And yet, for all the good news on the surface, if you dig even a little bit you begin to see that the massive demographic problems that plagued Republicans in the 2012 presidential campaign have yet to resolve themselves. And, unless that happens, the party's likely 2014 gains will soon be followed by 2016 heartbreak. Again.
An analysis done by Nicole McClesky of the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies makes this "2014 ≠ 2016" point using the generic ballot question. ("If the election were held today, would you prefer Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress?") Here's the chart McCleskey put together.
What McClesky's chart shows is that even as Republicans have gone from down eight points to ahead by a single point on the general ballot between an October NBC-Wall Street Journal poll and one conducted this month, the party's gains are in its own established base. White voters have moved strongly in Republicans' favor on the generic ballot as have women 50 years of age and older. By contrast, groups that Republicans have struggled with over the past few elections have barely moved even while the generic ballot has slid toward the GOP. Hispanic voters preferred a Democratic Congress by 23 points in October and 24 points now. Ditto female voters under 50.
The movement toward Republicans then is rightly understood as their base strengthening for them, not previously skeptical groups becoming more open to the GOP message. That is a formula for success in a midterm election where, traditionally, the electorate is whiter and older, but bodes very poorly for the party in a younger, more diverse presidential electorate.
Look at the 2012 election. Mitt Romney won white voters by 20 points, matching the largest margin any Republican nominee had ever carried that voting bloc. But, he lost convincingly among Hispanic voters (he took 27 percent) and black voters (6 percent). And, he didn't come close to winning the election. The song is the same when it comes to women and younger voters. President Obama won women by 11 points, carried voters 18-29 by 23 points and those 30-44 by seven. Romney won men by seven points and voters 65 and older by 12 points. He lost.
The point here is simple: Republicans should not assume that the results of the 2014 election are predictive of much of anything as it relates to 2016. The party's demographic problem remain. And, until they begin to take steps to solve them, the GOP is likely to start any national race as an underdog.