Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Democrats’ Growing Problems With Independent Voters on the Senate Map

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats expect a smooth ride for Braley, but should they? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the nation’s (and news media’s) focus on Malaysian Airlines flight 370 gave Democrats a couple of weeks to catch their collective breath, the 2014 election cycle continues to look increasingly dangerous for President Barack Obama and his party.

The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal (March 5-9) and CBS News/New York Times (Feb. 19-23) surveys contained little in the way of good news for Democrats — and recent GOP Senate recruiting successes in Colorado and New Hampshire put two more Senate contests into play.

Strategists in both parties agree that Democratic enthusiasm isn’t where it needs to be, especially when compared to GOP voters, who currently look eager to run into a burning building if that is what it takes to express their anger during the midterm elections.

The president’s job approval rating among Democrats stood at 74 percent in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and the Republican nature of the electorate in the Florida special election ought to be of considerable concern for Democratic operatives.

Democrats are counting on registering new Democratic voters in some states and turning out traditional Democratic constituencies (younger voters and Latinos, in particular) at a higher rate than in the past, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has promised to spend $60 million to put operatives on the ground in battleground states. Still, it isn’t clear that any of that will pay off in additional victories.

Attitudinally, independents once again more closely resemble GOP voters than Democrats.

The CBS News/New York Times survey found that while Democrats continued to approve of the president (76 percent approve), Republicans (only 7 percent approve) and independents (only 37 percent approve) did not, and while 60 percent of Democrats said the economy is “very good” or “fairly good,” only 17 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of independents agreed. In addition, Democrats were upbeat about the direction of the country, while Republicans and independents were not.

When independents were asked whether each party has “the same priorities for the country as you have,” 35 percent of respondents said the Republican Party does, while only 30 percent agreed that the Democratic Party does.

The last time independents looked that much like Republicans was during the 2010 midterm cycle, and they behaved like Republicans. That year, independents voted for Republican House candidates by a whopping 56 percent to 37 percent — a GOP advantage of 19 points.

Four years earlier, during the 2006 midterms, when a Democratic electoral wave sent a message of dissatisfaction to President George W. Bush and the GOP, independents voted Democratic by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent.

In the late February CBS News/New York Times survey, independents favored generic GOP candidates by 14 points over generic Democrats, 43 percent to 29 percent, even though Republicans had only a 3-point advantage among all respondents registered to vote.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found that among independents who don’t lean toward either party (admittedly only 14 percent of the electorate), Republicans held a 9-point advantage, 39 percent to 30 percent, with almost one-third of respondents not sure.

Democrats can hope that this cycle’s independents really are closet Republicans — presidential candidate Mitt Romney won independents by 5 points in 2012, according to the exit poll — but dismissing the president’s problems with independent voters seems like a risky strategy that looks dangerously like denial.

Obviously, a weak Democratic turnout combined with a strong advantage for the GOP among independents would produce the worst of all possible outcomes for Democrats. That’s why Democratic groups and allies are attempting to ratchet up certain themes and issues — the environment, minimum wage and the Koch brothers, for example — to try to boost Democratic enthusiasm.

Of course, the map continues to be a big part of Democrats’ problems, particularly in the fight for the Senate, where Republicans must net six seats to win the majority.

Seven of the 12 Republican Senate takeover opportunities are in states lost by Obama in 2012. Also, three of the four better GOP targets in states that went for Obama in 2012 — Colorado, New Hampshire and Iowa — were viewed as swing states throughout the 2012 presidential campaign.  (Virginia was also a swing state, while Michigan was always a longer shot for the GOP.)

Obama didn’t crack 42 percent of the vote in six GOP Senate targets — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — and he won Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and Virginia with less than 52 percent of the vote in each.

While Republicans aren’t likely to oust their foes in solidly Democratic states this November (though Sen. Mark S. Kirk did exactly that in Illinois in 2010), they certainly have a chance to win Senate contests in states that went for Obama only narrowly two years ago, as they did in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire during the president’s first midterm elections.

According to the exit poll in Iowa in 2012, Obama carried the state almost entirely because of his 14-point victory among independents. Had he lost independents by four or five points, he would have almost certainly lost the state. That ought to worry Democrats who now assume their Senate nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley, will coast to a victory in November against a less-than-intimidating GOP field.

Fortunately for Democrats, the elections won’t take place next week or next month. Things could improve for the president and his party, and Republican primary voters certainly could help undermine the GOP’s prospects in November.

But it is at least equally true that the political environment could deteriorate even further for Democrats. In four of the past seven midterm elections, the president’s party has lost six seats or more, and the current trajectory of the 2014 elections suggests losses of that general magnitude.

At this point at least, anything less would be a relief for Democrats.

  • OldmanRick

    74% of the dims have a favorable impression of the brat and his ineptitude. No wonder this nation is slipping into oblivion.

    • Jack

      They hate the rest of us more than they love their country. In fact, they don’t love their country….they love their party.

      • Scott Supak

        If you can’t argue with them, just make stuff up about them.

        I love my country a lot more than I hate the people responsible for lying us into a multi-trillion dollar war and the Little Bush Depression (Bush’s final GDP was NEGATIVE 9%, job losses were 800,000 per month when he left, and his NON-RECESSION months averaged 68,000 jobs/mo).

    • Scott Supak

      The multi-trillion dollar war of lies that blew our infrastructure money on Iraq, and the subsequent Little Bush Depression had nothing to do with this nation slipping into oblivion (which it’s obviously not)?

      • Scoop Jaxson

        Democrat presidents got about 655,000 Americans killed in warfare during the 20th century.

        • Scott Supak

          And which century are we in now, wingnut?

          Also, again, do your math to account for how many died in Nam under Nixon.

          • Scoop Jaxson

            The issue isn’t the century, it’s the number of Americans killed in warfare by democrat presidents.

            In the last 100 years, about 655,000 Americans killed by said democrat president.

            Liberalism is ☠

  • Scoop Jaxson

    If Floyd Corkins, Chris Dorner, Ed Schultz, Karl Pierson, Alan Grayson,
    John Muhammed, Hussein Obama, Lee Boyd Malvo, Demetrius Glenn, Lakim
    Faust, Allan Brauer, John Van Allen, Michael Davis, and Aaron Alexis are
    any indication, today’s liberals are becoming increasingly unhinged,
    violent, and aggressive.

    • Scott Supak

      “unhinged, violent, and aggressive.”

      Right, because we’re the ones who cooked the intelligence so we could lie the US into a multi-trillion dollar war that killed a half a million people.

      • Scoop Jaxson

        If you look at the actual history of US involvement in wars during the 20th century you find that the vast majority of them involve democrat presidents.

        All told, the democrat party got about 655,000 Americans killed between WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

        • Scott Supak

          This is exactly the kind of disingenuous Bullshit I expect from wingnuts. WWi was a century ago. Back then, the Democrats were racists, the Republicans were progressives, and to compare them today is the utmost in BS.

          If Pearl Harbor had been attacked when a Republican was President, are you saying they wouldn’t have joined WWII?

          Korea was at the early part of the cold war, and Republicans were all for it.

          Johnson sucked, and lied us into Nam, I agree. Generally, you don’t see hawks like that anymore, and again, the parties have changed quite a bit since then, a nuance lost on the likes of you, I’m sure.

          And a lot of those Vietnam fatalities should be put on Nixon.

          But your original comment suggested that “today’s” liberals are becoming violent. Show me the “bomb bomb bomb” Iran liberals. Show me the liberals who are actively calling for war against Iran, like Cheney just did. Show me the liberals who want to invade Syria, like McCain does.

          • Scoop Jaxson

            That doesn’t change the facts.

            The fact remains that democrat presidents got about 655,000 Americans killed in war during the 20th century.

          • Scott Supak

            Wrong again. Nixon was in charge of Vietnam from 69 to 73. Try again.

            But I love how you avoided all the other points. Tell me, do you think we shouldn’t have fought in WWII?

          • Scoop Jaxson

            Nixon ended the war in Vietnam.

          • Scott Supak

            Nixon did not end the war. Ford did. Nixon resigned before it was over.

            Nixon expanded the war, and illegally attacked Cambodia and Laos.

            But you didn’t answer the question. Do you think we shouldn’t have fought WWII?

          • Scoop Jaxson

            For all intents and purposes, Nixon ended the war in Vietnam. Even if Ford finally ended it officially, it’s still a Republican coming to clean up the mess left behind by JFK and LBJ.

            Do you know how many Americans were killed under counter-Constitutional progressive regime of quasi-marxist Woodrow Wilson?

    • Sally

      Right, because it is Democrats who wander around with various loaded weapons yelling”2nd Amendment!” and shooting their neighbors just because.

      • Scoop Jaxson

        If today’s liberals will callously murder the unborn, who won’t they attack?

        • Scott Supak

          You can’t murder a glob of cells, dumbass. You can kill 500,000 people in Iraq by lying about WMD and ties to Al Qaeda that don’t exist. In fact, you wingnuts did exactly that.

          But please, tell me how you’re going to force women to give birth to their rapists’ babies. Future female voters would like to know.

  • Jon McCasper

    In this YouTube video we find liberal communistic democrat Bernie Sanders praising the anarchists of the “Occupy” domestic insurrection:

    • Scott Supak

      He’s a democratic socialist who supports free markets, not the market rigging you wingnuts have used to cause the Little Bush Depression.

      But, please, keep lying about him. I just love it when you wingnuts keep talking.

  • Igor Shafarevich

    The ghost of Karl Marx must be thrilled about his resurrection by democrats in America.

    • Scott Supak

      What the hell are you talking about? I’m a free market progressive. It’s the GOP that constantly rigs free markets to redistribute wealth and income upward.

      • Scoop Jaxson

        There’s no such thing as a “free market” progressive.

        Like marxism, the “big idea” of today’s progressive liberalism is the notion that a small group of academics and intellectuals are somehow magically entitled to consciously direct the future of mankind.

        The ideology of progressivism is inherently hostile to free markets and free enterprise. It has to be.

        • Scott Supak


          Free market progressives want markets that are free and fair, not rigged by the rich to redistribute wealth and income upward. We are not Marxists. We support free market solutions to distribute goods and services. However, the real central planners are the people who have rigged the markets to crush small businesses, to turn corporations into central planning monopolies that crush competition.

          The ideology of progressivism, going back to Teddy Roosevelt, has been to make the playing field more level, taking power away from the monopolistic robber barons and other oligarchs, and giving it back to the people.

          If you want to argue with me, I suggest you at least brush up on the definition of political terms.

          • Scoop Jaxson

            Like marxism, the “big idea” of today’s progressivism is the notion that a small group of academics and intellectuals are somehow magically entitled to consciously direct the future of mankind.

            That superstition is fundamentally incompatible with liberty, free enterprise, free markets, and the Constitution of the United States.

          • Scott Supak

            This is a lie. Central planning is not the “big idea” of today’s progressives. But listening to you for a while, I’m reassured that the “big idea” of today’s conservatives is a jumbled mash of bullshit.

          • Blake Smith

            Interesting you would applaud Teddy Roosevelt. You already stated you hate Republicans, yet, you defend one. Or maybe you didn’t know Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican.

          • Scott Supak

            Interesting that you’re apparently not aware that our parties are a lot different than they were 100 years ago. And that was my whole point. Republicans, like Teddy Roosevelt, used to be progressive taxing, trust busting, progressives. Just like before the Civil Rights Act, the southern Democrats were the racist “Dixiecrats.”

            This would be common teaching even with a wingnut teacher in most US history classes.

  • Skyking239

    The GOP and Conservative PACs are going to pummel Dim Senators relentlessly with Obamacare horror stories. Thousands of Cancer victims will tell their stories of how the Dim ACA has caused them to lose their coverage, doctors and hospitals and most of all their money. They will tell the stories in their own words on TV ads by the hundreds. No Dim Senator will go unscathed. The Dims like Dirty Harry will call the victims liars and dig their hole deeper. The President urged on by the Dim Senators will sic the IRS and DOJ on the victims who appear in the ads. The Dims will lose the Senate. Obama will be impeached.

    • Manaphy

      Or they will just blame the Kochs

      • Sally

        You might want to research the Kochs…they are no friend to you either.

    • Sally

      You mean all those stories that are debunked ten minutes after the ‘victim’ appears in a Koch ad?

  • Scott Supak

    These people aren’t really independents. They’re just embarrassed Republicans. They won’t admit they’re Republicans, but when they get in the booth, they’ll still vote for their hippie punching, war mongering, environmental cost-shifting, poor-blaming, man-splaining, white-splaining, dog-whistling, economy crashing buddies in the GOP.

    To suggest that the Democrats have a problem with these people, who were never democrats, and never really independents, is to miss the dynamic of so few people self-identifying as Republicans because they’re embarrassed by what happened under their former cod-pieced hero GW Bush.

  • Boston You

    Whether it’s murdering the unborn or attempting to deny care to the born, like Sarah Murnaghan, today’s liberalism is basically a death cult.

    • Sally

      Oh dear. Sarah has CF and will never live to adulthood, but let’s get on the bandwagon and ensure that someone (not her parents) pays for a change in the rules to ensure she gets a double lung transplant to live another year. That happened. Bully for your side. As far as abortion, it is hard to buy being all pro-fetus when once all those children are born, the GOP would deny them food via school lunches, food stamps, or whatever. The GOP also hates educating children in public schools, has not passed a Jobs Bill in 5 years, and is against the one thing that will make abortion obsolete: easy access to contraception. But rant on.

  • Mark Uss

    For a brief introduction to the primitive superstitions of the ideology of socialism, I generally recommend Igor Shafarevich’s brilliant essay Socialism in Our Past and Future.

  • EricStoner

    Shocking isn’t it, considering this: Mary Landrieu – Promised You Could Keep and Then Voted Against Enzi:

    Landrieu, No Mention of ObamaCare of ACA on her site:

    Guess this is news to Democrats that, independents don’t like liars either. Stick to the lofo’s, they are more the constituency that love your lies.

  • Scoop Jaxson

    The 20th century has been the defining century of our age.

    Then, as now, the ideology that is today’s liberalism is nothing more than juvenile nonsense.

    • Scott Supak

      Even though it was 14 years ago, and the Iraq war, which cost trillions and killed a half a million at least, along with the Little Bush Depression, were all in the 21st Century? Even though the warmongers and violators of civil liberties are mostly Republicans? Even though 70% of Democrats voted against renewing the Patriot Act and only 14% of Republicans did? You know, in this century?

      And you know, in the 20th Century we saw a conservative revolution with Reagan, who ramped up the military and began trickle down economics which is why wages haven’t kept up with productivity for the last 33 years?

      Do I have that right? Your argument is that liberal leaders got us in a few wars a long time ago, so vote for conservatives, even though they’re the warmongers and wage stealers now? Is that right?

      Tell me more about nonsense, wingnut.

      • Scoop Jaxson

        Wages have certainly kept up with productivity. If you look at the most productive people in America today, it’s software engineers, developers, and programmers.

        Those wages are very, very high. A software engineer at Google makes around $128,000 per year.

        If you’re legitimately productive, you make very high wages.

  • Tom

    When you can’t argue with them….call them names!

    • Scott Supak

      I can do both. Let’s see what you’ve got.

      • Tom

        What I’ve got is an education, which limits my willingness to interact with internet trolls, such as yourself, to about one or two comments. Have a nice day and try and view political America with an open mind (even though that is difficult for liberals).

        • Scott Supak

          You come in here weeks after the story posted, troll through the comments, then troll me, and now you’re calling me the troll? What is with you “conservatives” (really radicals) and projecting your own defects onto liberals?

          I find it hilarious how you guys always assume you’re the smartest guys in the room. As much as it might shock you, I also have an education. My education taught me that facts matter, that people don’t win debates just because they say they do, and that wingnuts like you can’t argue, so you bullshit.

          Your education apparently didn’t teach you that liberals are the ones with the open minds. Test this theory by putting up something of substance, and you’ll see that I can approach the matter, as I have done with Pooper Scooper Jackson here, not only with an open mind, but a critical one that uses facts and logic to reach conclusions, not ideology like “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.”

          Hope you have a lousy day. All you Bush loving hippie punchers should have lousy days for the rest of your miserable lives, which still won’t be enough to make up for the trillions of dollars and half a million lives you helped waste in Iraq.

  • Blake Smith

    To be honest, I will say George W. Bush was one of the worst presidents we’ve had, but Obama isn’t any better. What I don’t understand is(and this comes from Obama supporters most of the time), is WHY people are still blaming Bush for our problems? Bush hasn’t made a decision in our country in over six years. Six years. Let that sink in. So if you’re still blaming Bush for our problems which will face us in 2015 and the future, you’re ignorant.
    And if you’re still someone who affiliates themselves with a political party, you’re an idiot. This is why I’m an independent voter. I look at the individual candidate and their views, not a political party next to their name on the ballot.

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