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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A ‘Magic’ Number for the Midterms

One of the great hobbies of political junkies everywhere is the search for the magic indicator, the polling statistic that predicts more accurately than any other who is going to win. At CNN Politics, Peter Hamby reports on one such number:

The number making Mike Podhorzer anxious these days is 15…That’s the lead Democrats have over Republicans among working class voters in the final days of the 2014 midterm elections, according to his polling at the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation. That might seem good for Democrats, but in modern times, the party always wins voters making $50,000 or less….For Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director and one of the Democratic party’s top thinkers on voter turnout, it’s the spread that matters.

Quibble if you will that defining working-class voters as those earning under $50K is a tad simplistic. It doesn’t factor in race, for example. But “the under $50Ks” is a good as any demographic to eyeball as campaigns progress, if you know where to draw the line. Hamby points out that Dems won in 2012 with a 22 percent spread with the less than $50Ks, vs. the 11 percent spread they had in 2010 when they lost bad. He continues:

The 55-40 lead Democrats are clinging to among people making under $50,000 is wider than the 50-39 lead they had earlier this summer, making this year’s outcome harder to predict. Podhorzer said it does explain why Democrats are still in the hunt heading into next Tuesday, suggesting that next week’s election won’t resemble the GOP tidal wave of 2010.

The idea is to look for the spread in individual election polls. Magic number notwithstanding, Hamby adds,

Podhorzer, an engineer of the progressive movement’s superior voter turnout machinery, said the battle on election day will be about get-out-the-vote mechanics.
He framed the contest as a test of the GOP’s “wholesale GOTV” — paid media and base enthusiasm in a good Republican year — versus the “retail GOTV” of the Democratic coalition that relies on the party’s technological advantages and focuses on person-to-person contact…
…”The Democrats’ retail GOTV has gotten much, much stronger than in 2010, when the base was even more disillusioned,” he said. “Democrats will do a better job on retail GOTV, and have more of the personal networks on the ground to pull people out. It’s going to be interesting to see how effective that can be.”

The 15 point spread with the under $50Ks is a good polling indicator for how things are going in individual races and it can be helpful in telling campaigns where to put their resources. But to win, Dems will have to set a new midterm standard in retail GOTV, while keeping in competitive in ads, debates, speeches and the other elements of wholesale GOTV.

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