Trends to Watch Heading into 2010

By Nicole McCleskey and Bill McInturff

As we look back to the Virginia and New Jersey elections, there are five important trends worth watching heading into 2010 that foreshadow good things to come for Republican candidates.

1. Republican voters are incredibly fired up about elections right now. This was on full display in Virginia and New Jersey where Republican enthusiasm about the election was through the roof, and the composition of the electorate was markedly different in 2009 than in 2008 given very high Republican turnout.

On our “election interest scale” where voters indicate their interest in the upcoming election, 54% of Republicans rated their interest a “10″ on the scale compared to just 34% of Democrats. This is the widest intensity margin we have seen since we developed this scale in 1993.

2. Voters are out to send a message to President Obama and Democrats in Congress. In Virginia, nearly one-quarter of voters (24%) said their vote in a state election was intended to show opposition to Obama. As Glen Bolger blogged yesterday, a majority of voters (55%) in Virginia said they voted for Bob McDonnell as a check and balance to President Obama … again, sending a message to the President in a state election.

3. Voters are still very worried about the nation’s economy, and are increasingly laying the blame at Obama’s doorstep. President Obama is fond of saying he “inherited” this economy. But, the data paints a different picture … this is now the Obama economy. Whereas voters were willing to place the blame on President Bush earlier in the year, there are clear signs that Obama is now increasingly the center of the storm. In March of this year, by a 54%-32% margin voters blamed Bush & Republicans for the state of the economy over Obama & Democrats. Today, blame is rapidly being shifted to Obama – 47% Bush & Republicans / 45% Obama & Democrats.

Moreover, among voters in Virginia and New Jersey who said they are “very worried about the direction of the nation’s economy in the next year,” Governors-elect Christie and McDonnell dominated the ballot among these voters. Christie topped Corzine 61%-34% and it was a total blowout in Virginia – 77% McDonnell/23% Deeds.

4. But, it’s not only the economy where voters are losing faith in Obama. Voters are losing confidence in the Obama Administration to accomplish much at all on any issue. This includes healing the political divisions in the country, controlling federal spending, or improving the health care system.

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5. After two elections of voting Democratic, Independents show they are more than willing to vote for quality Republican candidates. In 2008, John McCain lost Independent voters in Virginia and New Jersey be one point and four points, respectively. In dramatic reversal, Bob McDonnell crushed his opponent by 33 points among Independent voters, and Doug Christie beat John Corzine voters by 30 point among Independents.

The Bottom Line
We have moved rapidly into an environment favoring Republican candidates at all levels. Concerns about government over-reach and the handling of key issues has compelled voters to re-consider the choices they made in the election of 2008. To win in such decisive fashion in Virginia, New Jersey, and in other important elections around the country in 2009 is a precursor of things to come next year.