March 21, 2014
By John Zogby
I am reading and watching a lot of the same crap as everyone else about the November 2014 elections. There is a growing consensus building that the Democrats led by the miserably and historically unpopular President Barack Obama will suffer catastrophic losses. Two former senior communications aides to Mr. Obama acknowledged as much this past week on the Sunday talk shows that I (and a few others only!) happened to catch. The Democrats are in real trouble.
The bloggers are just as sanguine – especially those who try to engage in the phony analytics that involve things if you look at the averages of the polls of presidents in the sixth year of the presidencies, in the month of March, with unemployment rates at such and such, foreign crises galore, losses of American honor and prestige, tables and charts, lots of blogging blah, blah, blah. Then you can’t help but conclude that the Democrats are done. Cancel the elections. Stop the ads. Fire the strategists. It is all over.
Enter the GOP pollsters and spinners. Obamacare is hugely unpopular in all of the key states where Democrat incumbents face strong challenges. President Obama looks weak in the eyes of the world. Hey, it’s true – the GOP polls say that.
Trust me. You just cannot make predictions in March. I know, I have tried it. Here is what I do know. There are clearly Democrats running for the Senate who are not polling well. Some are definitely in trouble. But many are most fortunate to be running against Republicans who are also in trouble. Listen to me: there is a revulsion against BOTH parties. Just because the Democrats are not polling well does not translate into Republicans polling better.
As a reminder, The GOP is structurally safe in the House. They need to win six net seats in the Senate to win control. Let’s look at the polls as of today. The GOP should clearly pick up three states without much dispute – West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota. Those are Republican states that Mitt Romney won handily. GOP candidates are far ahead in all three.
Then there are the states where the Democrats are clearly in trouble. Tops on this list are Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Udall in Colorado, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, and Mark Begich in Alaska. As of the latest polling out in the last two days, only Landrieu is behind in her race (by 4 points). None of the others are polling well, but their opponents have not caught on yet. In Colorado, Udall’s terrible 42% still leads his opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner by 2 points. Against five possible Republican opponents, Hagan leads two prospective opponents, is tied against two others, and is behind by 2 points against a fifth. Landrieu is hurting, but remember she has been here twice before and won both times. Pryor is tied at 46%, actually gaining a few points. Begich leads by 4 to 6 points in the two most recent polls in Alaska.
In two open seats currently held by Democratic Senators who are retiring – Iowa’s Tom Harken and Michigan’s Carl Levin – the Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley leads four possible opponents by 9 to 15 points and Democrat Rep. Gary Peters now leads Republican Terri Lynn Land (who has won statewide twice) by 3 points.
And then there are the “endangered” Democrats I don’t understand. Al Franken in Minnesota is ahead of four possible opponents by 8 to 12 points (and very close to 50%). Mark Warner of Virginia is polling over 50% over former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie 27 points. Jeanne Shaheen is in the same boat against former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown by 9 to 12 points, in both polls scoring 50%.
Then the GOP has to watch its back in Kentucky and Georgia.
In short, elections occur in November not March. Lots of things have to play out – Obamacare, the economy, Russia and the Ukraine, immigration reform and more. President Obama, to be sure, has no polling bragging rights, but the GOP in Congress is held much lower regard. As I have written before, if the turnout is like 2010, those Democrats will go down. If the turnout is somewhere between 2010 and 2012, then Democrats can hold on. Both parties have the same problem energizing their own base – hence the Democrats have to scare the hell out of young and minority voters by telling them their future is in jeopardy and the Republicans have to convince their minions that they really can win. Just don’t go to your bookie yet.