According to Public Policy Polling, the firm that came out with the shocking poll yesterday which showed Russ Feingold trailing Ron Johnson by 11 points in the U.S. Senate race, virtually none of the candidates the GOP has fielded in Senate races this year are viewed favorably by self-described moderates. Of the governor candidates, only two are.
Ron Johnson is no exception. PPP's polling shows him viewed favorably by only 30 percent of moderates, with 49 percent holding an unfavorable view of the rookie candidate. To RoJo's credit, however, that 19 point negative spread puts him near the top of the GOP candidate field; Kentucky's Rand Paul is at 28/57 and Alaska's Joe Miller has a 15/72 spread.
Many would use these numbers to show how far right the GOP's primary electorate is. But what I'd say they reveal is the large percentage of Democratic voters who identify as moderates. While the great majority of Republican voters identify as "conservative," not even half of Democrats will refer to themselves in that word that was so tactfully demonized by Republicans, talk radio and the mainstream media: LIBERAL. For some reason, conservative is a nice, soft word that people are comfortable with. Liberal has unfortunately become a synonym for radical.
So of the many moderates who registered disfavor for Ron Johnson, a large chunk are voters who vote Democratic in every election.
But what does that say about politics in the U.S.? Moderate does not only indicate a position on a range of policies. For many who call themselves moderate, it represents an attitude towards government, a certain wariness of political ideology. This means the center-left party in the U.S. is largely ruled by people who are not ideologically driven, while the center-right is entirely ruled by those who identify with an ideology.
So it's not surprising that you hear candidates like Feingold speaking largely to a non-ideological audience, talking about issues like ethics, fiscal restraint and a record of independence. That fits the narrative of the anti-incumbent election, but it also reveals a strategy that you will likely see replicated by Democrats in other states. Instead of trumpeting the social progress they pushed forth with health care reform, they're appealing to the idea that they're competent, pragmatic and divorced from ideology. On the right, the absolute opposite is true. Just look at Delaware.