It’s A Hard-Knock Life. . .for Harry Reid

All of the punditry that says that the 2014 map is an issue for Democrats are right.

The main reason they are right?  Well, there are twelve states listed as 2014 lean or toss-up Senate races by Charlie Cook and his crack team at the Cook Political Report.  In 2012, Mitt Romney averaged 53.3{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of the vote in those twelve states while Barack Obama averaged just 44.8{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  Eight of the twelve were won by Romney in a not particularly stellar year.  I am using averages here because each Senate state is of equal value.  Larger states do not count for more.

While Republicans should not be measuring their drapes for the Senate majority offices just yet, key data in those lean/toss-up Senate seats from the early 2014 merge of the NBC/WSJ polling done by my business partner Bill McInturff and his Democratic counterpart Fred Yang at Hart Research serves as a measuring tape for a forecast of a Republican takeover.

The merge consists of 432 interviews across the twelve states.  A merge takes all the interviews from questions replicated over a time period (in this case January-April 2014) and combines them to allow a great in-depth look at subgroups.

When the political environment and issue questions from the four months are distilled to just the interviews in the swing Senate states, a problematic national political environment turns down right ugly for the chances of Democrats to hold onto the Senate.  Within those states, the data is significantly worse for Democrats (and thus obviously better for Republicans) on every measure.

Chart 1

The table shows that the problematic national picture for Democrats is worse in the 12 swing states.  Presidential approval is a net seven points worse.  Both Obama’s overall approval rating and his economic approval rating are below 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in the swing Senate states.  His personal favorability, which buoyed him in a potentially rocky 2012, is a net ten points worse in the swing Senate states.  His signature legislative accomplishment, Obamacare, is also a net ten points worse.

The NBC/WSJ question that is their proxy for a generic ballot, finds an eleven point lead for Republican control over Congress over preference for a Democratic controlled Congress – compared to a nationwide tie.

The political environment in the two GOP-held states underscores the difficulty Democrats face.  In Kentucky, Obama only got 37.8{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of the votes.  His public approval numbers are down to 33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  While the race is close now, Allison Grimes has to run approximately 18 points stronger than an Obama approval rating that will act as an anchor.  Besides, Mitch McConnell is currently fighting a two front war.  What happens when it becomes a one front war after the primary?  (For readers not good at history, ask Japan how it worked out for them when the USA was no longer fighting a two front war in 1945!).  In Georgia, there are three quality candidates (Jack Kingston, David Perdue, and Karen Handel), and two of them are likely to make the run-off.  Once a nominee is chosen, Michelle Nunn will be running uphill in a 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama state.  Winning both Kentucky and Georgia means the Republicans have to go six for ten in the remaining toss-up seats.

The five seats Republicans have gift-wrapped to Democrats in the last two election cycles serve as a bitter reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.  Candidate quality matters a great deal in toss-up races.  However, a great political environment attracts strong candidates, and that is what has happened in states like North Carolina, West Virginia, South Dakota, Michigan, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Colorado (note: Public Opinion Strategies is polling for either candidates or SuperPACs in seven of the eight races mentioned).

Races ebb and flow – especially between now and Labor Day.  And, some endangered candidates survive in every cycle that is particularly one-sided.  But, the riptide of the change-oriented political environment runs strong and deep, and this year it is going to sweep a number of Senate Democrats out to sea.

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls.  Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)

Public Opinion Strategies