Thursday, September 25, 2014

Democrats won’t be laughing on Election Day -- John Davis Political Report

Verne Strickland: This is an exhaustive and wide-ranging overview of the campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina between GOP candidate Thom Tillis and incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. I am grateful to Ms. Susan Tillis, wife of Speaker Tillis, for providing it.


John Davis is a political  analyst, writer and consultant who has followed North Carolina politics for 26 years. He is editor of the weekly John Davis Political Report, and is widely recognized as one of the state’s leading authorities on evaluating candidates and predicting the outcome of political races.

North Carolina's U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan

 September 25, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 24 3:13 pm

This is an update of my January 10, 2014 report titled, North Carolina's U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan.

From the January 10 report:
• No North Carolina Democrat has won a second term in the U.S. Senate since 1968
• Midterm elections do not favor the party in the White House, Democrats
• The NC Democratic Party is in shambles; the GOP has power and strong leaders
• Both candidates are equally smart, competitive and capable of raising money
• Polls show the race virtually tied with Hagan at 44% and Tillis at 42%
• For every “extreme right” attack ad that Hagan or her super PACs run against Tillis, he and his super PACs can counter with equally damaging “extreme left” attack ads
• Hagan will be on the defense throughout 2014 for telling PolitiFact’s 2013 Lie of the Year, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it."
On Monday, September 22, 2014, the latest statewide poll of likely voters, released by High Point University, showed the race where it was in January, virtually tied with Hagan at 42% and Tillis at 40% (6% for Libertarian Sean Haugh; 12% Undecided or won’t say).
Key Question: So why is Kay Hagan struggling to seize a commanding lead in the race with Tillis despite a year-long fundraising and spending advantage? Because by an overwhelming margin, likely North Carolina voters disapprove of the job she and President Obama are doing.
• President Barack Obama’s Job Approval is 38%; Disapprove 57%
• Senator Kay Hagan’s Job Approval is 39%; Disapprove 50%
Historically, midterm elections are a referendum on the White House. With North Carolina voters having such low regard for the White House, ads saying “Hagan votes with the President 95% of the time” are keeping her disapproval numbers high and her potential for victory low.
Ultimately, this race will end in a tie with turnout operations determining the winner.
Reasons Why Turnout Likely to Favor a Tillis Upset Win
I am persuaded that this fall Republicans will neutralize the historic digital voter contact and turnout advantage that Democrats established in 2008 and refined in 2012. That development, along with new election laws and midterm election year trends, favors a Tillis upset win.
MIDTERM TURNOUT: Since 1992, the average midterm election year turnout is about 22 points lower than presidential election years. In 2008, statewide turnout in the North Carolina General Election was 70%. In 2010, statewide General Election turnout was 43.8%.
As pointed out in the January 10 report, turnout in midterm elections drops most significantly among Democratic constituencies like African Americans, single women, and young people.
EARLY VOTING TURNOUT: When you take a look at the early voting turnout in 2008, the presidential election year in which Hagan won, as compared to the 2010 midterm election year, you can readily see that Hagan’s biggest challenge is yet to come.
• In 2008, when Hagan won, 48% of all registered Democrats voted early; 52% of all registered African-American voters voted early
• In 2010, a midterm election year, only 16.1% of all registered Democrats voted early; only 14.9% of all registered African-Americans voted early
STRAIGHT PARTY VOTERS: You see a similar shift in the partisan advantage of straight party voters from presidential election years to midterm election years.
• In 2008, 1,283,486. Democrats voted straight party; 59% of all straight party voters
• In 2010, 599,985, Democrats voted straight party; 51% of all straight party voters
NEW ELECTION LAWS: The elimination of straight party voting is one of the new election laws passed by the Republican General Assembly scheduled to take effect this Fall. Today, September 25, 2014, a three-judge federal panel is convening in Charlotte to hear arguments on whether enforcement of the new election laws should be delayed.
If the three-judge panel rules next week that the new election laws can stand, Democrats will face an even tougher turnout challenge. Under the new rules, early voting days are reduced from 17 to 10. There will be no same-day registrations and no straight party voting.
TURNOUT OPERATIONS: In 2012, the Obama camp in Chicago invested $100 million during the 18 months before Election Day in a digital voter contact and turnout operation called Narwhal. They defied the odds and turned out African-Americans and young voters in key swing states in numbers even higher than their historic 2008 accomplishments. That’s why Obama won.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Romney camp invested an inadequate amount of resources in a digital voter contact and turnout operation called Orca. Orca crashed on Election Day.
Following the loss of the presidential race of 2012, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus directed a self-assessment that became a scathing critique titled the Growth & Opportunity Project. Republicans were their own worst critics on matters like communications with minorities and women and mobilizing voters through digital communications. They were determined to improve.
Democrats laughed at Republicans for admitting their weaknesses in their communication with women and minorities. If my January 10 conclusions are on target, and if Republicans do neutralize the Democrats’ digital voter turnout advantage, then Democrats won’t be laughing on Election Day.

Thank You for Reading the John Davis Political Report!

John N. Davis, Editor