Thursday, October 05, 2006

Empty Suits

A couple of weeks ago, I referred to both Bob Casey in PA and Tom Kean in NJ as “empty suits”, chosen for their father’s favorable image in their staes, rather than anything about themselves. Anybody who watched the Meet The Press debate featuring Casey and Rick Santorum had a first-hand view of just how empty the Casey suit was, as he actually made Santorum look like the sharper candidate.
I haven’t gotten a good look at the Menendez-Kean comparitives, but Kean started this campaign in an unusual position for a challenger, having higher name recognition than the incumbent, since Menendez had been appointed to that job (replacing Corzine), not elected. That the name recognition was his father’s didn’t matter, people in NJ liked Tom Kean.
Now Menendez is starting to catch up in that and the race may be trending towards him, as there are two polls out today which have him with a significant lead. Fairleigh-Dickenson University/Public Mind has him up by 7 points and Reuters/Zogby has him up by 10 (there’s a Republican poll with Kean up by 5, but in-house polling can be taken with a few grains of salt).
Not all polls give you the underlying data, but Public Mind does. They actually ask open-ended questions, which force people to have something in mind to respond with. The big one is “Is there anything in particular that you like about ...? Is there anything in particular you dislike...?” When asked about Menendez, 6% volunteered something about Iraq/Bush/War on Terror; 31% came up with something else, 42% said “nothing”, and 21% had no opinion. As for his negatives, 15% said ethics/reform/corruption, 21% said something else, 44% said “nothing. On the Kean side, 7% mentioned “ethics/reform/corruption”, 28% found something else, 43% said “nothing” Under dislikes, 7% picked war stuff, 21% came up with something else, 48% said “nothing.” Only 37% of voters could come up with anything they liked about Menendez, only 35% could come up with something they liked about Kean. They weren’t asked to give a discourse on their policies. If they had said “he’s a Democrat” or “he seems honest” or “he has a nice smile” that would have counted. Millions of dollars in advertising have been poured into this race and five weeks from election day, over 60% of the voters don’t have a concrete reason to vote for a candidate. Is this just the result of negative advertising? You would think if Menendez was attacking Kean on war issues, that more than 6% of voters would be supporting him because of those issues -- same thing with Kean and integrity issues. On the overall favorable/unfavorable question, Menendez is 39/34, Kean 38/28 – pretty close to the specific like/dislike version.
Maybe I’m overreacting because I can see the numbers in this race. Maybe every race has similar numbers. You can look at the 72% with reasons to vote for one of the candidates as the actual electorate, the people who will show up on election day. The rest are just giving an opinion that won’t be backed up with a vote. The fact that Kean has lower negatives than Menendez could still be significant in the race. I guess I just wish that in an era of such great divisions between the parties, that the candidates were more effectively drawing the lines for the voters.

1 Comments:

Blogger samG said...

As H.L. Mencken said "Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."

12:00 PM  

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