Congressional Elections: Why Democrats’ Outlook is So Bleak

Vote election ballot

It’s no secret that midterm elections tend not to go well for Democrats. In fact, it’s a tendency  President Barack Obama has pointed out in the past. “It’s something about midterms. I don’t know what it is about us. We get a little sleepy, we get a little distracted. We don’t turn out to vote. We don’t fund campaigns as passionately. That has to change right here,” said Obama, “because too much is at stake for us to let this opportunity slip by.”

When it comes voters, and the twenty-one Democratic-held seats of thirty-five up for election in 2014, the disadvantages are pretty clear. Older voters, as well as white voters, are considerably more likely to get votes in, leaving Democrats at a significant disadvantage. “The day of the voting, it seemed like everything just went wrong,” said one mother of four, Alishia Tisdale, of the recent congressional seat vote last month. “I had school, my car broke down. I just didn’t make it to the polls,” she explained to Bloomberg.

Further hurting Democratic incumbents is a combination of poor economic outlook from the public, Obama’s weak approval ratings, and Republican campaign support running a series of negative ads on those seats that look particularly at risk — including Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and others.

According to a new poll, all four major voting groups for Democrats show an increase in pessimism regarding the economic present and future of America, women jumped from 52 percent pessimistic to 62 percent, non-white individuals leapt from 27 to 51 percent, those making under $50k/year climbed from 51 to 62 percent, and those between the ages of eighteen to twenty-nine inched up from 50 to 58 percent. Nothing less than an 8 percentage point increase in economic negativity — as reported by Cook Political.

Obama’s approval ratings are also on the more negative side, at 42.9 percent averaged from eight national opinion polls since March 20 — according to Bloomberg — they are notably comparable to George W. Bush’s opinion polls in 2006. Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, increased her projection for the Senate Race from a 25 percent chance of Republicans taking the Senate majority to a 50 percent chance, as of Sunday, Bloomberg reports. “We are weighting environment much higher — the president’s approval ratings, the generic congressional ballot, just basically what Americans are thinking. The Republicans have been able to expand their own playing field, putting races on the map that weren’t there,” she said in an interview.

Finally, the Koch brothers involvement with negative campaign ads in certain key states has done nothing for the chances of those within. These include states like North Carolina, which The New York Times Nate Silver listed as one of three tossup or “wildcard” states. Louisiana’s Senator Mary Landrieu (D) also made his list, and is also facing attacks from the oil billionaire brothers over her history with Obamacare.

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Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS