Today, I’ve got a lot of thoughts. If you’re a Democrat or progressive, they aren’t encouraging. Some stem from news stories over the past week and others from a poll that I stumbled upon on Wednesday.
Overall, I think the political environment in general has taken a turn for the worse for Democrats. Inflation is just too much of an overriding problem for Americans to focus on other dilemmas facing the country. They are sliding back into fairly normal campaign mode where the economy is going to be the driving factor in the election and the party in the White House is going to get the blame.
The news that inflation did not subside despite the sharp increases in interest rates led me to that conclusion, but it was backed up by the poll I found. Several days ago, I clicked on a link in a Twitter post that took me to a document cloud that seems to be a dumping ground for all kinds of uploaded files. Some are mundane press releases by government agencies or campaigns. Some are reports that have been released to the media.
The poll was one of those documents. It’s a CNN poll that said Embargoed until 6:00 am Thursday, October 13. I later found a CNN write up of the poll that’s good, but didn’t seem to get much attention.
The poll offered a glimpse of registered voters, likely voters, and voters in competitive Congressional races. The toplines that focused on likely and registered voters looked pretty good. Democrats hold a three-point lead in the generic ballot in both polls. However, a deeper dive into the cross-tabs and a look at competitive Congressional races shows trouble.
In competitive Congressional districts, Republican hold a one-point lead, according the poll. The most troubling numbers come from two groups. Among 18-34 year olds, Democrats hold only a seven-point lead. Those voters should be among the strongest Democrats and gave the party an almost 30 point advantage in 2018. Among White, college educated voters, Democrats hold an 11-point edge, but among White, non-college educated voters they face a 29-point deficit, which holds among all registered voters, too. Independents also break for Republicans in the competitive districts 35-31.
In enthusiasm, Democrats are suddenly getting crushed. Among Democrats in competitive Congressional districts, only 49% say they are enthusiastic about voting while 65% of Republicans say they are enthusiastic. Only a third of voters under 49 years old are enthusiastic to vote and 58% of voters 50-64, the most Republican cohort, are enthusiastic. Finally, 56% of White voters are enthusiastic about voting while only 34% of people of color are fired up.
The poll highlights the key weakness of the Democratic coalition. Younger voters are an unreliable base. While they carried Democrats in 2018, according to this poll, they are likely to give Republicans a much higher share of their vote this year while coming out in much lower numbers. It’s just one poll, but it’s not encouraging.
In other news, watching the conclusions of the January 6 Committee is utterly depressing. The President of the United States quite clearly tried to organize a coup to keep himself in power. Yet, he will likely never be held accountable because a majority of one party lives in alternative reality where up is down, winning is losing, and the sky green and the rest of the party will indulge their delusions in return for political gain. The GOP is unwilling to hold anyone in their in own party accountable. Even the ones who will criticize the craziest Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz, won’t criticize those who give Trump and his criminal cabal a pass.
Finally, Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate are in trouble. In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman’s interview with NBC will likely hurt his candidacy. Fetterman, who had a stroke earlier this year, used a computer to assist in the interview, reading the questions before responding to them. The interviewer, Dasha Burns, made a leading and unnecessary comment before the interview aired, saying she wasn’t sure Fetterman understood their conversation prior to the beginning of the interview.
While Burns should never have made that comment, Fetterman’s health and cognitive ability will take center stage in the weeks leading up to the election. Unfortunately, that’s politics and a candidate’s health and mental acuity is fair game. Fetterman may be fully capable of performing the duties of U.S. Senator, but it’s up to his campaign to prove that case now—or figure out how to make it a non-issue in the minds of voters.
His opponent, Dr. Oz, on the other hand, is in the process of redefining himself, looking more moderate and saying less stupid stuff. Last month, he declared he would have certified the election in 2020, taking away an attack that he might be an election denier. Yesterday, he said he agrees with Biden on marijuana reform and says he opposes mandatory minimums. Right now, he seems to have the momentum heading into the final four weeks of the race.
In Wisconsin, incumbent Republican Ron Johnson seems to be breaking away from Democrat Mandela Barnes. Polls show his small lead starting to grow. Barnes is calling for support from Democrats like Barack Obama and Kamala Harris. He’s ratcheting up attacks on Johnson for his role in January 6, while Johnson is attacking him as soft on crime.
While Democrats don’t need to win either race to hold the Senate as long as Democratic incumbents win in Georgia and Nevada, they need an insurance state. They should be moving into North Carolina and/or Ohio to at least expand the field.
Overall, the second week of October is worrisome for Democrats. The momentum and enthusiasm they felt in the summer is fading. The electorate is falling back into familiar patterns and the fundamentals are re-establishing themselves. There’s still time for political winds to shift, since neither side seems poised for a wave, but Republicans won the week.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. Republished from PoliticsNC.com. Originally published Oct. 14.