The final Democracy Corps battleground survey of 2013 belies the conventional wisdom that Republicans have enjoyed a major rebound over the last few months. On the contrary, our survey of the 50 most competitive Republican House seats and the 30 most competitive Democratic seats shows that there has been no movement. Furthermore, the second tier of less vulnerable Republican target districts has actually destabilized — meaning that there may be more Republican seats up for grabs than many believe right now.
While the disastrous ACA website rollout has taken a toll on the president’s approval rating and image, we do not find that voters are willing to punish Democrats — or, more importantly, reward Republican incumbents — for these failures. Instead, this poll finds that Republican members are damaged by their total focus on Obamacare. Voters increasingly believe that these vulnerable Republican incumbents are part of the gridlock in Washington, are too focused on battles with Obama, and are too aligned with Speaker Boehner, whose plans have not helped the economy or the jobs situation. We tested a series of messages and attacks (both for and against Republican incumbents), and found that battling on Obamacare is their weakest case for re-election. In fact, it undermines it.
This survey also confirms what we have been tracking all year: Seniors are moving more solidly into the blue column. In this survey, Democratic challengers have a 4-point advantage on the named ballot against Republican incumbents. As a reminder, Democrats lost seniors nationally by a 21-point margin in 2010.
Make no mistake, both frontline Democrats and frontline Republicans are made more vulnerable by what is now a total anti-incumbent wave. Both parties in Congress fare poorly in the public’s mind, but let us be very clear: Voters — even in Republican districts — reserve most of their anger for the party in power, which is now totally despised in terms of public image. When these incumbents are connected to the party and its leadership, voters’ trust in them takes a sharp decline.
Tomorrow, Congress will leave town for the year. We wish them all happy holidays. But we would not want to trade places with the Republican incumbents returning home to their districts tomorrow.
The full results of the Democracy Corps 2013 battleground survey can be found here (PDF).