Tune In, Turn Out

New Polling Shows Key Dems Less Attentive, Less Likely to Vote

About the only anxiety California Democrats need to have about the November election is whether Governor Jerry Brown is reelected with a 55 or a 65 percent margin.

Nationally, it’s a much different story.

Oh sure, there are a few statewide concerns for Dems to fret over, most importantly if they reclaim their super majority of seats in the state Senate, where their numbers have been reduced by scandal. But when California’s biggest political yarn figures to be the bruising battle for Secretary of State – sheesh – the Ds might as well kick back and enjoy the baseball season (assuming a Dodgers telecast ever again airs here).

Jerry Roberts

While the Golden State certainly will prove true blue anew in November, however, Republicans across the nation are poised, not only to increase their big majority in the House of Representatives but also to seize control of the U.S. Senate.

“Republicans have an 82 percent chance of claiming the six seats they need to move back into the majority” in the Senate, the Washington Post reported this week, citing a new election projection model built for them by political scientists and propeller heads.

Lingering opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the defective rollout of the Obamacare website and the sputtering economic recovery may all be identified as possible explanations for the Democrats’ flagging chances. As a practical matter, however, the decisive factor will be the makeup of the universe of voters for a traditionally low-turnout midterm election.

So-called “drop-off voters” are those who cast ballots in presidential elections every four years but fail to vote in the congressional races in the two years between. For example, about 130 million people voted in the 2012 election that reelected Obama; only about 90 million did in the 2010 midterm that wiped out the Democratic majority in the House.

According to a just-released NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Republicans are positioned to take advantage of an electorate reshaped by drop-offs, just as they did four years ago. Among voters who said they voted in 2012 but not 2010, the survey showed that:

• 51 percent are Democrats, compared to 25 percent Republicans and 17 percent independents.

• 61 percent are women, compared to just 39 percent men, a key finding at a time when the partisan split among female voters substantially favors Democrats.

• 25 percent are the youngest voters, aged 18-34, who went heavily for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, while just 12 percent are 65 and over, the group from which the GOP draws its heaviest support.

• 53 percent of Republican voters surveyed said they have high interest in the November election, compared to 38 percent of Democrats, an indication that the national electorate will skew to the right.

Bottom line from Bill McInturff, the GOP member of the bipartisan team that conducts the poll: “These are very, very difficult numbers” for Democrats.

SAVE US FROM OURSELVES: As mail-in ballots went out this week, one month before the June 3 primary, establishment Republicans are circling the wagons around Neel Kashkari, the moderate ex-Goldman Sachs suit who lags considerably behind Assemblymember Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party favorite and hard-edged social conservative.

In the past week, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney; former Florida governor (and possible 2016 presidential wannabe) Jeb Bush; ex-state governor Pete Wilson; high-profile California Rep. Darrell Issa; syndicated conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt; and assorted legislative colleagues of Donnelly all endorsed Kashkari.

These and other establishment types are under no illusions about a Republican knocking off Brown.

Their fear, however, is that Donnelly will win second place in next month’s top two primary and prove not just a liability but an outright national embarrassment for the party. The best-case scenario is that Donnelly, who’s already suggested Brown was involved in a Chappaquiddick cover-up, would lose the governor’s race three or four to one; their worst is that his shoot-from-the-lip style would lead Donnelly to make a comment, or stage an outburst, that goes viral — for all the wrong reasons.

Amid the endorsements, it’s not a huge surprise that Kashkari this week announced he was pitching $500,000 of his own money into his long, long-shot bid. It’s tough to get people to pony up for a lost cause, especially if you’re not willing to help pay for it yourself.

THIS JUST IN: In the NBC News survey cited above, poll takers also asked a batch of questions about the difference between people’s lives today and 15 years ago. Some intriguing findings:

Fifteen years ago, just 21 percent of Americans said someone in their household had a tattoo. Today, the figure is 40 percent – and 58 percent for those aged 18-34.

More: just 47 percent said they read a print newspaper at least three times a week — a precipitous drop from the 79 percent who said they did 15 years ago, yet 71 percent of those polled said they read a newspaper in print or online. But if you’re reading this, you already knew that.


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