A new CBS News poll finds that Democrats are leading in the generic ballot matchup by four points, 41-37. The polling average finds the generic matchup virtually tied. Taken together as indicators of the overall political environment, these suggest there are still no signs of that GOP wave we keep hearing about. At this point in 2010 Republicans had opened up a six point lead.
However, these numbers aren’t necessarily good for Democrats, because they don’t take into account that midterm voter dropoff problem Dems face. Indeed, as Aaron Blake notices, the poll also finds that among those who say they are “more enthusiastic” about voting, Republicans lead by seven points, 47-40.
It turns out this is being driven by the fact that big numbers of core Dem groups are not enthusiastic about voting. I asked CBS’s polling team for a breakdown:
— Among unmarried women, only 29 percent are more enthusiastic about voting, while 57 percent are less enthusiastic. By contrast, married women (who are more likely to vote Republican) are more enthusiastic by 45-42.
— Among nonwhites, only 31 percent are more enthusiastic about voting, while 56 percent are less enthusiastic.
— Among voters aged 18-29, only 35 percent are more enthusiastic about voting, while 45 percent are less enthusiastic.
It’s still too early to read too much into these numbers. But findings like these bear watching to see if we will again see those core Democratic groups drop off in a midterm year. Those groups are key pillars of the emerging Democratic coalition that appears increasingly formidable in national elections, but their tendency not to show up in midterms is also central to continued Republican dominance in Congressional races despite the GOP’s national demographic challenges.
The enthusiasm numbers among unmarried women are particularly noteworthy. Single women have become one of the most reliable Democratic voting groups, and turnout among them is pivotal to the outcome of multiple Senate races, and by extension, control of the Senate. They also tend to drop off steeply in midterms, because of various lifestyle factors, a leading reason midterm electorates tend to be more GOP-friendly. That’s why Dems are making pay equity, the minimum wage (as a women’s economic issue), universal pre-K, college affordability, and women’s health and reproductive issues so central to their campaigns this year.
Meanwhile, the numbers among nonwhites are also potentially important, because black Southern voters could represent more than half of all Democratic voters in multiple Senate races, making them pivotal to Senate control, too. And young voters could prove significant in races like the ones in North Carolina and Michigan.
Dems are well aware of these difficulties, which is why they are spending $60 million on turnout efforts designed to make the 2014 electorate look as much like a presidential year electorate as they possibly can. They have their work cut out for them.
* REPUBLICANS WORRIED ABOUT SCOTT WALKER: Politico’s overview of the Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate includes this:
In a reflection of how competitive this race has become, sources told POLITICO this week that the Republican Governors Association has reserved $2.3 million this fall in Wisconsin — making the contest one of the party’s top gubernatorial priorities.
The polling average puts Walker up three, though the highly regarded Marquette Law School poll has it as a tie. Politico gets at one reason the stakes are so high: “Walker is likely to start running for president almost the minute he were to win reelection.”
* GRIMES RUNNING AS ‘CLINTON DEMOCRAT’: Bill Clinton stumped in Kentucky’s coal country for Alison Lundergan Grimes late yesterday, and this was the key line from Grimes:
“I am a Clinton Democrat,” Grimes shouted to the approving audience. For Grimes to win in Eastern Kentucky, she’ll need voters to believe that declaration and not that she is “Obama’s Kentucky candidate,” as McConnell and his allies have asserted repeatedly.
Clinton (who carried the state twice) will be pivotal to Grimes’ efforts to rebuff McConnell’s central message — that she is little more than an Obummer stooge — and you can expect him to figure heavily in the Grimes camp’s ad onslaught this fall.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, IT’S-ALWAYS-ABOUT-OBUMMER EDITION: Also from Kentucky, note this from Bill Clinton, mocking McConnell’s nonstop efforts to tie Grimes to Obama:
“He kept acting like she was a clone of the White House. The first thing I thought was, that man thinks that Kentucky has stopped teaching arithmetic. Because the White House changes every four years and it’ll change in two years and this is a six-year job. He’s actually hoping that everybody will check their brain at the door and forget you’re hiring somebody to do something for the next six years that he has not done for the last 30.”
One of the Grimes camp’s most important tasks is to rebut McConnell’s effort to make this campaign all about which party controls the Senate.
* HOW DEMS WILL HIT THOM TILLIS IN NORTH CAROLINA: The Charlotte-Observer reports on the latest from North Carolina’s legislative session:
A little-noticed addition to the state budget may have far-reaching consequences for education spending. As future budgets are constructed, the state will no longer automatically pay for growth in public school enrollment. It’s a major policy change that was added to the compromise budget that was passed in the waning days of the session without debate.
This will figure in Senator Kay Hagan’s campaign against GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis: They already planned a major ad onslaught against Tillis over the state legislature’s hard right turn and education cuts, and news like this will provide more ammunition.
* TOM COTTON DEMAGOGUES ON IMMIGRATION: FactCheck.org rips apart Arkansas GOP candidate Tom Cotton’s wretched new ad attacking Senator Mark Pryor over the border crisis. The ad misleadingly portrays Pryor as cavalier about the border by cherry-picking this quote: “We have a much more secure border today than we did 10 years ago.”
As noted here the other day, by many metrics, Pryor is right, and Cotton’s attacks over this issue put this Beltway favorite firmly in Ted Cruz/Steve King territory.
* REPUBLICANS OPPOSE IDEAS THEY USED TO SUPPORT: E.J. Dionne compiles a list of policies that historically have attracted bipartisan support — an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit; infrastructure spending; minimum wage hike; expanding pre-K — and notes they have no chance in today’s Congress. There’s no mystery why: Most Congressional Republicans now oppose them. But we keep hearing the failure to get anything done is the fault of “Congress.”
* AND WHITE DEMS GOING EXTINCT IN DEEP SOUTH: Caitlin Huey-Burns has a nice overview of the seven most important House races of the cycle. A notable one is taking place in Georgia’s 12th District, where Dem Rep. John Barrow is fighting for his life despite voting against Obamacare and cap and trade, If he loses, Burns notes, say goodbye to “the only remaining white Democrat in the Deep South.”