In a meeting this past Sunday, the partners of the firm were discussing some of the key trends we are seeing that are shaping this election. With 35 days left to go, we thought it would be helpful to share our thoughts about what we are hearing and learning from around the country with GOP campaigns.
Attacks on Democrats matter more. This is what happened to us in 2006 and 2008, remember? Almost anything Democrats said about Republicans was accepted as truth. The same situation exists today, but Democrats are the ones suffering the consequences. Very simple, fact-based presentations are devastating to Democrats. We do not have to get too creative in making our case, and voters appreciate the straight-forward approach.
The economy is not turning around for Americans. Voters scoff at the notion that the recession is over. Over for whom? People in communities around the country can all point to those who have lost jobs, cannot find a job, have had their home foreclosed upon, who struggle paying the bills. The recession is still very real for a large swath of America. Republicans should pound on any Democrat who suggests “progress” is being made, or things are turning the corner.
Politicians just don’t get it. Voters are intensely frustrated – it does not matter who they elect, they say politicians really cannot understand their life circumstances and the challenges they face. This goes for Republicans and Democrats. This is not an election about the Republican Party vs. the Democratic Party. Voters don’t like either.
Voters cannot stand Nancy Pelosi. The reaction is almost visceral. Independent voters cringe in focus groups and openly express their strong dislike in surveys. She is more dangerous for Democrat incumbents than the President. What makes her so loathed? Pelosi epitomizes the Left run amok. Voters say Pelosi has no respect for the values of this country, she would legalize all illegal immigrants and she is an advocate for gay marriage. Pelosi is so disliked that she is even (negatively) impacting Democrat candidates at the state legislative level as a part of a general anti-Democrat theme.
We wanted change, but not this. It’s a common refrain in focus groups. In 2008, voters had hope and thought they were voting for change. They had no idea what that change would look like … until now. Now they know what change looks like in the Obama-Pelosi regime, and they are experiencing a heavy dose of buyer’s remorse. It’s health care mandates, higher taxes, and wasteful spending topping the list.
The Broken Promise Democrats. Working hand-in-glove with the “change” message of 2008 was a promise to be different and make things better. Clearly that has not happened. Democrats who have “broken a promise” made in 2008 are especially vulnerable this year. It entirely undermines their credibility and hurts as badly as any “bad vote” a Democrat may have made.
Checks and balances. The check and balance message works very well, but not enough Republican campaigns are using that message. “Given the Democrats recent record of spending and growing the size and scope of government, send me to Washington to provide badly needed balance.” That message also helps combat the “party of No” message the Dems like to use.
The enthusiasm gap: Republican intensity continues to outpace Democrat. We keep waiting for the election interest gap to close but it’s not tightening much yet. Clearly it still could and some of the close races will get even tighter – but right now the GOP is on course for a two-three point added advantage from the enthusiasm gap.
Independent men. Independent men are looking more and more like Republican men in their attitudes and opinions – extremely frustrated and in the mood for change. That alters the target universe a little bit for us to focus on Independent women who are the battleground in many races this cycle.
Obama has let them down. It’s a personal thing many voters feel … they trusted him, they believed in him and he has not lived up to their expectations.