Public Opinion Strategies conducted a survey in 13 states with competitive U.S. Senate races as defined by the Cook Report. This survey, Public Opinion Strategies points out, is not the same as a generic ballot. It tested the specific candidates by name and party in every state but Colorado (where there are no clear primary front runners), in which case it tested the “Republican” versus the “Democratic” candidate. (In Florida, it included Charlie Crist as a candidate of no party affiliation.)
The results foreshadow enormous trouble for the Democrats in the midterm election, including these:
(1) The Republican candidate leads on the ballot 47%-39% across the 13 Battleground Senate states. The lead is 45%-37% in the Republican-held states (Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio), and 47%-40% in Democratic-held states (Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington).
(2) Independents are voting Republican by 47%-25% across the Battleground states.
(3) In the four states John McCain won in 2008, the GOPer leads 46%-36%. In the nine states Barack Obama won, the GOPer still leads 47%-40%, including 50%-38% in the five states Obama won with less than 55%, and 43%-42% in the four Obama 55%+ states.
(4) There is a 21-point gender gap. Men are voting GOP 52%-33% while women split 42% GOP/44% Democratic.
(5) Democratic candidates face a wide disparity in terms of enthusiasm. Republicans lead 52%-36% among high-interest voters.
(6) Among Independents, only 21% say the nation is in the right direction, while 68% say it’s on the wrong track.
The bottom line from the survey?
Voters in the 13 Battleground Senate seats — five held by Republicans, eight by Democrats — want to vote for Republicans. Voters in the four seats held by Democratic incumbents are unhappy with those incumbents and are in a mood for change. Delving into the survey, the crosstab data shows even more of an opportunity for Republicans to make major gains in these U.S. Senate seats than even the positive topline data indicates. Independents are breaking heavily to the Republican candidates, and high interest voters provide significantly more support to the Republican candidates than the electorate overall. Democrats in these Battleground Senate races are not only facing an enthusiasm gap, they are also facing a message gap. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that they can make up for with money what they are losing on turnout interest and on message. But, as recent elections have once again shown, when voters are unhappy with the party running Washington, problems of message and turnout trump financial advantages. While some of the Democratic candidates in these thirteen Battleground Senate states may survive, given the way the electorate is moving against them, most of them will not.
Democratic lawmakers in the Age of Obama are becoming, in many instances and in many places, an endangered species. Change is coming; it’s just not the type of change liberals imagined.