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Mind the Gender Gap: Women Boost Dems in Key States

The Democratic path to survival in this very difficult midterm season for the party is through women.
A poll worker rips "I Voted" stickers from a roll at a polling place in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. With both of Oklahoma's U.S. Senate seats on the ballot for the first time in recent history, incumbent Jim Inhofe is seeking to fend off challengers in the Republican primary for one of the seats while two of the party's ascending stars battle for the other. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)Sue Ogrocki / AP

Mind The Gender Gap

When it comes to the Republican Party’s path to a Senate majority, so much of the focus has been on the red states. But the difference between the GOP pursuing a lasting majority and one that is temporary -- or even elusive -- is how it performs in purple and blue states like Colorado and Michigan. And our brand-new NBC/Marist polls of Colorado and Michigan show Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) leading Cory Gardner (R) by seven points among registered voters, 48%-41%, in Colorado’s key Senate race. They find Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ahead of GOP challenger Bob Beauprez by six points, 49%-43%. They have Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) up over Republican Terri Lynn Land by six, 43%-37%, in Michigan’s Senate contest. And they show Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading Democratic challenger Mark Schauer by two points, 46%-44%. So why are Udall, Peters, and Snyder all ahead in their contests? Here’s an explanation: mind the gaps -- the gender gap, the Latino gap, and the independent gap. In Colorado, Udall is up by 12 points among female voters (50%-38%), as Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC are up with TV ads (like this one) on abortion and contraception. Indeed, 70% of Colorado voters in the NBC/Marist poll said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports restrictions on the use of contraception. And in Michigan, Peters is ahead by 13 points with women (46%-33%).

Can It Be Enough To Save The Democratic Majority?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The Democratic path to survival in this very difficult midterm season for the party is through women. And that’s especially true after the Hobby Lobby decision. There’s no doubt Democrats are going to win women voters in the fall; the questions are by how much and whether it will be large enough to save the party’s Senate majority.

And Mind The Latino And Indie Gaps, Too

But the gender gap isn’t the only notable gap in our new polls -- also look at the Latino gap. Our NBC/Marist poll shows that Latinos make up 16% of registered voters in Colorado, and Udall is winning them by 31 points, 58%-27% (a margin that could probably grow if recent history is any guide). Just watch the new Spanish-language TV ad SEIU is airing in Colorado. “… Republicans again and again insult our community, and blocked immigration reform,” the ad’s narrator says (translated into English). “And the worst: they have voted against our future and our DREAMERS. This November, we must go to the polls and vote against [Cory] Gardner and [Mike] Coffman.” And then there’s the independent gap. In Colorado, both Udall (by 50%-34%) and Hickenlooper (by 52%-35%) have the advantage with independent voters. By contrast, in Michigan, Gov. Snyder holds a 14-point edge among independents -- which explains his narrow lead in this Democratic-leaning state. Remember: It’s often easier to win independent voters as a Republican governor or gubernatorial candidate in a blue state, rather than as a GOP Senate candidate (because those races get more nationalized). And Snyder won his 2010 GOP primary and then general election due to independent voters. Also don’t miss these numbers: Snyder’s job-approval rating among Michigan voters is 49%, while Hickenlooper’s in Colorado is 54%.

But Also Mind Obamacare And Obama’s Approval Rating

While Democrats have the early edge in Colorado’s and Michigan’s Senate contest with registered voters (we’ll switch to likely voters after Labor Day), they are far from slam dunks in these states. Why? Because the health-care law (which both Udall and Peters voted for) and President Obama aren’t popular. In Colorado, 52% of voters view the health-care law as a bad idea -- including 46% who hold that position strongly. That’s compared with just 37% who believe the law is a good idea. Michigan voters think similarly -- 50% see it as a bad idea, 32% a good idea. That explains the TV ads hitting these Democrats on health care (like here and here). Obama also is a negative for Democrats in these two states he carried in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races: In both, just 40% of registered voters approve of his job. But if Obama is unpopular, then congressional Republicans are REALLY unpopular. Just 19% of Michigan voters and 21% of Colorado voters approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing.

A Reminder About 2014’s Two Different Battlegrounds

As we wrote yesterday, these blue/purple states of Colorado and Michigan -- and we’ll release new polls on Iowa and New Hampshire tomorrow -- will tell an important story in November. GOP success in the red states (Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia) could very well be enough to take control of the Senate. But REAL Republican success in the midterms will be expanding the party’s reach into these blue and purple states, which are also presidential battleground states. The GOP winning in the red states doesn’t prove anything we don’t already know. But the GOP winning in states like Colorado and Iowa, well, that would send quite a statement.

Obama Makes Highway Bill Push

President Obama heads to Northern Virginia (McLean) to deliver remarks on transportation and infrastructure at 11:35 am ET. And he’ll travel to Delaware on Thursday to discuss business investment in infrastructure. The reason for this transportation/infrastructure focus: “Congress is scrambling to avoid letting the transportation fund lapse. The fund is slated to become insolvent as early as next month,” Politico writes. “According to an email from a White House official, the president thinks a funding lapse will endanger several transportation initiatives, and he will lobby congressional Republicans this week to support a bill to keep the fund solvent.” The two sides aren’t really that far apart in finding ways to fund the highway trust fund. Then again, in this current political era, even the easiest of things (like passing transportation funding) become very difficult climbs.

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