The Great Big End-of-September Midterm-Election Roundup
We’re weeks from Election Day. I have bad news and good news for Republicans.
I am told by some campaign consultants that for much of the past two years, Republican donors have felt a malaise. You see it in both the individual campaign fundraising numbers, the committee fundraising numbers, and the spending by outside groups.
A lot of wealthy Republican donors – or even a not-so-wealthy Republican donors – are asking if it’s worth it. They dug deep to help out their favorite candidates in 2012, and watched their guys lose – Romney, of course, but also a slew of seemingly winnable Senate races. They’re not sure their donations do much good. They’re increasingly wondering if the American political system is a lost cause, if the electorate has become addicted to Democrats’ vote-buying spending programs, too tuned out to care about scandals, oblivious to serious problems and getting their political views shaped by Hollywood and pop culture.
This doesn’t even get into the issue of fearing an IRS audit or being publicly demonized, like the Koch brothers.
Of course, this depression, malaise, and hesitation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
After being burned by the surge in Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts in 2012, pundits, pollsters, and prognosticators are understandably jittery about projecting GOP victories. When things looked grim for Obama’s reelection in 2011 and early 2012, his campaign simply went out and registered more voters among demographics likely to support the president.
One big push was among African-Americans . . .
The campaign has, for example, a major initiative aimed at turning barbershops and beauty parlors into voter registration offices. This week, Kimora Lee Simmons’ E! Network reality show, “Life in the Fab Lane,” carried a campaign ad at the bottom of the screen reminding citizens to register to vote . . .
And while Obama’s campaign talks little about its field efforts, there’s a quiet buzz of excitement about the shape of new voter registration. One junior Democratic staffer doing last-minute registrations in a swing-state suburb Monday told Politico that though his area was about 10 percent black, new registrants that day — the final day to register — were about half black.
Early statistics provide tentative support to the notion of a black voter surge disproportionate even to the massive turnout expected across the board in November.
And another key group was Latinos, particularly in Nevada, Virginia, and Florida:
For almost every battleground state on the map, Obama’s team can marshal data, showing they’ve registered impressive numbers of new voters and increased the weight of Latino and black voters in the electorate. Where Republicans anticipate less enthusiasm from minority voters than in the 2008 election, Obama’s team expresses total certainty that there will be more non-white voters at the polls this year than ever . . .
A Latino Decisions poll at the start of October found Obama leading Romney among Nevada Latinos by 63 points — even more than his national lead. As both parties work to run up a lead in early voting, the Obama campaign said Thursday that “two in three Nevada early voters are women, young people, African-American or Latino.”
Obama’s using comparable math in other states, like Virginia, where a winning Obama coalition would rest heavily on the state’s expanding Latino and Asian vote, an already-significant African American population and strong support from women in Northern Virginia. In Colorado and Florida, too, the president hopes a similar formula applies.
It worked wonders for Democrats, as we saw. The turnout rate among blacks exceeded that of whites for the first time.
After 2012, Democrats boasted that the terrific hyper-micro-targeting, get-out-the-vote operation was now fully operational, and would assure victory everywhere and forever, or at least until Republicans could start winning a significant number of minority votes. Of course, there was a hitch in that theory: Can you get the voters of the Obama coalition to show up when Obama wasn’t on the ballot? They didn’t for Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Martha Coakley, nor a slew of Democrats in the 2010 midterms.
But the first test run, in 2013, offered a bit of a hiccup. First, Democrats wrote off the gubernatorial race in New Jersey against Chris Christie. Then the Virginia governor’s race offered another imperfect testing ground, Based on the enormous fundraising advantage, and the unpopularity of the government shutdown, Democrat Terry McAuliffe should have won in a landslide, and led in the polls all summer long. But one month before Election Day, Healthcare.gov debuted and promptly melted down – and the political environment changed rapidly. Terry McAuliffe, big-time favorite, eked out a victory by 2.5 points.
Was that a sign that the Obama turnout machine can work, even in a bad political environment? Or does McAuliffe’s thin margin indicate that he had built up enough of an enormous advantage to hold on? Or was Ken Cuccinelli – the Northern Virginia state attorney general who had built up a reputation as a social-conservative crusader – a uniquely bad candidate for the circumstances of that year?
Even if the Obama turnout machine can still work . . . how much does it help in states with limited numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics? Some of the Southern states – Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina have somewhat sizeable African-American populations. Only Colorado has a sizable Latino population. But beyond that, it’s some deeply white states: Alaska, Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota . . .
And will these groups of voters show up for just any candidate? Can you get African-American voters to come out in huge numbers for Michelle Nunn? Can you get Hispanic voters to come out in huge numbers for Mark Udall?
There’s this ominous indicator: “Democrats have invested several million dollars in both North Carolina and Colorado for this ground game. Republican spending in those states so far has tended to focus on broadcast advertisements and direct mail.”
For what it’s worth, there are some fissures between the organizations claiming to speak on behalf of Hispanics and the most endangered red-state Senate Democrats:
“The advocacy organizations want people to vote, and I want people to vote, but if you’re a Latino in North Carolina, and the president delayed his decision to help Kay Hagan in her election, why would you go vote for Kay Hagan?” said Gary Segura, Latino Decisions co-founder. Hagan, a Democrat, is in a competitive race against Republican Thom Tillis.
Anyway, on to the indisputable good news for Republicans: In just about every Senate race that matters, last week brought at least one highly regarded poll showing exactly what a Republican wants to see.
In Alaska, Dan Sullivan has led the past four polls.
In Arkansas, Tom Cotton has led 11 of the past 13 polls.
In Colorado, Quinnipiac put Cory Gardner ahead, 48 percent to 40 percent.
In Iowa, the Des Moines Register poll put Joni Ernst ahead, 44 percent to 38 percent. NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell is openly calling Democrat Bruce Braley “a terrible candidate.”
In Louisiana, a runoff between Democrat incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy is virtually assured. Cassidy led the last four polls of the runoff.
Those five, just right there, along with the expected GOP wins in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, would give the GOP a eight-seat pickup. Republicans could lose in Kansas and still keep the Senate. In Kansas, voters are still digesting the fact that the Democrat dropped out and getting to know “independent” Greg Orman. No one has polled this race in ten days, and the GOP is pulling out the stops to save Pat Roberts.
And we’ve got more races to go . . .
In New Hampshire, CNN had Scott Brown tied with Jeanne Shaheen.
In Michigan, Republicans can be frustrated that Terri Lynn Land hasn’t led any poll recently. But Democrat Gary Peters’s share of the vote is actually declining from the mid-40s to the low 40s, with a lot of undecideds left out there.
In North Carolina, Thom Tillis can’t quite get the lead over incumbent Kay Hagan, but she’s consistently in the mid-40s or even low 40s – a very precarious spot for an incumbent.
Beyond Kansas, Democrats hopes for picking up a GOP seat are evaporating. In Georgia, David Purdue has led four of the past five polls. In Kentucky, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has led every poll since June.
In the House, everybody’s expecting a small gain for Republicans. Larry Sabato:
We talked to senior Democrats and Republicans involved in the House contests to inform this report, as well as some of our fellow analysts and journalists (all were given anonymity so they could speak freely). We asked each source to give his or her best guess as to what the net change in House seats would be on Election Day. The guesses were generally in the range of a five-to-eight seat GOP net gain — the same as ours — with a low guess of Republicans adding two seats to a high guess of Republicans adding nine.
So 235 to 240, maybe 245 House Republicans? A nice total, probably pretty close to the natural ceiling for the GOP.
We can go over the gubernatorial races tomorrow. But the bottom line is, the ingredients are coming together for not just GOP control, but potentially a big, big year for Republicans. But it requires everybody to get active and give 110 percent between now and Election Day.