A new CNN/ORC poll indicates that the Democrats have been unable to overcome the apathy that threatens to keep much of the party’s traditional voters home this November.
According to that poll’s survey of registered voters’ preference on the generic congressional ballot – a measure of voter enthusiasm that traditionally favors Democrats – the president’s party maintains a two-point lead over the GOP at 47 to 45 percent. However, among those who voted in 2010, a filter CNN/ORC uses to determine who are most likely to vote in November, the GOP holds a four-point advantage over Democrats at 49 to 45 percent.
When CNN/ORC switched over to a likely voter screen in October, 2010, they found that Republicans held a seven-point advantage (52/45 percent) over Democrats on the generic congressional ballot question. Republicans went on to gains 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate.
“Younger Americans, women and non-whites score low on questions that ask them whether they are likely to vote. But on questions about how interested they are in the 2014 elections, women are not much different than men, non-whites are not that much different than whites, and people under 35 years old are not much different than people between 35 and 65 years of age,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “The task for the Democrats is not to get those voters to pay attention to this year’s election – the party faces the much more difficult task of turning that attention into enthusiasm for voting.”
The problem of low Democratic enthusiasm for the upcoming midterm elections has been a constant feature of the 2014 cycle’s political landscape, but the party’s solution remains the same.
The president’s party seems to have settled on an all-of-the-above strategy for increasing their base voters’ interest in the midterms. From the issues of income inequality, to family planning, to the environment, to campaign finance reform and the infamous Koch brothers, Democrats have paid homage to virtually every liberal shibboleth this cycle to no avail.
In March, Senate Democrats held an “all-nighter” in which they bemoaned the issue of climate change. Some observed that this was a dual purpose spectacle aimed at both energizing voters and maintaining the faith of liberal billionaire donor Tom Steyer. A few of those Democrats who participated in this modern equivalent of a rain dance lamented that the event did not make the splash they had hoped.
“If you were looking for reassurance that somebody took this seriously in Washington, you weren’t finding much,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) told CNN. Perhaps Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) reading aloud from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax on the Senate floor contributed to the fact that so few took this nakedly political event seriously.
The Democratic campaign against the libertarian Koch brothers represents another feeble effort to energize the Democratic base. Don’t tell Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who manages to work a denouncement of the sibling businessmen into his traditional holiday greetings, but that effort has also been met with muted successes. Perhaps a union-led effort in New York City to picket a hospital which recently constructed a new wing partially funded by a $100 million Koch donation helped blunt that campaign.
In fact, the Democratic effort to find a theme that resonates with their base voters has been so scattershot that even the political press has stopped reporting on them credulously.
Monday’s Working Families Summit, in which members of the administration urged Congress to focus on passing mandatory paid family leave and affordable child care.
“It’s no secret that Democrats’ midterm election strategy is to pitch to women to get the women to come out to vote,” CNN’s Kate Bolduan asked the president on Monday. “They have said that.”
“Yeah,” Obama conceded.
“Is this all politics?” she followed up.
Obama replied by noting that he has a mother, a grandmother, a wife, and two daughters – all of whom have or will have to work in order to support a family.
“This is not just a women’s issue,” Obama said. “It’s a middle class issue and an American issue.”
Meanwhile, the Fed recently cut America’s expected rate of growth in 2014 to an anemic 2 percent. The gains Americans made in Iraq are collapsing with shocking alacrity. Fears about the Affordable Care Act continue to stimulate the law’s opponents more than hopes about the law encourage its supporters. Government continues to expand while Americans’ incomes shrink.
Incidentally, a Bloomberg poll conducted from June 6 to 9 indicates that unemployment, health care, a decline in real income, and the federal deficit are the issues respondents rated as the “most important” facing the country.
Partisan liberals may be inspired to vote in November by demonizing conservative donors or promising them federally funded daycare, but they were most likely going to turn out anyway. As long as Democrats appear unable or unwilling to address Americans’ top priorities, they will be unable to expand their universe of potential midterm voters.