What the Gardner and Tillis Campaigns Are Thinking Right Now
I talked to a consultant who’s plugged in to the Republican Party’s efforts in the Senate races in Colorado and North Carolina.
For obvious reasons, he’s feeling good about Cory Gardner’s effort in Colorado, noting that Republicans continue to hold a big lead in early voting.
The October 27 numbers for early voting indicate that the returned ballots are 42.8 percent from registered Republicans, 32.4 percent from registered Democrats, and 26.9 percent from voters who are unaffiliated. In 2010, Republicans led the early vote 39.5 percent to 33.6 percent over Democrats.
In terms of raw numbers, 281,638 registered Republicans have voted so far, 213,738 Democrats, and 163,311 unaffiliated.
This consultant said that unlike with Ken Buck in 2010, the Republican base is rock-solid with Gardner, more than 90 percent of Republicans supporting him. (According to CNN’s exit poll, Buck won 89 percent of self-identified Republicans, while Democrat Michael Bennet won 94 percent of Democrats.) Udall is getting 90 percent of Democrats, and the independents break slightly to Udall; as noted before, Colorado independents are more Democratic-leaning than in other states.
He doesn’t expect Republicans to keep the ten-point lead throughout early voting, but he says it’s good place to be in at this stage of the early vote. The final turnout number should be somewhere around 2 million, not 2.3 million – so with 657,000 votes cast, close to a third of the vote is already in.
In North Carolina, the outlook for Thom Tillis has brightened somewhat. After he consistently trailed by about three points through most of September and early October, Tillis and incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan are tied in the latest NBC News/Marist poll and the latest Survey USA poll.
This consultant thinks that the ads from liberal outside groups in favor of Hagan may actually be backfiring. A key part of Hagan’s message for this reelection bid is to emphasize – or at least claim – her centrism, her independence, her willingness to defy the liberal party line. Then the airwaves are suddenly full of ads touting Hagan and attacking Tillis from the political action funds of . . . Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, and unions’ groups.
“That’s the comparison we wanted!” the consultant chuckles. “Conservative vs. liberal is a better split for us than Republican vs. Democrat. ‘Conservative senator’ is the runaway favorite in what voters wanted, and Hagan had been trying to insist she’s a conservative. And now all these liberal groups are coming in [trying to reelect Hagan]. They don’t realize that it’s a dog whistle to independent voters.”
This consultant does have one or two variables keeping him up at night.
“We definitely need our ground game to work,” he says. “It’s been reinvented a lot since 2012. If they can turn out more low-propensity Democrats than they did in 2010, then we need to turn out more low-propensity Republicans this cycle than we did in 2010. There’s a really big opportunity here to win a lot of Senate seats. To do that, it doesn’t have to be a climate like 2010, but it needs to be close to that.”
Overall, this consultant suggests that the disappointing early vote numbers for Democrats in other states reflect that there are “a few” members of that party who are now begrudgingly recognizing that the Obama approach hasn’t worked. “It’s hard to generate enthusiasm for something that isn’t working,” he says, listing ISIS, Ebola, and the border crisis as “new and fresh reminders no one is running the shop.” Throw in the VA and the awful launch of Obamacare, and voters are concluding, “maybe these people just aren’t good at government.”