A Politico poll released this morning shows trouble for Dems, because it surveys likely voters in competitive U.S. House and Senate races and finds Republicans with a seven point generic lead, 41-34.
Politico says this shows “mounting danger for Democrats,” and it’s true Dems are in danger. But it’s worth remembering that a tolerable outcome for Dems is if they limit their losses to five Senate seats, which will be decided by a series of grueling contests with a host of unique features.
However, the poll’s findings on Obamcare are also noteworthy. Even among likely voters in the competitive races, keep/modify polls slightly better than repeal. The poll finds that 35 percent favor keeping the law with modifications, and another 16 percent favor keeping it as it is — for a total of 51 percent who favor keeping and modifying the law. Meanwhile, 48 percent favor repeal.
Alex Burns notes these numbers and says what many still refuse to acknowledge:
At the same time that the health care law is plainly a political anchor for Democrats, the poll signals that fully killing the ACA may not be a slam-dunk as a political proposition and could be a more complicated issue for a GOP presidential ticket to negotiate in 2016.
This is precisely what I keep insisting the vast bulk of the polling shows. We should be able to keep two ideas in our heads at the same time: First, the law is probably going to remain a net negative for Dems, and second, repeal — the position of every GOP Senate candidate — may also be problematic. Indeed, independents tilt in favor of keep/modify by 56-42. Ultimately what the polling really reveals is that sharp polarization continues around the law and the nuances of how it’s playing politically are more complex than many acknowledge. As I keep telling you, the gyrations of the GOP candidates on repeal suggest that they, too, believe repeal contains pitfalls for them.
However, the real nature of the Obamacare problem Dems face — one that coexists with the truism that repeal remains unpopular — is also revealed here. The groups who tilt strongly against the law are more likely to turn out than the groups who favor it:
While majorities of white voters (54 percent) and men (51 percent) support repealing Obamacare, repeal now falls short of majority support with most subgroups…The law receives powerful support from minority voters, including 80 percent of African-Americans who want to leave the law alone (34 percent) or modify it (46 percent), and 55 percent of Hispanics who want it left entirely intact (22 percent) or only modified (33 percent).
The big unanswered question is how much Obamacare will even matter in 2014. The above racial breakdown suggests it will be a powerful motivator for pro-Republican voters, which certainly could be important. Of course, they might be motivated just as much by disapproval of Obama, which is hard to disentangle from attitudes towards the ACA, the overarching symbol of everything that’s wrong with the Obama presidency.
At the same time, the unpopularity of repeal among swing voters could also matter, because it could mitigate the damage the law is doing to Dems among them. It’s possible some might conclude that while they don’t approve of Obamacare, Republicans don’t have the answers on health care either, causing the issue to bleed into something of a wash, particularly in Senate races that tend to turn on unique factors. The point is that Obamcacare just might not prove a decisive factor one way or the other.
* ONLY THE SOUTH WANTS TO REPEAL OBAMACARE: Another fascinating tidbit from the Politico poll:
Broken down by region, only in the South did total repeal of the law command the support of a majority — 51 percent. In the Northeast, Midwest and West, repeal was the preference of a plurality of voters, but a majority favored either leaving the ACA as is or making changes to the law without repealing it.
And of course, in the south, large numbers are going uninsured because of the decisions of GOP state lawmakers to opt out of the Medicaid expansion.
* DEAD HEAT IN KENTUCKY SENATE RACE: A Bluegrass poll released over the weekend finds Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell effectively tied, at 43-42, which is in keeping with what the polling averages show. Notably, however, the Bluegrass poll shows that McConnell’s approval is upside down, at 34-56, while Grimes (who as Secretary of State is a statewide figure) is at 46-32. And so, one question is whether Grimes can pull over some of those who disapprove of McConnell.
One imagines that once the primary is over, the McConnell forces will launch a rather aggressive effort to turn Grimes’ approval upside down.
* TOM COTTON IS NOT A DREAM CANDIDATE: Some good on the ground reporting from Ron Fournier on the Arkansas Senate race shows why Mark Pryor may be leading:
Cotton is an overrated candidate. Setting aside his impressive biography, he is not a strong retail politician in a state that values handshake-to-handshake combat, and Cotton’s brief record in Congress falls to the right of the state’s GOP mainstream. He voted against the farm bill and disaster relief while supporting the government shutdown and a plan to raise the Medicare eligibility age.
Those issues could loom larger than Obamacare in this race. Yes, that is a possibility.
* WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEK: The outcome of the Republican Senate primary in Georgia this Tuesday may be the most important of the week:
In Georgia, GOP leaders and their allies in the business community appear on track for their goal of preventing either Rep. Paul Broun or Rep. Phil Gingrey, among the most conservative candidates in the race, from advancing to a runoff to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss. That race has become a contest among three Republicans who are viewed as candidates with broader appeal — businessman David Perdue, who leads most polls, followed by former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and Rep. Jack Kingston.
There very well may be a runoff, meaning there may not be a GOP nominee until July 22nd. But if they do keep Broun and Gingrey out of contention, that’s a real break for Republicans.
* DRAFT GRAYSON MOVEMENT GAINS STEAM: A petition on the Credo Mobilize site that urges Dems to send only Rep. Alan Grayson to the #Benghazi sub-committee has now passed 50,000 signatures. The question is whether this will gain any more traction on the left, prompting groups like MoveOn to weigh in, on the theory that this would put someone in the room to challenge revelations in real time without conferring legitimacy on the hearings, which sending a full slate of Dems would do.
Grayson is making no secret of his desire for this outcome, vowing that if he is sent, “I’d be their worst, worst and last nightmare.”
* NO END TO HOUSE GOP EXCUSES ON IMMIGRATION: The Hill points out the no-brainer that it is up to John Boehner whether Republicans move on immigration, yet they continue to insist “distrust of Obama” is the obstacle to movement:
Boehner has not said how Obama could restore trust among Republicans who have watched angrily as he has repeatedly delayed parts of the healthcare law without congressional approval. Aides say, however, that he could begin by working with GOP members on some of their other priorities…A House GOP leadership aide said Obama could also help his cause by publicly ruling out unilateral action to halt deportations and by promising to enforce any new immigration law fully in the way Congress intended.
So, Boehner has not said what Obama could do to get Republicans to move forward. But one idea is that he can rule out acting on his own on the off chance Republicans might act! Once again, the question on the table is whether House Republicans will hold votes on their own proposals.
* AND ELIZABETH WARREN’S REAL MESSAGE: E.J. Dionne explains what’s really driving Elizabeth Warren’s appeal to rank-and-file Dems:
Since the Reagan era, Democrats have been so determined to show how pro-market and pro-business they are that they’ve shied away from pointing out that markets could not exist without government, that the well-off depend on the state to keep their wealth secure and that participants in the economy rely on government to keep the marketplace on the level and to temper the business cycle’s gyrations…At the end of a long liberal era, Reagan electrified conservatives by telling them they didn’t have to apologize anymore for what they believed. Now, Warren insists, it’s the era of liberal apologies that’s over.
Warren isn’t running for president, but this is how her influence will be felt in 2016: Democratic candidates will have to deal with Dem voters’ desire to hear these topics addressed.