A new poll set for release today underscores in a fresh way just how difficult a situation Democrats face in 2014, illustrating that they are dealing with the prospect of a truly precipitous dropoff from 2012 in turnout among key voter groups.

But the poll also suggests Dems may be able to offset this problem with a focus on concrete economic policies for working and middle class Americans — particularly women — such as equal pay and a minimum wage hike.

The poll — which was done by Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps for Women’s Voices Women Vote — finds that voters nationwide in the Rising American Electorate (unmarried women, young voters, minorities) are significantly less likely to vote in 2014 than other voters (non-RAE voters) are.

This is the core of the Dem dilemma: RAE voters are increasingly key to the victorious Dem coalition in national elections, thanks to the diversifying electorate. But they are among the least likely to turn out in midterms, unlike more GOP-aligned non-RAE voters, such as middle-aged and older white males and married women. (For more on this, see John Harwood and David Wasserman.)

The poll finds:

— 64 percent of RAE voters who voted in 2012 say they are “almost certain” to vote in 2014. Meanwhile, 79 percent of non-RAE voters from 2012 say they are almost certain to vote this year, a 15 point edge. (See slide seven.)

— Among RAE voters who say they are “likely” to vote in 2014, Dems hold a 25 point edge in the generic ballot matchup, 57-32. But that is down 10 points from the edge Dems held among these voters in 2012, when it was 35 points, 67-32. (See slide five.) That’s a substantial drop-off among voters Dems will absolutely need to offset their disadvantages on a map concentrated in states carried by Mitt Romney.

— Among those voters who will drop off from 2012 and not vote in 2014, Dems hold a big edge of 16 points, 49-33. In other words, the voters who are more likely to stay home are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. (See slide eight.)

The good news for Dems: Their issues are overwhelmingly popular with unmarried women (who are emerging as a key RAE constituency in these Senate races, because they tend to drop off faster than married women), particularly when economic proposals are packaged together into a broader agenda:

— 94 percent of unmarried women favor a combination of pay equity and protections ensuring insurance companies no longer charge women more than men, as Obamacare does, with 82 percent favoring it strongly. (See slide 13.)

— 75 percent of unmarried women favor a combination of pay equity and increasing the minimum wage, with 55 percent favoring it strongly.

“The turnout and support of unmarried women and the rest of the Rising American Electorate will determine the 2014 elections,” Page Gardner, president of Women’s Voices Women Vote, tells me. “This survey is a roadmap showing candidates how to succeed, by speaking about equal pay and an economic agenda that benefits women and their families. Our poll make clear that raising the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay for women and guaranteeing paid sick leave for working women are popular policies that will win elections.”


* BOEHNER WARNS OBAMA ON IMMIGRATION: In a new interview, John Boehner puts Obama on notice: Republicans aren’t ready to act on immigration reform, but if Obama acts unilaterally, Republicans definitely will not be able to act:

“That will make it almost impossible to ever do immigration reform, because he will spoil the well to the point where no one will trust him by giving him a new law that he will implement the way the Congress intended,” Boehner said.

Fine, but Republicans should also see this as a problem for them. Obama is going to come under withering pressure to act if House Republicans don’t move by August recess, and he very well may do so. By Boehner’s own lights, that will make it almost impossible for Republicans to act, which could very well mean they head into another presidential election without beginning to fix their Latino problem.

* DEMS GEAR UP FOR EQUAL PAY FIGHT: Today Obama will sign executive orders relating to equal pay and federal contractors, and the Senate will vote soon on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Nia-Malika Henderson has a useful overview of the policy and politics of what is shaping up as a major piece of the Dem campaign agenda for 2014.

As noted above, this is a reminder of how central women’s economics — and downscale and/or unmarried women as a key swing constituency — will be to the battle for the Senate.

Senate Democrats are hoping paycheck policy will be a smart play by focusing attention on the fight for equal pay. However, opponents say it's less about the wage gap and more about politics. (Pamela Kirkland/The Washington Post)
In New Hampshire, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen would like the administration to help expand access to the new health-care law. In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu has lobbied for help to keep open a federal call center. In Montana, Sen. John Walsh is fighting a decision to privatize land that could be used for hunting and fishing….incumbents are hoping that a few favorable agency decisions might secure the backing of key constituencies.

This is a reminder that local concerns, in addition to GOP efforts to nationalize these races (Obamacare! Obamacare! Obamcare!), could also matter in helping determine outcomes; hence the advantages of incumbency. And control of the Senate could end up turning on whether two red state Dems can hang on.

* HAGAN OUTRAISES TILLIS IN NORTH CAROLINA: Dem Senator Kay Hagan announced she raised almost $2.8 million in the first quarter of 2014, and has $8.3 million in cash on hand. Her likely foe, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, has reported raising $1.3 million.

Hagan — like other Dems — is struggling in polls. But it’s also worth noting that Americans for Prosperity has spent many millions here (versus far less from Dems); Hagan has yet to engage on the air; and Tillis may not be nominee until July.

* GOP ESTABLISHMENT BACKS TILLIS AGAINST HAGAN: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to endorse and run ads for Tillis in his primary fight, signaling that the GOP establishment is eager to push Tillis over 40 percent so he doesn’t have to face a runoff against a conservative challenger, pushing the nomination into summer. Worth watching: If there is a runoff, you could see big conservative groups like the Club for Growth enter the race, setting up another establishment-insurgent standoff.

* PRYOR SLIGHTLY AHEAD OF COTTON IN ARKANSAS: Meanwhile, a new poll finds that Senator Mark Pryor holds a slight lead over his challenger, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, 45-42. The prognosticators often treat Pryor as little more than a dead man walking, but national Dems actually think he may be in slightly better shape than other Dem incumbents.

* AND HOUSE GOP WON’T ACT ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Last night the Senate passed its UI extension, but House Republicans don’t plan to act on it, and Roll Call gets to the heart of the matter:

While a band of House moderates have written to leaders asking them to consider the issue promptly — either with the Senate’s bill or an alternative — Speaker John A. Boehner has been clear that the Senate measure fails to meet his tests of creating jobs and being fiscally responsible. The Ohio Republican hasn’t put forward an alternative of his own.

Only seven House Republicans has signed a letter urging a UI extension, Roll Call notes, another sign of how many are cossetted away in safe districts, where they don’t have to worry about the political repercussions of abandoning the long-term jobless.

What else?