Nate Cohn

Staff Writer

If the president's chances of convincing Congress to authorize strikes against Syria hinge on public support, he's in a lot of trouble. Today, a new Pew Research survey shows that the public's opposition to strikes has increased significantly over just the past week, rising from 48 to 63 percent opposed. 

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Here’s my rule of thumb: Data-driven electoral analysis gets harder and harder the farther you get from a two-party presidential election. There are fewer polls, and they’re less accurate. Partisanship becomes less powerful. Turnout is less predictable. You can’t handicap the race with well established “fundamentals,” like national economic growth. And in the place of partisanship and fundamentals, candidate quality and local politics—where traditional reporters thrive—prevail.

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Chris Christie is cruising to reelection. If you need any proof, consider where he's spending Sunday night: Dallas. In a box with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. In a game against the New York Giants, who play in northern New Jersey. 

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One thing’s clear from the first wave of polls about possible U.S. intervention in Syria: The public is not on board. At least not yet. Last Friday, an NBC News survey showed 50 percent of adults opposed and only 42 percent ready to strike Syria.

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For decades, Republicans have been more supportive than Democrats of an interventionist foreign policy. Surveys conducted earlier this year showed that Republicans were consistently more likely than Democrats to support striking Syria if Assad used chemical weapons. But partisanship is powerful in the age of President Obama, powerful enough to overcome longstanding partisan preferences on international affairs.

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Advocates for a more restrained foreign policy, like Rand Paul, seem increasing ascendant in the Republican Party. Recently, Marco Rubio, a natural figure of the Republican establishment, came out against attacking Syria—even though most neoconservatives want an even more ambitious military operation than the one likely to come over the next few weeks. But despite the movement among Republican politicians, the Republican rank-and-file still seem relatively supportive of intervention. 

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Nine percent? According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, that's the share of the public that supports an attack on Syria. Even Congress polls better than that.

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Scott Rasmussen has left Rasmussen Reports, one of the least accurate pollsters of the last two elections. From that perspective, you might expect that Rasmussen was fired for bad surveys. His polls were biased toward Republican candidates in two consecutive cycles, outrageously so in 2012. He refused to interview voters with a cell phone, even though mounting research confirms they tilt toward Democratic leaning groups. He weighted his samples to a fantasy electorate where there are millions more white, Republican voters.

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I have to admit that I haven’t been paying any attention to New Jersey’s uncompetitive gubernatorial contest. And I really mean “any.” I’ve had important things to think about, like North Coloradan secession and the chances that various candidates survive 2016. As I’m writing this, I can’t remember Buono’s first name. Just looked it up: It’s Barbara.

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If Virginia’s gubernatorial contest was a fight between two equal candidates nominated by two equally evil parties, as it was initially billed, Ken Cuccinelli would have been a modest favorite. The state has a slight but clear Republican lean in an off year election, when Virginia’s new Democratic coalition of young and non-white voters is disproportionately likely to stay home.

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