I wrote recently that Republicans are increasingly viewing the battle for the Senate this fall as a repeat of what happened in 2006 -- except in reverse. That is, an unpopular president drags down his party in a handful of swing states and costs his side the majority. But, unlike 2006 when that president was George W. Bush and the victims were Senate Republicans, this time it's Barack Obama and Senate Democrats who look likely to pay the political price.
Now Republican pollster Patrick Lanne of Public Opinion Strategies is out with a series of charts affirming that 2006 and 2014 are indeed very close analogs -- and why that fact should really worry Democrats trying to hold on to their Senate majority. Three in particular caught my eye.
1. With the exception of Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) -- who still lost -- Republican Senate candidates had a very hard time significantly over-performing Bush's approval numbers in their state.
That chart above is even more worrisome for Democrats when you consider that the states that their majority rests on -- Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Kansas, North Carolina to name a few -- are places where President Obama is deeply unpopular. A series of public polls over the last month has pegged Obama's job approval in the low 30s in Arkansas and Louisiana and I have been told of private polling in places like Colorado -- another swing state hosting a very competitive Senate race -- where Obama's approval among independent voters is in that same territory.
2. Late-deciding voters broke heavily for Democrats in 2006. Heavily.
Democrats incumbents like Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska have been given considerable credit by the political press for staying ahead -- or close to it -- of their Republican opponents even with Obama's dismal numbers in their states and the tough historical realities of a second midterm election of an Obama presidency. But, if you look at their poll numbers, both incumbents are in the low to mid 40s (here's Pryor, here's Begich), not the upper 40s. And, if we really are looking at a 2006 redux in 26 days time then the large majority of those undecideds will break against the Pryors and Begiches -- leaving them well short of a majority of the vote.
3. Money alone didn't save Republicans.
One of the emergent storylines of the last few weeks is that Democrats are dominant on the TV airwaves and in the ground war, advantages that are and will continue to negate the difficulties of the map and the weight of history. And, yes, all things being equal, having a cash advantage is a very good thing in campaign. But, as Bolger's chart above of the overall spending in the 2006 cycle shows, when things aren't all equal money matters less than you might think.
Of course, all of the above is dependent on 2014 playing out along the same lines as 2006. And, it might not. But, the similarities between the two cycles are hard to miss -- or dismiss.