Quotes of the day

Republicans have expanded their advantage in the final days of the midterm campaign and now hold an 11-point lead among likely voters on the question of which party should control Congress, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey finds.

Some 52% of likely voters in the survey said they wanted the election to produce a Republican-led Congress, while 41% favored Democratic control.

A week earlier, Republicans had held a narrower, 5-point lead on the question in the Journal/NBC/Annenberg survey.

“The Democrats, who badly need some momentum, find little comfort in these results some ten days out from the election,” said pollster Peter D. Hart, who helped conduct the survey. “The thread holding things together for them is both more slender and now even frayed.”

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A daunting reality looms for President Barack Obama’s Democrats ahead of U.S. congressional elections on Tuesday: Voters from the Republican Party are much more fired up…

About 55 percent of Republicans are certain they will vote, compared with 47 percent of Democrats, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data for an online survey of 1,725 voters conducted Oct. 25-30. The poll had a credibility interval of 4.2 percentage points for Democrats and 4.8 points for Republicans.

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In a late move to bolster their advantage, Republicans and their allies are investing in additional House races that they now see as in play, a sign that the political climate is tilting toward the GOP ahead of next week’s elections.

The last-minute maneuvering has the potential, if races break their way, to bring Republicans closer to the 12-seat gain needed to match the party’s post-World War II record of holding 246 House seats. Democrats, aware of the headwind against them, have withdrawn money recently from some GOP-held districts and redirected it largely to endangered incumbents in an effort to limit GOP gains.

“The national numbers have been poor for Democrats for months, but now Republicans are finding potential opportunities in places where previously they didn’t think they had much of a chance,” said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

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With President Barack Obama’s unpopularity hindering their candidates and Republican cash flooding into races across the country, Democrats are increasingly worried that the election will push them deep into the minority and diminish their hopes of winning back the majority in 2016 or beyond.

Looking to contain the damage, Democrats are pumping money into liberal congressional districts that were long thought to be safely in their column. Over the last several days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has directed resources to maintain seats in Hawaii and Nevada, both of which broke sharply for the president in 2012 — an indication of just how much the terrain has shifted against the party over the past two years.

Other unexpected races are suddenly in play. Some Democrats, for example, have begun to worry about the prospects of California Rep. Lois Capps, an eight-term congresswoman who is typically a lock for reelection but who now finds herself in a competitive race against Republican Chris Mitchum, a perennial candidate and the son of the late actor Robert Mitchum. In a sign of how seriously national Democrats are taking the threat, the DCCC is making a last-minute purchase of $99,000 worth of radio advertising in the Santa Barbara area to boost Capps, according to a committee aide.

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In fact, congressional Democrats are facing their highest disapproval rating in at least the last 20 years, at 67 percent. Meanwhile, 30 percent approve of the job congressional Democrats are doing…

Democrats appear to be suffering from declining support among African Americans, who are about evenly split on the party, with 50 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.

Another big difference between the two parties has been the GOP base’s reluctance to support its congressional contingent. But, at this point, both party bases feel about the same when it comes to their congressional representatives. Democrats approve of their party 56-42, while Republicans approve 55-38.

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Democrats are nervously counting on an enduring edge among female voters in most states to prevent a Republican rout in Tuesday’s elections. Yet so great is the uncertainty that even before the returns are in, some are second-guessing the party’s strategy of focusing more on issues like abortion and birth control than on jobs and the economy.

The danger for Democratic candidates is that their advantage among women could be so reduced by dissatisfaction with President Obama and the country’s course that it is not enough to offset Republicans’ usual edge among the smaller population of male voters. Should that happen, a party pollster, Geoff Garin, acknowledged, “They’ll lose.”…

As for the party’s emphasis on women’s issues, he said, “If Democrats weren’t running on these issues, the situation would be much worse.”

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The real power of the rising GOP tide is going to be seen in the state legislatures.

The number of GOP supermajorities after this election will be astounding.

This has three big effects. It puts the GOP in charge of policy and forces it to become more solution oriented. It increases the GOP’s power in redistricting. It starves the Democrats of junior incumbents to form a farm team for future big races. In some ways, the Democrats, after a 34-year drift going back to Reagan in 1980, are now moving toward the institutional weakness the Republicans had from 1932 to 1994…

There will clearly be a tide on election day, and the question is how high it will rise.

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There are no permanent majorities in American politics. For over a decade, Democrats have been salivating at the prospect of demographic changes propelling them to permanent majority status. Obama in particular has been active on this front, and has ruthlessly divided the country along race, gender, and class lines in the hope of speeding this process along. But he has overlooked two historical realities…

despite our political class’s pretensions to power, they remain mere pawns in a broader game designed by James Madison. Madison wanted a large republic precisely so demagogues could never build a fractious majority, as has been President Obama’s clear ambition. A society that covers a large space with many people actually makes it harder to do what this president has so long wanted. Per Madison: “Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.”

We are seeing this play out right now. Obama’s coalition in 2008 was relatively large—at 53 percent of the vote—but unstable. In a country as vast and diverse as ours, all such coalitions are bound to be unstable. And what we have seen is Republicans poach a critical mass of the Obama vote away, in 2010 and likely in 2014, to foil his agenda. Just as Madison might have expected. 

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The thing is, we know that many last-minute undecided voters ultimately decide not to vote.  But it doesn’t follow that these are apathetic voters. In fact, you can explain much of the above if it is the case that the voters who stayed home in 2012 were adults who fit the profile of likely voters, disapproved of the job that the president did, and ultimately decided that they didn’t care for the Republicans either and opted to stay home. 

In this sense, I think the large number of undecided voters — who almost certainly disapprove of the president by large margins — are a potential red flag for Republicans. At this point, what more can Republicans do to convince them to make up their minds? Mark Warner has been stuck in the high 40s/low 50s for several months now. In theory, Ed Gillespie should be making a race of it by now.  Yet he remains mired in the high 30s (although he has closed the gap somewhat).  There seems to be a substantial chunk of the Minnesota electorate that isn’t prepared to commit fully to Al Franken, yet isn’t excited about Mike McFadden.

If these voters ultimately opt disproportionately to stay home, it would transform an electorate where the president has a 42 percent job approval into one where he has a 46 percent job approval.  This probably wouldn’t be enough to save the Senate: Democrats who trailed would still lose, albeit by small margins.  But it would probably cap Republican gains in the House, and would probably transform an opportunity for a huge GOP night in the Senate into a modest wave of six or seven seats.

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State-by-state polls show continued Democratic control of the Senate to be highly tenuous.

With one caveat. Democrats could make it up with the so-called ground game (i.e., getting out the vote on Election Day) that polls do not measure. Just a fraction of the unprecedented success the Democrats enjoyed in 2012 in identifying and turning out their voters (especially young, female and minority) could shift the results by one or two points. That, in turn, could tilt several of the knife-edge, margin-of-error Senate races in their favor and transform what would otherwise be a Republican sweep into something of a stalemate…

The stage is set for a major Republican victory. If they cannot pull it off under conditions so politically favorable, perhaps they might consider looking for another line of work.

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There are three factors that may stand in the way of knowing which party is in the majority until weeks after the election. The first is the run-off in Louisiana. The second is the possibility of a run-off in Georgia. The third is a victory by independent Greg Orman in Kansas. Orman has not said which party he will caucus with and will not make his intentions known until after the Louisiana run-off if that race decides the majority. In reality, Orman would probably like to be in the position to decide which party will be in the majority, but it is unlikely to work out that way. So, while there is a chance we may know which party is in the majority when the race in Alaska is called at some point on Wednesday, it is equally possible that the majority won’t be clear until after the run-off in Louisiana or even a run-off in Georgia in January. And let’s not forget recounts. Given how close nine races are, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that one or two could be headed to recounts.

Given the national political environment and that the Senate race map favors Republicans, it’s not hard to see how they get the six seats they need to win the majority. At the same time, the known unknowns like run-offs and the Democrats’ ground game, make it easy to see how they could fall just short. Overall, we tend to believe that Republicans will get to 51 seats. Anything beyond that is very difficult, but not impossible if a bit of a wave develops in a couple of states.

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Via RCP.