If anything, polls have actually shown public confidence in the government’s ability to handle Ebola, though to read the media coverage, you’d think the only thing polls are indicating is generalized fear of the disease. In truth, it’s hard to quantify Ebola’s political impact. It could be just adding unseen weight to a broader sense that the country is veering off track — which probably helps Republicans (who are doing all they can to feed that impression). But it’s also possible that — even with the new case — it could be receding as an issue at just the right time.
“It seems to take a period of time before it’s recognized that it’s a very important issue that needs more time and attention,” Hagan says during a brief interview when I ask how she feels about the president’s apparent slow-footed response to the VA scandal and Ebola. It’s more a carefully worded slap-on-the wrist than searing indictment, but this close to Election Day, with a liberal base to motivate, it counts as real criticism.
Note the balance Hagan (who also came out for a travel ban) is striking. As I’ve reported before, Democrats are using Ebola to achieve distance from the President, who continues to be deeply disliked by constituencies who still are populated by voters who remain undecided, and could be tipped towards Republicans by a feather-push from something like Ebola remaining in the news. At the same time, this sort of criticism is unlikely to alienate the core Democratic voters whose turnout will be crucial, and who might feel less motivated if candidates break with Obama on core Democratic issues. Either way, the politics of Ebola may now be back.
Of course, not all Democrats are embracing a travel ban. But that brings us to our next item.
* IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, A CLASH OVER EBOLA: Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown held their final debate last night, and the clash over Ebola was remarkable. Shaheen said we shouldn’t institute a travel ban if experts say it’s a bad idea: “My opponent and I aren’t infectious disease experts. I think we need to listen to the experts. We should not be fear-mongering on this issue.”
But Scott Brown reiterated his call for a ban: “We don’t need to be experts to deal with this issue. It’s common sense. She calls it fear mongering. I call it rational fear.” We don’t need no stinkin’ experts…
* SCOTT BROWN CALLED OUT ON EBOLA: Democrats are circulating video of another interesting moment: Moderator Wolf Blitzer repeatedly pressed Brown on his claim that we wouldn’t be worrying about Ebola right now if Mitt Romney were president. Brown kept complaining he was being taken out of context. When Blitzer read his actual words back to him, Brown replied: “Thank you for repeating it for the fourth time.”
* MICHELLE NUNN HAS A SHOT IN GEORGIA: A new CNN poll finds Michelle Nunn leading David Perdue in Georgia by 47-44, within the margin of error. And:
In a hypothetical runoff, Nunn still holds a small margin over Perdue, 51% to 47%. But the poll’s likely voter model can only estimate the November electorate, as a runoff election can draw a smaller and different crowd than the general election.
The average still has Perdue up 1.7 points, but that margin is shrinking fast, and Nunn has led in the last five polls. The runoff is a big unknown, because it’s hard to anticipate what the electorate will look like. But it appears Nunn may have a real shot.
* CORY GARDNER LEADS IN COLORADO: A new Quinnipiac poll finds Cory Gardner leading Senator Mark Udall among likely voters in Colorado, 46-41. Ominously for Udall, who is betting it all on his ground game, Gardner is leading among early voters, 49-37.
The polling average has Gardner up by 2.1 points. Udall has trailed in at least nine of the last nonpartisan public polls.
This poll, conducted by the Democratic-leaning group Project New America, finds that 82 percent of these so-called “drop-off” voters have received a ballot in the mail. And a combined 83 percent say they’ve already voted (22 percent of them) or are planning to vote (another 61 percent).
If Democrats are going to overcome their deficit in the polls, they will have to bring in non-2010 voters who are not showing up in polls’ “likely voter” samples. Dems hope the new all-mail balloting will help them do that. But Udall is plainly trailing by a non-insignificant margin at this point.
Even as the map looks ripe for a GOP Senate takeover, at least 11 battleground states remain within or right at the margin of error, according to an average of public polling. That means if Democrats succeed in driving up turnout as they’ve vowed to do all year — particularly in states like Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina — they could tilt the electorate by one or two points in their direction and win enough races to hold the Senate.
As I’ve noted before, this shows that the politics of the safety net are perilous for Republicans even in red states, and gets at the GOP’s long term problem of over-dependence on older voters.
Now you understand why there’s so much furor on the right over the alleged but actually almost nonexistent problem of voter fraud, and so much support for voter ID laws that make it hard for the poor and even the working class to cast ballots. American politicians don’t dare say outright that only the wealthy should have political rights — at least not yet. But if you follow the currents of thought now prevalent on the political right to their logical conclusion, that’s where you end up. The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win.