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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Battleground Poll: From the Generic to the Specific

It’s one thing to read the many polls showing Republicans with an advantage in the so-called “generic congressional ballot.” It’s another thing altogether to see that advantage reflected in data on specific congressional districts. That’s why the new NPR Battleground survey, jointly conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, is worth a worried look by Democrats.
This poll, as its name suggests, focuses on marginal House districts. Given the two consecutive pro-Democratic “wave” elections of 2006 and 2008, it’s not surprising that 60 of these 70 districts are currently held by Democrats. But as a group they are Republican-leaning (the likely voters polled overall gave a plurality to John McCain in 2008), in part because of their basic nature and in part because of a notable “enthusiasm gap” between voters of the two parties.
In any event, Republicans currently hold a 49-41 advantage in the “battleground” districts overall, and more alarmingly, a 47-42 advantage in the Democratic-held districts. Moreover, President Obama’s approval-disapproval ratio in the battleground districts is a terrible 40-54.
The “enthusiasm gap” strongly reinforces an already-strong upward skewing of the age demographics of likely voters. 38% of the respondents to this poll are over 60; only 9% are under 30.
Greenberg expressed hopes that this poll will convince Democrats from the White House on down to articulate a forward-looking economicthat sharply contrasts their values with those of Republicans:

“What I’m hoping that this poll brings about is that the Democrats are running with a much more effective economic message, which talks about who they fought for, and what they are engaged in now,” Greenberg said. “And that may also come out of the president’s speech this week, where I think as well he will be talking about not so much a grade for past performance but what he intends to do on energy and the Gulf.”

Developing and articulating that message won’t be easy. The NPR survey shows Republican messages on federal spending, the stimulus package, “bailouts,” and even financial regulation, as attracting majority support in the battleground districts.
It’s time to get deadly serious about giving potential Democratic voters good reasons to turn out and vote Democratic this November.

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