voters earning more than $75,000. Education was not reported in this entrance poll. Gore beat Bradley 50 percent to 39 percent among voters who used the Internet, but beat Bradley by a larger margin -- 72 percent to 23 percent -- among voters who did not use the Internet. Gore beat Bradley by 27 percentage points among liberals, 30 among moderates, and 41 among conservatives.

An exit poll for the 2000 New Hampshire primary showed similar patterns. In New Hampshire, Gore lost to Bradley by 9 percentage points among voters earning more than $100,000. Gore won 45 percent of the college-graduate vote and 55 percent of the nongraduate vote. Gore lost to Bradley among Internet-users by 3 percentage points but beat Bradley among voters that did not use the Internet by 11 percentage points. Gore performed slightly worse among conservative voters in the New Hampshire primary than he did among liberals or moderates, receiving 47 percent of the vote from conservative voters compared with 50 percent among both liberals and moderates.

Data from the 2000 Iowa caucus entrance poll and the 2000 New Hampshire primary exit poll:

Income

Gore

Bradley

Iowa

Less than $30,000

64 percent

29 percent

$30,000-$50,000

73 percent

21 percent

$50,000-$75,000

59 percent

31 percent

More than $75,000

40 percent

49 percent

New Hampshire

Less than $15,000

54 percent

44 percent

$15,000-$30,000

47 percent

49 percent

$30,000-$50,000

52 percent

46 percent

$50,000-$75,000

51 percent

49 percent

$75,000-$100,000

49 percent

49 percent

More than $100,000

45 percent

54 percent


College graduate

Gore

Bradley

Iowa -- Not reported

New Hampshire

Yes

45 percent

54 percent

No

55 percent

42 percent


Internet use

Gore

Bradley

Iowa

Yes

50 percent

39 percent

No

72 percent

23 percent

New Hampshire

Yes

48 percent

51 percent

No

54 percent

43 percent


Ideology

Gore

Bradley

Iowa

Liberal

61 percent

34 percent

Moderate

60 percent

30 percent

Conservative

64 percent

23 percent

New Hampshire

Liberal

50 percent

49 percent

Moderate

50 percent

47 percent

Conservative

47 percent

49 percent

According to an entrance poll for the 2004 Iowa caucuses (in which there were several major candidates, unlike the 2000 race), Kerry received 35 percent of the vote from both voters earning more than $50,000 and those earning less than that amount. Thirty-eight percent of Iowa Democratic caucus voters with no college degree supported Kerry, while 33 percent of voters with a college degree supported him. Kerry received 36 percent of the vote among voters who did not use the Internet for election information, while receiving 33 percent of the vote among Internet users. Kerry also performed better among self-described conservatives (43 percent) and moderates (37 percent) voting in the Iowa caucuses than he did among self-described liberals (33 percent).

According to an exit poll for the 2004 New Hampshire primary, Kerry received a smaller share of the vote from people who earned between $30,000 and $50,000 than he received from any other income bracket. Kerry's best performance among any income group was among voters earning between $50,000 and $75,000 and those earning more than $100,000. Forty-one percent of voters without a college degree voted for him compared with 38 percent who had a college degree. In New Hampshire, Kerry received a larger share of the vote among voters who visited candidate websites occasionally (42 percent) and never (41 percent) than he did from voters who visited candidate websites frequently (32 percent.) Forty-three percent of self-described moderates voted for Kerry, while 36 percent of liberals and 33 percent of conservatives voted for him.

Data from the 2004 Iowa caucus entrance poll and the 2004 New Hampshire primary exit poll:

Income

Kerry

Iowa

Over $50,000

35 percent

Under $50,000

35 percent

New Hampshire

Less than $15,000

39 percent

$15,000-$30,000

37 percent

$30,000-$50,000

33 percent

$50,000-$75,000

42 percent

$75,000-$100,000

36 percent

More than $100,000

41 percent


College graduate

Kerry

Iowa

Yes

33 percent

No

38 percent

New Hampshire

Yes

38 percent

No

41 percent


Internet use

Kerry

Iowa -- "Internet Use for Election Info"

Internet Users

33 percent

Did Not Use Internet

36 percent

New Hampshire -- "Visited Candidate Web Sites?"

Frequently

32 percent

Occasionally

42 percent

Rarely

39 percent

Never

41 percent


Ideology

Kerry

Iowa

Liberal

33 percent

Moderate

37 percent

Conservative

43 percent

New Hampshire

Liberal

36 percent

Moderate

43 percent

Conservative

33 percent

Edsall also wrote: "Whenever national defense is a key issue, it hurts Democrats," citing a May 10 New York Times/CBS News poll. While Republicans once enjoyed a clear advantage on the issue, results are now mixed, but, in any event, they demonstrate that Republicans' prior advantage has been virtually wiped out. Respondents in an August 10-11 Newsweek poll favored Republicans by a 44 percent to 39 percent advantage to "do a better job handling the war against terrorism," compared with a 51 percent to 26 percent advantage in an August 2-September 1, 2002, Newsweek poll. Similarly, in a July 15, 2002, Washington Post/ABC News poll, respondents said they trusted Republicans "to do a better job handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism" by 55 percent to 27 percent and in a September 26, 2002, Washington Post/ABC News poll, respondents favored Republicans "to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq" by 52 percent to 33 percent. However, more recently, as Media Matters has noted, three of the last four Washington Post polls have found that a plurality of Americans trust Democrats rather than Republicans to handle the "campaign against terrorism," and four consecutive Post polls -- and seven of the last eight -- have found that a plurality trust Democrats more when it comes to handling "the situation in Iraq."

Edsall wrote:

The [Sen. Joseph I.] Lieberman-[businessman Ned] Lamont primary is a study, writ small, in what has ailed the Democratic Party over the last few decades. Simply put, Democratic presidential primary electorates continue to be dominated by an upscale, socially (and culturally) liberal elite. Democrats must first win the approval of this elite before they can compete in the general election. It's a trap that no Democrat other than [former President] Bill Clinton has found a way to escape, and Lamont's victory shows why.

[...]

There is nothing wrong with upscale liberals or downscale renters; a vote is a vote. The problem for the Democrats is (and has been for more than a quarter century) that liberal elites are disproportionately powerful in primaries -- where they turn out in much higher numbers -- and in the operations of the party itself. In presidential campaigns, these voters have nominated a succession of losers, including George McGovern, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry. The power of this wing of the party is easy to see in battles against Republican Supreme Court nominees, when Democratic opposition concentrates on such issues as abortion and sexual privacy to the virtual exclusion of questions of business versus labor, tort law, and the power of the state to regulate corporate activity.

For the Democrats, the influence of the upscale left has increased the party's vulnerability to charges that it is weak on threats to the nation's security and that its candidates are far from mainstream on social issues. Although the public has lost faith in President Bush and the GOP on a wide range of issues, the GOP continues to hold one trump card: terrorism. A May 10 New York Times/CBS News poll showed voters preferring Republicans to Democrats on terrorism by a margin of 40-35 percent. A more telling finding was in an Associated Press/Ipsos survey released July 14. It found that voters may not be thrilled with the way Republicans in Congress are dealing with terrorism (54 percent unfavorable, 43 favorable), but they are downright hostile to the Democrats' approach (62 percent negative, 33 positive).

What's more, terrorism is a "threshold" issue for a substantial number of swing voters, and its salience can be raised simply by stressing the potential dangers as Election Day approaches. The threat of terrorist attack has the power to crowd out such subjects favorable to the Democrats as the economy, education, health care and Social Security. Whenever national defense is a key issue, it hurts Democrats.

[...]

Tuesday's primary means that the wing of the party that saw no strategic error in nominating McGovern, Dukakis, and Kerry still controls the primaries. It takes an unusual candidate to remain focused on winning the general election even while campaigning for the nomination. (Clinton spent an entire decade preparing for it, and he may have been successful only because no Democrats with stronger appeal to the primary electorate entered the 1992 contest.) With the 2008 field so wide open, plenty of Democrats will try to out-maneuver each other leftward for the upscale primary voters -- further damaging themselves for the general election. The news that [retired Gen.] Wesley Clark and [2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee] John Edwards will stump for Lamont means that it has already begun.

Network/Outlet
The New Republic
Person
Thomas B. Edsall
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine, Al Gore, 2008 Elections
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