The Campaign Spot

‘People talk about the enthusiasm gap, but this cycle we’re also seeing a message gap.’

The takeaway from American Crossroads’s poll of Senate races — a small sample of 100 likely in each competitive state, but 1,300 overall — is that the outlook for Senate Democrats isn’t any better than that for House Democrats.

“On every message we tested, the Republican message performed very well, by about 5 to 12 points,” said Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the poll for American Crossroads. “People talk about the enthusiasm gap, but this cycle we’re also seeing a message gap. The three big factors in campaigns are usually enthusiasm, message, and money. This cycle, money favors the Democrats, but Republicans learned in 2006 that money only takes you so far.”

The poll used the same questions on messages as an NPR poll of competitive House districts earlier this year. The states surveyed were Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

On a conference call, Charlie Cook asked the pollsters that if the political world woke up on November 3 and found more modest GOP gains than expected, what would be the likely cause?

Bolger chuckled, declaring, “I have seen this already just in the last two elections. No matter what Republicans did, it didn’t work. In this cycle, there’s a gubernatorial candidate, a campaign I’m not working on right now. Democrats went up right after the primary, attacked the GOP candidate for a month, and after that month, the data hadn’t changed. In 2006, we attacked Democrats, and the voters said, ‘You know what? The challenger gets the benefit of the doubt on that.’ We’re seeing Democrat attacks don’t have the same legs they had in 2006 or 2008, or even a more even year like 2004 or 2002 or 2000. The money will save some candidates — every cycle there are some — but they’ll be balanced out by the ones nobody saw coming.”

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