This week, news of the battle for the Senate has been dominated by Democrats’ improving chances of holding onto the majority. The Washington Post forecasting model actually finds Democrats slightly favored, with 51% odds they will keep the Senate. Most other models still give Republicans an edge, but their odds have gone down in recent days. The real story, though, is that Democrats seem to have hit a ceiling of support while the GOP is locked in a 3-front fight, mostly of its own making.
Polls: Arkansas and Louisiana are moving away from the Democrats, but their incumbents are showing surprising strength in purple states like North Carolina. One caution for Democrats is that their poll numbers are generally stuck in the mid- to low-40s. As a general rule, this is a danger-zone for incumbents, but this is especially true when the incumbent’s party has dominated the air-waves as Democrats have this year. By one estimate, Democrats have spent $20 million more than Republicans on advertising so far this cycle.
Democrats are waging bitter trench-warfare trying to stem any Republican break-out. Over 70% of the ads run by Democrats this year have been negative. They are succeeding, but only just.
Republicans: The GOP is waging a 3-front fight. According to several internal campaign polls reviewed by Breitbart News, Dem approval ratings are in the basement. Republicans, however, fair little better. The party is flummoxed by an opponent raising on Aces and Eights.
First, the GOP is facing an unprecedented assault in negative Democrat ads. According to a recent analysis, the volume of negative GOP ads is far higher than it was in 2010. The volume of pro-Republican ads is down almost 10% since the 2010 midterms. The pro-Republican ads are also far less likely to be negative against Democrats. The party is, at best, simply responding to the attacks, rather than opening a bigger fight.
Second, the GOP is struggling to connect with voters in any meaningful way. They have no unifying message to rally disaffected voters. As pointed put recently by David Drucker, the Republican ads are all over the policy map. They are being drawn into a small-ball game that minimizes the existential differences between the parties.
Third, and perhaps more ominous, the GOP is struggling with its most conservative base voters. Conversations with activists across the country indicate that the Mississippi Senate primary remains very toxic. The result of the primary isn’t the problem as much as the tactics employed by the national GOP to secure the win. The subsequent victory lap by many in the national GOP over the Cochran win in the run-off contributed to the poison.
While in recently days, a number of races have actually improved for Republicans, (Louisiana, Kentucky and Georgia, for example) Kansas has collapsed from “Safe GOP” to “Toss Up.” This happened in the space of about 2 weeks, an amazing turn of fortunes. The simple fact that incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts doesn’t live in the state ought to have prompted retirement planning. People forget, but former GOP Sen. Dick Luger was firmly in command of his primary until it was learned he also didn’t live in his state. This matters to voters and may result in another GOP establishment “own goal.”
The real problem the GOP faces as a result of disaffected conservatives is fundraising. The Democrats have out raised Republicans this cycle and are currently benefiting. Fundraising appeals from the GOP campaign arms are increasingly stressing the word “conservative” and have even recently enlisted UT Sen. Mike Lee to solicit funds. Republicans always count on conservatives to “come home” at the end of the campaign. They may, but their absence from the early fight is being felt.