If you are a Democratic operative involved in Senate races this cycle, you are probably tormented by the unrelenting quality of demographic realities that are eroding the foundation of Dem Senate control, putting it at grave risk of collapse. However, like waves that come in only to recede again, the shifts washing over our politics mean that in 2016, GOP Senate operatives may find themselves equally tormented by demographic realities tilting the other way.
The Upshot has an important piece detailing the “growing blue state diaspora,” in which the last few decades have seen large migrations from liberal to conservative states. This has helped Dems win recent presidential elections. But it may also have consequences for the Senate map in upcoming elections, too.
In 2014, Dems face unforgiving fundamentals. They are defending seats in seven states carried by Mitt Romney, a situation exacerbated by the tendency of core Dem groups — minorities, young voters, single women — to sit out midterms. And as Sean Trende has detailed, some of these states — Arkansas, Louisiana — are actually growing more conservative, making the demographics still worse for Democrats.
Dems have responded to this with what I have called the “kitchen sink strategy,” throwing every issue at the problem they can find that might give core groups a reason to vote. They have also sunk enormous resources into a turnout operation to fight a rearguard action against these demographic pressures.
It may or may not be enough. But in 2016, the demographics will once again be friendly to Dem Senate operatives. As the Upshot piece details, blue-state migration is particularly pronounced to states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and there is every reason to think it will continue. Meanwhile, according to one recent study, the Latino share of the vote is set to grow in Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, among other states, something observers believe could also impact the 2016 Senate map.
The Cook Political Report overview of Senate races calculates that in 2016, Republicans will be on defense in many more states than Dems will. At least four of those states — North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Georgia — are either seeing this “blue state diaspora,” or a rising Latino vote share, or both.
It’s hard to know how much such shifts will matter in any given statewide race. It’s easy to overstate their importance. However, they certainly can’t hurt. Republicans have a better than 50-50 shot at taking the Senate in 2014. If they do, it will be important for Dems to keep the GOP majority down to one or two seats. This may make it easier to ride demographic shifts — which may also be amplified by a presidential year electorate — back into the majority two years later.
* THE SECRET DEM PLAN TO SAVE SENATE: Related to the above: Molly Ball has a well reported look at the extensive turnout operation Democrats are building to offset their severe “midterm voter dropoff program”:
To beat the odds, across the country Democrats have mounted an ambitious political organizing effort — the first attempt to replicate the Obama campaign’s signature marriage of sophisticated technology and intensive on-the-ground engagement on a national scale without Obama on the ballot. The effort is particularly noticeable in states like Arkansas and Alaska, which have small electorates and which haven’t been presidential battleground states for a decade or more.
The effort is focused on contacting voters again, and again, and again. Some states didn’t have Obama operations in 2012, so the goal is to put in place an operation that hopefully can get core Dem groups out at closer to 2012 levels.
* IMMIGRATION BECOMING MAJOR 2014 ISSUE: The Associated Press reports that Obama’s coming action on deportations could roil the red state Senate races that will decide Senate control. A key point:
How the issue plays out over the fall depends both on what happens in South Texas, where border arrivals have declined in the summer heat, but could rise again.
If the crisis is being managed, Obama may move forward. But if images of kids crossing the border again dominate the news, it would be surprising if he didn’t postpone action on deportations until after the elections.
* ADVOCATES HOPEFUL ON DEPORTATIONS: The Hill reports that advocates are increasingly hopeful that Obama will do something ambitious on deportations. I don’t know whether he will or not. But one thing to watch will be whether there is any serious White House effort to brief Congressional Democrats now that the President is back in town before going abroad.
* GRIMES BLASTS McCONNELL OVER SHUTDOWN CHATTER: Alison Lundergan Grimes is out with a new Web ad blasting Mitch McConnell over his suggestion in a recent interview that a GOP controlled Senate would employ maximum confrontation to roll back Obama policies.
As noted the other day, the threat of destructive brinksmanship — which tanked the GOP brand in 2013 — is one thing that can potentially drive home the actual consequences of giving Republicans the Senate. It will be interesting to see if Grimes puts this ad on the air.
* WHITE HOUSE TO REVIEW MILITARIZATION OF POLICE: The New York Times reports: “Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the government’s decade-old strategy of outfitting local police departments with military-grade body armor, mine-resistant trucks, silencers and automatic rifles, senior officials say.”
This could spur an alliance in Congress between civil rights progressives and libertarian conservatives against police militarization, which gained momentum after Ferguson. The question is who in Congress would get in the way, and whether reform-minded lawmakers will still act once the issue fades.
* PUBLIC FAULTS PROTESTORS MORE THAN COPS: A new NYT/CBS poll finds:
Fifty-nine percent of Americans — including 67 percent of whites but just 43 percent of blacks — think the protesters’ actions have gone too far…Fewer Americans are critical of the police response in Ferguson: 32 percent think the Ferguson police went too far in their response to the protests.
There’s a racial divide as well: Half of African Americans think the police went too far, an opinion held by only 27 percent of whites.
* AND GOP IS RUNNING AGAINST WORD ‘OBAMACARE’: E.J. Dionne has a nice column explaining that Republicans aren’t actually running against what the Affordable Care Act does, they’re running against its nickname, which is indeed dragging down Dems. So they should run on the good things in the law:
As one Democratic pollster told me, his focus groups showed that when voters outside the Republican base are given details about what the law does and how it works, “people come around and say, ‘That’s not so bad, what’s everybody excited about?’ ” This consultant says of Democrats who voted for the law: “You’re going to be stuck with all the bad about this but not benefit from any of the good unless you advertise” what the Affordable Care Act does.
It remains to be seen whether other Dems will follow Senator Mark Pryor’s lead and run ads touting their vote for the law.