Recent polls have shown that the generic ballot matchup among registered voters is roughly tied, which (the prognosticators rightly tell us) is bad news for Dems, because Republican voter groups will turn out at much greater rates this fall. The air is thick with gleeful comparisons to 2010.
But here’s one difference from 2010: It turns out Dems hold a much bigger lead in the matchup among women than they did during the year of the Great Shellacking.
In a piece this morning, Gerald Seib crunched the numbers and found that recent WSJ/NBC polling, when averaged, shows a 10 point Dem lead among women:
When all surveys done so far in 2014 are merged, the results show that 49% of women polled this year say they would prefer a Congress controlled by Democrats, while 39% say they prefer one controlled by Republicans.
That 10-point advantage among women stands in stark contrast to the findings among men, who prefer Republicans to control Congress by a 13-point margin. Perhaps as important, those findings among women are better for the Democrats than the results seen in polling in 2010, and similar to the findings in 2012…And the findings this year are slightly better for Democrats among college-educated women, who have become stalwarts of the party and who tend to show up on Election Day.
This is interesting, because it gets at an aspect of Dem thinking about the midterm elections that continues to be widely misrepresented. The Dem focus on economic populism is regularly characterized as nothing more than an effort to get out the base. But it’s actually also about winning over persuadable voters. This is based on the theory that even a successful effort to get out core voters will not alone be enough to offset the deep structural disadvantage Dems face, thanks to their reliance on so-called “unreliable voters,” as opposed to the “reflex voters” that populate the Republican coalition. As Sasha Issenberg recently put it, Dem Senate campaigns will have to “mobilize their way into contention, then persuade their way across the finish line.”
A key target of that Dem persuasion effort is women. The Dem focus on the minimum wage and pay equity is partly about getting out downscale and unmarried women who already lean Democratic, and who will be key in some of the hard-fought Senate races, but it’s also about creating a women’s economic agenda that might win over persuadable and moderate women in those demographics who are not necessarily Dems. The Dem plan to attack multiple GOP candidates for favoring “Personhood” measures is about winning over Republican-leaning women who are turned off by the GOP’s hidebound approach to women’s health. And so on.
To be sure, Dems face an extremely difficult situation, and there’s no telling whether this will be enough to offset it. Despite recent good polls for Dems, it seems clear Republicans still have better-than-even odds to take over the Senate. But it’s worth recalling that Dems don’t have to “win.” They have to limit their losses to five Senate seats, keeping control, and then it’s onward to 2016, with its terrible Senate map for Republicans and presidential year electorate. And every little bit on the margins could matter in minimizing GOP gains — which is the real Dem goal here.
* CONTROL OF SENATE REMAINS TOSS-UP: Politico will grab attention today with this: “How big a wave? Will we see a ripple…or a tsunami?” A tsunami? Scary! But here’s Larry Sabato’s conclusion:
[Democrats] are probably no better than 50-50 in any of the seven red states where they are defending seats, and drowning in a couple. A big enough wave could cut into the blue states, too, although probably not as deeply as Republicans fantasize. Put it all together, and the current forecast calls for a wave that’s more than a ripple but less than a tsunami – a four to eight-seat addition for the Republicans, with the higher end of the range being a shade likelier than the lower.
So control of the Senate remains a toss-up, with a slight lean towards a possible GOP takeover. In the red states, all these races will be long, hard unpredictable slogs. Exactly what we’ve known all along.
* REPUBLICANS ATTACK TRADEOFFS IN OBAMACARE: Reed Abelson reports that it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the Affordable Care Act, while increasing the ranks of the insured, will result in fewer doctors and hospitals on people’s networks. Insurers say this is essential to lowering costs and that disruptions can be minimized, but some Republican Senate candidates are hoping to capitalize:
Dr. Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, is using the potential reaction to narrower networks as momentum for her campaign for Senate in Oregon. A Republican promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, her slogan is “Keep your doctor. Change your senator.”
Obviously the debate over whether ACA’s tradeoffs are worth it is one we should continue to have. But Republicans criticizing those tradeoffs should be pressed to offer their alternative, rather than being allowed to get away with vague promises to do the good stuff in Obamacare without the bad.
* PUSH FOR KEYSTONE VOTE GOES DOWN: Republicans last night filibustered a bipartisan energy efficiency bill because Harry Reid had not offered them votes on measures that would promote drilling or roll back environmental regulations. This, even though it effectively ends hopes for a vote on the Keystone pipeline Republicans wanted. Which raises a question: Is it possible Republicans didn’t actually want red state Dems to have a chance to vote Yes on Keystone?
* PRYOR LEADING IN ARKANSAS DESPITE BIG “GAFFE”: Dana Milbank points out that Republicans went mad with glee over Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor’s recent “gaffe” about challenger Tom Cotton’s military service, but polls show it just didn’t matter at all. As Milbank points out, Cotton and outside groups supporting him continue to run ad after ad stressing his service, but:
Cotton, a product of Harvard and its Law School, used his military service to distinguish himself in 2012 and win a GOP House primary. He followed the same script this time — but support for his military-themed campaign seems to have hit a ceiling.
* IRAN TALKS HIT CRUNCH TIME: The New York Times reports that negotiations over the future of Iran’s nuclear program have hit a critical moment, with investigators focused on the question of how much nuclear capacity Iran will retain as part of a long-term deal. This is the area of the talks most likely to run into major political complications at home, as pro-Israel lawmakers will likely insist on minimal capacity, meaning the administration will have to contend with opposition from Democrats, as well.
The administration prevented a Senate vote re-imposing new sanctions, but a bigger political battle over the shape of a final Iran deal was always inevitable.
* DEMS DEFER DECISION ON BENGHAZI PROBE: The Hill reports that House Dems are unlikely to make a decision on whether to participate in the new select committee on Benghazi until next week, due to this week’s recess. Some Dems are still internally pushing for a boycott, but as I reported the other day, it seems obvious Dems are looking for some way to get to participation, while simultaneously laying the groundwork to bail if Republicans don’t make any real concession on the fairness of the process.
* AND THE DISSEMBLING ABOUT OBAMACARE WILL NEVER END: Glenn Kessler takes apart Michele Bachmann’s claim that the ACA is “hurting the bottom line of major businesses.” It turns out that half the companies she is referring to are in the health care industry, prompting Kessler to remark: “when a company such as UnitedHealth Group says that the law is affecting its profits in part because it now must accept clients with pre-existing conditions, most Americans probably would not weep.”
Yes, but apparently Bachmann doesn’t see this as a worthwhile tradeoff.