For many months, this blog and many others have warned that Democratic hopes of holding the Senate could very well crash up against a demographic brick wall: The persistent tendency of core Democratic voter groups to sit out midterm elections.

Now, with a week to go, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows in grisly detail that this problem is still very much in force. Among GOP-aligned groups (whites, older voters, married women) significantly larger percentages are certain to vote, or have already voted, than is true among Dem-aligned groups (non-whites, young voters, unmarried women).

The poll finds that 65 percent of Americans are “absolutely certain to vote” or have already voted. To put this in perspective, note that of those deemed “likely voters,” 97 percent say they are absolutely certain to vote or have already voted. Here’s the breakdown among key demographics from the Post polling team:

* 73 percent of Republicans (and 83 percent of conservative Republicans) say they’re certain to vote or have already voted, while 61 percent of Democrats (and 61 percent of liberal Democrats) say the same.

* 71 percent of whites are certain to vote or have already voted, while 49 percent of non-whites say the same.

* 80 percent of voters over 65 say they are certain to vote or have already voted, while a dismal 44 percent of those 18-39 say the same.

* 69 percent of married women are certain to vote or have already voted, while 60 percent of unmarried women (who are increasingly important to the Dem coalition but are less reliable voters due to economic instability and other factors) say the same.

What stands out is how intractable this problem appears. Democrats have thrown everything they have at solving it — emphasizing a slate of economic and cultural issues designed to give women, minorities, and young voters a reason to care about who controls the Senate — but the GOP edge is either the same or even more pronounced than it was in polling last spring.

Democrats have long known this problem would bedevil them through Election Day, which is why they invested $60 million in the Bannock Street Project to mobilize voters who sat out 2010.

But when the Obamacare web site crashed last fall, and predictions of a Dem bloodbath were everywhere, it became apparent to Democrats that voter mobilization would be even more crucial to holding the Senate than previously thought. Bad news about the President’s signature domestic achievement, combined with a sluggish recovery and continuing Washington gridlock, risked depressing core voter enthusiasm in truly debilitating ways, particularly given the red-state tilt of the Senate map. At that point, if embattled incumbents were not going to gain leads in the face of stiff headwinds, the goal became to keep as many races within mere striking distance as possible. If the polling deficits were not too formidable, that might allow a robust enough field operation to close the gap at the very end.

Republicans are clearly favored to take the Senate. But as Nate Silver has explained, the GOP advantage is still not decisive, and Republicans simply haven’t yet dispatched Democratic incumbents and candidates. In a number of races Democrats have kept the polling deficits narrower than they otherwise might have. But as today’s poll shows, that drop-off problem could still be an obstacle to bringing in enough non-2010 voters to close those deficits. In other words, to keep the Senate, Democrats will have to kick a lot of long field goals on election day.

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Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the country, an unsettling position for a Sun Belt state accustomed to good fortune….The recession hit Georgia unusually hard. Its sprawl, especially around Atlanta, had built an economy heavily dependent on home building and real estate. But its manufacturing sector was also skewed toward building materials like wood products, flooring and carpeting. And growth depended on in-migration of plants, regional offices and corporate headquarters from all over the country.

Perdue has responded by blaming (who else) Obama, but the average now has Michelle Nunn within 1.6 points, and FiveThirtyEight has it an exact toss-up.

Over all, there’s considerable uncertainty about the state of the race in Alaska. But between the history of polling errors in Alaska and the signs that Mr. Begich might be somewhat better positioned than he was a few weeks ago, there’s a very good case that Mr. Begich is close enough that he could pull off an upset with a superior turnout effort. If any Democrat should have a superior turnout effort, it’s Mr. Begich. 

Dems have invested an enormous amount in Alaska turnout, with offices in far flung rural regions. An upset here would enable Dems to hold the majority by winning either Colorado or Iowa and getting another surprise in Georgia or Kansas. Still, the odds remain against them.

* DEMS LEAD EARLY VOTING IN NORTH CAROLINA: The News and Observer crunches the key numbers:

More than twice as many voters cast ballots in the first four days of early voting compared to the first four days of the last midterm election in 2010…Through the first four days this year, ballots cast by registered Democrats are at 93 percent of where they were at this time in 2010…Unaffiliated voters are nearly at the same level as they were four years ago, and Republicans are at 68 percent of their 2010 one-stop total.

And in a crucial finding, an expert tells the paper that African Americans are casting a larger share of early votes than in 2010. Kay Hagan retains a small edge but her hopes still depend on early voting, and on the electorate being more diverse this time.

 * EBOLA SEEPS INTO THE SENATE RACES: Bloomberg crunches some ad data from CMAG and finds there’s been a very big spike in the number of political ads that invoke Ebola, with most running in the Georgia, Arkansas, Iowa, and Colorado Senate races:

All told, ads invoking Ebola ran 734 times between Oct. 21-25, compared with a total of 484 tracked by CMAG in months prior.

As I’ve reported before, even if voters will not cast their ballot based on Ebola, the game plan here is to feed a sense of generalized fear and anxiety and nationalize Senate races in ways that probably helps GOP candidates.

* GOP CANDIDATES CAVING ON MINIMUM WAGE: Tim Noah reports on a key subplot of the cycle: GOP Senate candidates who are regarded as Tea Party super-stars, such as Tom Cotton, see a political need to cave on the minimum wage hike. Even Joni Ernst, perhaps the most gung-ho opponent of a raise, is now fudging on whether she favors scrapping the federal minimum wage.

Footnote: Many pro-Obamacare-repeal GOP Senate candidates in tough races are also endlessly dissembling and evading on whether they would actually take the ACA’s benefits from people.

That would open the door for rivals who are current or former state governors to campaign against Washington and its unpopular lawmakers, including the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Also, a GOP majority could find itself torn between the imperative of developing an affirmative GOP governing agenda and pressure from the base to go after Obama’s already achieved policy gains.

* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, HOPELESS RINO EDITION: Also from the above Reuters piece, here’s GOP Senator and likely presidential hopeful Rob Portman on another challenge a GOP majority faces:

“If Republicans are seen as taking the lead in passing legislation, I think it helps. If we get a majority Senate, there’s a chance that you could get the president to the table, though Republicans would have to do their part in doing that.”

Republicans have a responsibility to meet the President halfway? For real? Good luck with that, once the Ted Cruz Presidential Palooza kicks off.