It’s become a cliche to point out that Democrats may lose the Senate in part because of their “midterm drop-off problem,” in which core Dem groups such as minorities, young voters and single women are expected to stay home in disproportionate numbers, leaving behind an older, whiter, more-GOP-friendly electorate.
But guess what — that’s really, really important! Indeed, whoever ends up controlling the Senate, it’s notable that Democrats will end up lavishing more resources on solving this problem than ever before, since it will far outlast these elections.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg poll drives home the point in a fresh way. It finds that registered voters prefer a Democratic controlled Congress by 46-42. But “high interest” voters — those who rate a nine or 10 on the intensity scale — prefer a GOP-controlled Congress by a lopsided 51-43. Those “high interest” voters represent 44 percent of all registered voters.
The WSJ provides this further breakdown:
Three-quarters of GOP voters say this year’s congressional elections are much more important or somewhat more important than other elections…In contrast, 57% of Democrats grade this year’s midterms as more important than other elections….
Younger voters, who tend to back Democrats but are less likely than other groups to turn out during midterm years, are among the least interested in the election…only 20% of voters younger than 35 said they had a keen interest in the election.
Among people age 65 and older, a far higher share, 62%, described themselves as highly interested in the election. Some 54% of Republicans said they are highly interested in the election, compared to 44% of Democrats.
As I reported the other day, Democratic focus grouping has found that midterm drop-off voters just aren’t persuaded of the stakes in this election. Democrats are throwing everything they have at this problem. They are using carefully selected issues not just to persuade voters, but to turn them out. The goal of emphasizing a women’s economic agenda focused on the minimum wage and pay equity is to motivate single women. Meanwhile Democrats hope to refine tactics designed to ensure that drop off voters are contacted again, and again, and again.
There’s a lot at stake here that goes well beyond this election. As pollster Celinda Lake has explained, shifting demographics are leaving the Democratic Party increasingly reliant on a growing coalition of “irregular” voters — even as the Republican coalition is increasingly reliant on voter groups that do turn out in midterm years. Broadly speaking these demographic changes may portend bad news for the GOP in national elections. But they may also prove key to continued GOP success in Congress, and for Democrats, this represents a problem that may not be going away anytime soon.
* DEMS PUSHING ‘BANNOCK STREET PROJECT’: Related to the above: The Huffington Post talks to DSCC executive director Guy Cecil and gets new details on the effort to combat that midterm dropoff problem:
To date, the DSCC has built a political army of 51,000 volunteers who have taken campaign action — “people that have actually made phone calls, registered voters, knocked on doors.” That includes 9,966 volunteers in North Carolina, 2,688 in Alaska, 3,965 in Arkansas, 6,218 in Iowa, an estimated 6,000 in Georgia, 5,500 in Colorado, 3,250 in Kentucky, and 3,700 in New Hampshire. The total is likely to reach 61,000 by the election.
The Democrats’ “Kitchen Sink Strategy” in action…
* CLIMATE CHANGE RALLY TAKES MANHATTAN: Yesterday’s People’s Climate March was attended by over 300,000 marchers, organizers estimated. This week, international climate talks begin at the United Nations, but as Coral Davenport reports, they are likely to be plagued by a familiar divide between poor nations that continue to plead for action and rich nations that do little of substance.
Indeed, it’s notable that U.S. negotiators are already hard at work trying to figure out ways to negotiate a treaty that would not need Senate approval, since that’s apparently unthinkable.
* CLIMATE ORGANIZER EXPLAINS THE STAKES: Do check out this interview with climate march organizer Bill McKibbon, in which he explains the stakes this way:
“The real point of building a movement is to provide a countervailing power to the fossil-fuel industry…Most people have a good sense that something bad is happening, but they feel very, very small in comparison to the size of these global forces…The most important rule for an individual in this fight is to figure out how not to remain an individual, how to join a movement big enough to change the politics…if we don’t win pretty soon, it’s going to be a moot point.”
Environmental groups have long sought to demonstrate that the climate issue can be made to matter in electoral politics, with little success, though the Michigan Senate race may prove a bright spot.
* ARKANSAS SENATE RACE REMAINS TIGHT: A new Dem internal poll from Hickman Analytics finds Mark Pryor leading Tom Cotton among likely voters in Arkansas by 46-43. You should always treat internal polls with skepticism, but Hickman is a legit pollster, and the polling average has Cotton up by only 1.2 points. So I wouldn’t quite count Pryor out yet, though the odds remain heavily against him.
* A SENATE RACE ABOUT ‘PERSONHOOD’? Senator Mark Udall’s campaign is out with a new Web video that recaps all of GOP challenger Cory Gardner’s efforts to wrestle with the political problems his embrace of “Personhood” has created. The video demonstrates how relentlessly Dems have focused on this issue, in the belief that Personhood support makes it extremely hard to win statewide in a purple state (one that has repeatedly rejected Personhood measures).
The race is a dead heat in the polling average.
* VOTERS DON’T HATE EVERYTHING BIG GOVERNMENT DOES: E.J. Dionne zeroes in on an interesting trend in the Senate races:
Even in conservative states, Democrats are zeroing in on Republican opposition to government programs aimed at solving particular problems. Their arguments and ads reflect a reality: Voters who might dislike government in the abstract often support the concrete things government can do.
Dionne provides several examples. I’d add that the fact that multiple GOP Senate candidates are refusing to come clean on whether they’d roll back the Medicaid expansions in their states neatly underscores the point.
* REPUBLICANS AND THE ‘LAZY JOBLESS’: Paul Krugman’s column today marvels at the ways GOP lawmakers continue to suggest the unemployed are choosing their plight, even as benefits have been slashed and we’re treating them with “unprecedented harshness.” But why?
In a nation where the Republican base gets what it thinks are facts from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where the party’s elite gets what it imagines to be policy analysis from the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, the right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware of neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless….Some conservatives have been trying to reinvent their image, professing sympathy for the less fortunate. But what their party really believes is that if you’re poor or unemployed, it’s your own fault.
In this sense, you can imagine the Closed Conservative Information Feedback Loop functioning as a major obstacle to the conservative reformers.