If you think President Obama’s poll numbers nationally are bad off, consider what is happening in 12 swing states (not including South Dakota). Respected GOP pollster Whit Ayres released his poll results (obtained on behalf of NPR and Resurgent Republic) of likely voters. Among these voters, 38 percent approve of Obama’s performance and 58 percent don’t. Only 25 percent buy the line that the IRS, Benghazi, Veterans Affairs and other scandals are “phony,” as the Democrats claim; 57 percent disagree. These swing-state voters oppose Obamacare by a margin of 58 to 40 percent. On foreign policy, Obama has cratered, with only 34 percent thinking that he is handling it well. When asked whether they want a Democratic Senate to help Obama or a GOP Senate majority to act as a check, the Democrats get 34 percent while the GOP gets 54 percent.

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (Danny Johnston/Associated Press) Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is running for a Senate seat. (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

Most interesting perhaps is the message comparison. The likely voters were presented with these two messages, the first drafted by a Republican pollster and the second by a Democrat. The GOP message got 50 percent, the Democratic one only 40 percent:

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate says it’s time for a new direction in Washington. Democrats have controlled the Presidency and the Senate for six years, and their policies haven’t worked. Our economy is still struggling, and too many middle-class Americans are unemployed or underemployed. A Republican Senate will pass legislation to create jobs, stop spending money we don’t have, lower the cost of energy, stop the Democratic cuts to Medicare Advantage, and replace Obamacare with reforms that will lower health care costs. Democrats have had their chance, and now it’s time to try something new.

The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate says I fight for our state first and foremost and work with both Republicans and Democrats to do what’s right. The billionaire Koch brothers are trying to buy this election with all these attack ads so they can reduce taxes for oil companies and corporations that outsource our jobs. I will honor seniors by protecting Medicare and Social Security from cuts and help our small businesses and independent contractors by lifting regulations and helping with health care costs. I support raising the minimum wage and oppose any trade agreements that threaten our jobs.

Even the Democratic take on “fairness” (“promote fairness by narrowing the gap between rich and poor, making the rich pay their fair share, and reducing income inequality”) loses out to the GOP definition (“promote opportunity by fostering job growth, encouraging small businesses, and allowing hardworking people to keep more of what they earn”) by a margin of 38 to 55 percent. That is good news for reform conservatives who have been advancing just such an agenda recently. It’s less positive for severe libertarians who simply want government to go away.

Republicans still have a gender gap. Ayres told me: “Overall, men prefer the Republican by a 55 to 37 percent margin, while women prefer a Democrat by a 51 to 42 percent margin. But controlling for race changes the picture significantly. White men prefer a Republican by a 60 to 32 percent margin. White women are not at strong, but do support a Republican by a 47 to 44 percent margin.” He added: “Going one step further, we looked at white women by marital status. White women who are married prefer a Republican by a 50 to 40 percent margin, while white unmarried women prefer a Democrat by a 50 to 42 percent margin.”

As for the Obama scandals, Ayres said during a media conference call on Thursday that they contribute “additional doubt about the administration and [weigh] against the president’s approval.”

It is important for Republicans to understand how tipped in their favor this election may be (with Obama scandals, an unpopular president, eight of 12 swing states having voted for the GOP presidential candidate two years ago, etc.) but also recognize that in a presidential election (with many more women, minorities and single people in a more diverse array of states) they will have to improve their message and attract more voters. Fortunately, they now have some insight into what that message should be.