The Democrats’ biggest worry heading toward November is Obama’s fall from grace with his base. This could make things even worse for them than currently expected. Democrats’ only hope to offset Republicans’ anticipated midterm surge is their base’s high turnout. However, Obama’s deep drop with his strongest supporters seriously calls this hope into question.
Democrats know they will lose seats in November. The only question is: How many? At best, they hope to hang on to the Senate by a hair.
Losses for the party holding the presidency are nothing new. Simply, it happens because the presidential candidate, who brought in sufficient voters to win the White House two years earlier, is now off the ballot. The result: without the president’s additional supporters, his party suffers in Congress.
Four years ago, and just two years into Obama’s presidency, Democrats saw this play out spectacularly. They lost six Senate and sixty House seats — including control of the House. The reason was just as expected: a huge drop in their core constituents as a portion of the electorate.
Democrats have worked mightily to avoid repeating 2010 in 2014. While the focus has been on Republicans’ fielding their desired candidates in Senate races, Democrats quietly have done likewise. Republicans have raised large sums, but so too Democrats — thanks in no little part to Obama. And Democrats have worked hard on avoiding another turnout turndown.
The real difference this time is Obama, and this is exactly what leaves Democrats concerned. Obama not only remains unpopular, but his unpopularity has seeped into his core constituencies.
The Economist/YouGov weekly nationwide tracking poll (Sept. 13-15 of 1,000 adults and 690 registered voters) found Obama’s overall job approval rating was just 40 percent, with 54 percent disapproval. Bad as these overall numbers are, the drop in Obama’s ratings with the core groups who propelled him to the presidency is worse.
In his two presidential elections, Obama averaged 55.5 percent of the women’s vote, 94 percent of blacks, 68.5 percent of Hispanics, 63 percent of those 18-29 years old, 87 percent of liberals, and 90.5 percent of Democrats. Comparing those average levels of support, to the approval levels of these same groups in the the Economist/YouGov poll, and the extent of the last two years’ damage to the president is quickly seen.
Obama’s approval with women is 13.5 percent below his presidential elections’ average support. For blacks, it is 34 percent lower; for Hispanics, 8.5 percent lower; for 18-29 year olds, 21 percent lower; for liberals, 17 percent lower; and for Democrats, 15.5 percent lower.
Some might argue that current lack of approval does not equate to voting against Obama and Democrats now. However, Obama’s disapproval levels among these groups’ are also notably higher than the average vote percentages that Republicans received from these same groups over the last two presidential elections.
Any way you slice it, Obama has had a significant fall within his own base. This bodes ill for Democrats getting these voters — who were unmotivated to support Democrat candidates when they liked Obama far more four years ago — to come out to vote for them in just over a month.
There are several things that should add to this concern. For one thing, a drop-off in Obama’s constituencies in a midterm has happened before. Second, Obama’s declining popularity looks to be reflected in the intensity gap between his supporters and detractors. The same poll noted that only 16 percent strongly approved of Obama’s job performance, while 38 percent strongly disapproved.
The Democrats’ greatest worry of all must be that this midterm could actually be worse because of what has happened Obama with his base. Even if these disaffected former supporters do not vote Republican, they could again avoid voting this November — and in greater numbers than they did four years ago. If so, current polls may actually be overestimating Democrat support in just over a month, and underestimating what already promises to be a tough election for them.