The Democracy Corps recent Congressional Battleground survey provides surprising insights into the upcoming midterm election. In the most contested battleground districts, Democrats can defy the conventional wisdom that they are doomed to lose seats in an off-year election if they remain on the right side of issues, particularly among seniors.
In general, the poll finds that the “toxic brands” of the Republican and Tea Party has allowed the Democratic Party to gain a six-point favorability lead. The ground underneath Republicans is being exposed as soft, as the country tires of Tea-Party gridlock, indifference to violence against women, and politicians protecting the wealthiest.
Democrats need to consider how big the battleground is and act accordingly. Overall, the survey found that Democrats actually stand to gain around eight seats in 2014.
“To be honest, this poll surprised us,” said a report by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “It shows Democrats could at least replicate the net gain of 8 seats they achieved in 2012.”
What may also be surprising is who is driving this trend. Most analysts predict any gains will result from overwhelming turnout of the “Rising American Electorate” — unmarried women, racial minorities and millennials — because they will comprise more than 52 percent of the vote and tend to lean left. The Democracy Corps survey says otherwise.
“The Rising American Electorate of young people, minorities, and unmarried women are not yet a big factor in helping Democrats because of their presumed lower turnout, but also because unmarried women are not voting Democratic in landslide numbers and not as engaged as other voters,” the report said.
Instead, seniors are predicted to secure seats for Democrats because of their disproportionately high turnout in off-year elections. This comes as a remarkable change, since seniors settled in against Democrats in 2009 and supported Republicans heavily in the disastrous 2010 midterm election.
Why the change of heart? The poll points to the Republican Party’s continual efforts to dismantle Social Security, cut Medicare, and repeal health care reform. Republicans in Congress have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 37 times; voters are becoming increasingly annoyed as they view their efforts as a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
The biggest issue respondents have with the Republican Party’s brand image is their preference to side with the rich and big corporations over middle-class Americans. Voters, rightfully so, perceive Republican members of Congress as rich, out of touch and unwilling to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to protect the vulnerable.
“By impressive margins, voters in these Republican districts want to vote for a Member of Congress who will ask the wealthy to pay a great share of taxes to address our problems, invest in the middle class, and reduce the deficit,” the report said.
Voters also see Republicans as the main driver of gridlock in Washington and the ones keeping our country from achieving progress. More than half (64 percent) believe their Republican incumbents need to work with President Obama, instead of solely being focused on blocking his agenda: “An uncompromising Republican Congress, only focused on blocking Obama’s agenda, ranks among voters’ top concerns in these districts.”
Although the survey looks favorable for Democrats in 2014, it shows Democrats would still fall short of the 17 seats they need to regain control of the House. And they still have a considerable amount of work to do so they do not suffer losses in their own 31 battleground districts.
For Democrats to keep this edge, they need to meet voters on the issues they are most concerned about and clearly separate themselves from failed conservative ideology. This includes championing progressive tax reform, the repeal of the sequester, the creation of jobs to strengthen the middle class and the protection of entitlement programs. Members of Congress supporting a chained CPI and embracing other anti-growth austerity measures won’t get far in 2014.