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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New NPR Poll: Senate Battlegrounds Tilt to GOP, But ‘Could Tip Either Way’

From Maria Liasson’s post “Senate Battleground Tilts Republican, But Still Anybody’s Game” on NPR’s latest new poll of LV’s, conducted by Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic and Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps:

“The direction of the country is overwhelmingly perceived to be in the wrong direction. Barack Obama is exceedingly unpopular in the Senate battlegrounds,” he says. “The generic party preference for a Senate candidate favors the Republicans by three points. So the playing field still tilts strongly to Republicans in these 12 battleground states.”
Democrat Greenberg doesn’t try to sugarcoat the outlook for his party. But he points out that although not that much has changed since we last polled the Senate battleground in June, the president is a little more popular today, mostly because the public supports his military action against ISIS.
“The mood is bleak, the president’s not popular,” Greenberg says, “but it’s not entirely stable. That is, we’re looking at a president that is slightly improved. … The Democratic candidates, incumbents, are a net positive in their own personal favorability and their job approval. And so they’re clearly withstanding the trend that we’re talking about.”
There’s another phenomenon this year that shows up in the poll. In the battleground, Democrats and Republicans are equally energized, highly likely to vote, and they are not up for grabs. Big majorities of both parties say their minds are made up.
“But these elections are still within a point or two, and so despite this consolidation, the campaigns matter and can still impact both on preference and on turnout,” Greenberg says.
Ayres says he agrees. “Democrats are locked in, the Republicans are locked in, and that’s why it’s so important the independents prefer a generic Republican by 53 percent to 37 percent — 16-point preference,” he says.

Liasson adds, “But the poll also shows that Democrats have been successful at driving an agenda aimed at their top targets — female voters. Democrats in our poll rank a candidate’s position on women and women’s issues just behind the economy.” Ayers notes “there’s not yet evidence of a wave comparable to 2006 or 2010” and Greenberg notes that many recent elections have “broken at the end for Democrats, winning almost all the competitive Senate races.”
Liasson concludes, “History and the number of red states voting tells us that the GOP should win the Senate. But Republicans have fallen short of expectations in the past two cycles.”
Dems can also hope that the just-announced decline of the unemployment rate below 6 percent and other signs of economic recovery may also give their senate battleground candidates a little nudge, which could help tip a close race or two into blue territory (The poll shows that “Jobs/Economy” are still the top priority for voters of every stripe). But all indications are that a fierce GOTV effort remains the Dems best hope for holding their senate majority.

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