Ever since Ebola began dominating the headlines, some commentators have reflexively decided there’s no way the American people could possibly have confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle the disease. That continues today: On Morning Joe, Chris Matthews went on and on about how the Obama administration’s failure to communicate the inner workings of its response risked undermining the public’s belief that government can be effective.
But a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds a large majority of Americans aren’t necessarily following that script: 63 percent say they are “confident in the government’s ability to respond to an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the United States.” While a big chunk of those are only “somewhat” confident, this is still encouraging, given that Americans have been bombarded for weeks with media hype about the disease. What’s more, only 36 percent — barely more than one in three — are not confident.
A majority of moderates (69-32), independents (59-40), and even Republicans (53-46) are confident. Only conservatives (48-51) and conservative Republicans (45-55) tilt against confidence in the government.
The caveat: The White House has not persuaded the public to adopt its view of the disease. An overwhelming 70 percent support restrictions on travel from afflicted countries (which helps explain why vulnerable Democrats have caved to Republican pressure and come out in support of one, too). And far more (61 percent) think we need to do more against Ebola in the United States than think we need to do more to stop the spread of it in Africa (46 percent).
There’s been some chatter to the effect that this may mean Ebola is losing its potency as a campaign issue for Republicans. I’d be cautious about concluding this, because GOP invocations of Ebola aren’t about getting voters to say, “I’m voting against the Democrat because I’m afraid he or she won’t protect me from the disease.” Rather, they are being layered on top of invocations of ISIS and our supposedly “porous” border, with the goal of adding to a more generalized atmosphere of anxiety and distrust in Obama’s competence, and nationalizing the elections in ways that favor Republican candidates. Given that a majority of Americans now says the government’s general ability to handle big problems has declined, that GOP strategy could still be working, even if specific fears over Ebola are fading.
Still, it’s good to see that the public isn’t rushing headlong into the conclusion that the government is helpless in the face of a mass Ebola outbreak, despite strenuous efforts in some quarters to create that impression. And today’s poll isn’t the only one to suggest that; other recent polls have found the same.
* REPUBLICANS EDGE AWAY FROM REPEAL: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is up with a new ad in North Carolina that stars Mitt Romney making the case for Thom Tillis, who is challenging Senator Kay Hagan. This line is interesting:
“Thom will roll up his sleeves and go right to work on solving the mess of Obamacare.”
“Solving the mess”? What about repeal? Tillis, you will recall, has endorsed Obamacare’s general goals and recently kinda sorta flip-flopped away from his opposition to the Medicaid expansion after Hagan repeatedly hit him over it.
* JONI ERNST AHEAD IN IOWA: A new Quinnipiac poll finds Joni Ernst leading Bruce Braley among Iowa likely voters by 49-45. The one bit of good news for Braley: He leads by 21 points among those who have already voted.
The Q-poll (which is within the margin of error) gives Ernst a larger lead than the polling average, which has her up 1.7 points. Democrats will have to hope that Braley’s early voting advantage — plus voter mobilization on election day — makes up the deficit.
* ALASKA SENATE RACE IS UNPREDICTABLE: The FiveThirtyEight crew runs through the reasons why Senator Mark Begich’s hopes of hanging on may have brightened in recent days, as well as the reasons to remain skeptical. Note this:
Alaska is also small enough that a decent “ground game” can make a big difference….He only needs 7,500 votes to turn a 2.7 percentage-point loss into the slimmest of wins. Polls can have difficulty picking up this small of a difference.
* ECONOMY BIG ISSUE IN GEORGIA RACE: Chuck Todd talks to Georgia voters thinking about the race between GOP businessman David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn:
At 7.9 percent, Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the country…Elections always come down to the pocketbook, but with widespread joblessness and shuttered factories, voters here — even more than elsewhere in the country — are looking for someone to blame. That’s why Democrats’ economic messages on issues like the minimum wage are keeping them competitive, and it’s why former Dollar General CEO David Purdue is struggling over the outsourcing question.
The polling average has Perdue’s lead down to a scant 1.8 points; and it’s not clear the full impact of Perdue’s outsourcing comments has even been felt yet.
* GEORGIA RUNOFF IS UNPREDICTABLE: The Upshot’s Josh Katz runs through all the reasons why a Georgia runoff is almost impossible to forecast, given the many uncertainties that remain. Among the key questions: Who will turn out to vote in January of 2015? Who would turn out to vote if this one contest decides control of the Senate?
Katz’s conclusion: We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen. Which is to say Senate control might not be decided until next year.
* OUTSIDE CASH POURS INTO SENATE RACES: David Drucker looks at ad buy info and determines that $30 million in outside money, and possibly a lot more, is set to pour into the following 10 states in the final week: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Georgia, Kentucky, and Kansas.
It looks like the two sides are close to parity on the airwaves in the final stretch. Footnote: The Democrats’ game plan has long been to maintain a draw (or better) on the air and close the polling deficits on the ground.
* WHY SCOTT BROWN STILL HAS A SHOT: Scott Conroy reports from New Hampshire that Scott Brown could still prevail over Senator Jeanne Shaheen, because even if voters like her, they are upset with Obama and Washington. Brown is skillfully exploiting that:
For Brown, repeating the charge that Shaheen votes with Obama “99 percent of the time” is something he undertakes with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning and the near-frequency of breathing. In recent weeks, the Republican challenger also has succeeded in tapping into voters’ anxieties over the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, the nation’s porous southern border, and the arrival of the Ebola virus in the U.S.