Jay Cost pf The Horse Race Blog (currently dormant) is writing articles for Real Clear Politics. His current piece is a really excellent analysis of the state of play regarding current polling results. In particula, his reasoning concerning the quality of candidates being recruited merits close attention.
I agree with Jay's conclusion that, at this point, the '06 election is going to be status quo. I reserve the right to change my mind by the end of February because I believe that the President has the ability to shift public opinion rather significantly. The past two weeks have seen a marked shift in the President's personal numbers but that is not the area that is worthy of focus. What is worthy of focus and could turn out to be very significant for next fall's elections is the administration's push to establish Iraq as a success in the minds of the American people.
The Democrat's current 'cut n' run' tack is almost as incompetent as the previous 'those sharp Republicans suckered us into voting for the Iraq war, so vote for us again'. Americans do not hold dumb losers in particularly high esteem - which is why centrist Democrats cringe and whimper whenever the names Dean, Pelosi, Kennedy or Kerry are even whispered. It's truly amazing to watch the leftist fringe drive the party into the ground.
If the administration plays off of the Iraqi elections in December, followed by the hanging of Saddam and his top Baathist henchmen and the beginning of the withdrawal of US forces based upon Iraqi security forces continuing to prove their ability to offer protection to the Iraqi people, then the American public is going to start feeling pretty chipper about Iraq. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that American's feeling concerning the battle in Iraq could undergo a very significant change by March 1st. Should that change occur, it would not bode at all well for the Democrats in the fall.
Follow up: I've previously posted on Dean's failure to swell Dem coffers. The numbers for October (latest month reported) showed a decline of cash on hand of $700K for the DNC. He better start working on his rain dance if he wants to keep the job past November.