If the 2006 election were held today, pollster John Zogby says that Democrats would pick up 25-30 seats in the House of Representatives, well above the 15-seat gain they need to take control. And the CEO of Zogby International says Democrats are "within striking distance" of picking up the six seats they need to win control of the Senate.
But at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast on Friday, Zogby cautioned that the election was still a little more than two weeks away and that the political dynamics could change in that time.
Zogby argues that Republicans could, at least theoretically, rebound and hold the House and the Senate. He says the combination of the House page scandal and revelations in Bob Woodward's latest book were, "a tipping point and it took the president who had been making gains and the party which had been making gains off message, way off message, and focused the problems on the Republican leadership."
He sees two messages that might work in winning back voters to the GOP. "If the Republicans can get it back on message, it will be about terrorism, it won't be about taxes," Zogby said. Another winning message, especially with the Republican base, "is that they will have to go after the Democratic leadership and say do you really want Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi?" he says.
Zogby describes Senate Minority leader Reid and House Minority Leader Pelosi as "two very nice, very lovely people...who do not have a compelling national persona and are anathema to Republicans. That could be a winning message."
In Zogby's view, Minority Leader Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, is an especially appealing target for Republicans seeking to energize their political base. "She is a liberal and much more liberal than Hillary [Clinton] including on the war.... She is a lovely person and persona, [but] that doesn't project. There is a harshness that projects over the media that almost plays into the creation of Nancy Pelosi as a pariah...She is kind of the pariah from central casting."
Polling by his Utica, New York-based firm finds voters confused about "What do you get when you elect a Democrat," Zogby says. "For the longest time, I wasn't seeing any significant shift towards Democrats at all until I polled during and after the Foley-Woodward weekend and then the shift became more a drop in support for Republicans than really a burst toward the Democrats."
Referring to the 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks, Zogby said that, "If the Democrats win, it will be a Forrest Gump victory – essentially things swirled around them over which they had very little control and they ended up scoring touchdowns, designing happy signs, and making money on shrimp."
In the 2006 elections, one of the Democratic Party's core constituencies, organized labor, does not appear to be playing a major role, Zogby said. "The term [organized labor] is becoming oxymoronic...Does that mean that organized labor has no impact? No, not at all. But the impact becomes smaller and smaller." Zogby said his polling shows for voters the key economic issues "are not unemployment but pensions and health care affordability."