Exploiting Republican Weakness in the Battleground

The Rising American Electorate provides opportunities to consolidate gains in the Republican battleground.

A new Democracy Corps/Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF) survey shows incumbents in 60 Republican-held battleground districts badly out of touch with voters — especially with the Rising American Electorate (RAE).  These voters (unmarried women, African Americans and Hispanics, and youth) account for a majority of the nation’s voting eligible population (53 percent). They drove progressive victories in 2006 and 2008, delivering 69 percent of their vote to congressional Democrats in national surveys.  Opportunities in 2012 for progressive candidates would be much broader if the RAE vote was consolidated and achieved those historic support levels.

Voters, including the RAE, believe Republicans are out-of-touch on taxes and the deficit and prefer a more cooperative approach to governance from the Republican majority, rather than a strategy of obstruction and delay.[1]

As a result, this class of battleground Republican incumbents enters the election year from a position of profound weakness.  Electorally, they are held under 50 percent in a named trial heat for Congress; less than 40 percent commit to reelecting their incumbent “because he/she is doing a good job and addressing issues that are important to us.”

Unlike the 2008 election where the RAE posted record turnout, the RAE in this survey seems unengaged and uninspired compared to other voters in this electorate. A serious push among these voters will further weaken the Republican hold on the battleground and call into question current conventional wisdom that the House majority is out of play in 2012.

Much of the challenge for Democrats is highlighting the contrast between the two parties.  Voters in the RAE deliver higher support for President Obama and the Democrats than other voters; there is less differentiation in their support for Republicans.  Notably, after voters hear balanced criticism of both sides, key segments of the RAE, most notably unmarried women, move to the Democrats.

The Out-of-Touch Majority

Republican incumbents in these battleground districts stand crosswise with voters on the core issues of this election, most notably, taxes, the deficit and, more broadly, their relationship with the Obama administration.  This disconnect is amplified further among voters in the Rising American Electorate.

Real legislation has ground to a halt in Washington to the growing frustration of the country.  A 60 percent majority of voters in these Republican-held districts want their incumbent “to try and work with President Obama to address the country’s problems,” this jumps to 66 percent among voters in the RAE.  Just a third (34 percent; 27 percent in the RAE), want their Representative to block the President.

These House incumbents are woefully out-of-touch on the historic debate over taxes.  A 57 percent majority wants “to vote for a Member of Congress who will ask the wealthiest to pay a greater share of taxes to address our problems and the deficit.”  By nearly a 2:1 margin, RAE voters violate Republican orthodoxy and argue for higher taxes on the wealthy.

[1] This memo is based on a survey of 1000 likely 2012 voters in 60 Republican battleground districts (500 in 30 Tier 1 districts, 500 in 30 Tier 2 districts) conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Women’s Voice Women Vote Action Fund December 4-7, 2011. Margin of error = +/- 3.1% at 90% confidence.  A complete list of the districts in this battleground can be found in the Appendix.

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