Charlie Cook wrote a really interesting article over at National Journal yesterday, Both Parties Need to Keep an Eye on Older Voters for 2014 Elections. Most of the article is stuff that we all know. As I’ve been arguing for a long time, the Democrats need to stop focusing on the mythical “moderate” voter and focus on turn out. It is very simple: when turn out is high, liberals win. That’s because America is a liberal country. Unfortunately, it is not a country that believes much in democracy, and so it has gone out of its way to make voting difficult. And that empowers the rich and disenfranchises the poor.
Cook’s article is based upon a briefing that he got regarding a new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Unfortunately, the poll is not online, so I’m left with some questions. But there are clearly two interesting results. First, Republicans have a 3 percentage point advantage going into the 2014 election. That’s better than they had in 2012, but nowhere near as good as they had in 2010. So generally speaking, the upcoming election will probably not be a blowout like 2010 was.
The second result is that older voters seem to be turning off to the Republican Party. In 2010, Republicans had a 21 (38-59) percentage point advantage with them. But in 2012, they had only a 12 (44-56) point advantage. In January, the poll found an 11 point advantage. By March it had dropped to 6 points and is now down to only 5. It’s early, of course. But here’s the thing: Republicans managed to get the huge advantage in 2010 by saying that the Democrats were taking away their Medicare in order to give it to the poor. They haven’t been able to say that recently.
Now, Ed Kilgore (who directed me to the Cook article) is perhaps even more cynical than I am. He noted, “It’s time for another big Mediscare effort linked to attacks on Obamacare that encourage white retirees to view the Affordable Care Act as a raid on their hard-earned benefits and hard-earned tax dollars to show welfare on those people.” That’s good advice. But I’m not sure that’s on the table. The issue isn’t so much what Republicans say but what the media will report as credible. Another round of “Obama is stealing your Medicare” just doesn’t sound like news.
There are many reasons why the elderly could be cooling off on the Republican Party. For one thing, the most conservative among them are quickly dying. Also, the Republicans aren’t making it easy to love them. How long can you scream about the coming apocalypse before people just yawn. Add to that a big conservative talking point over the two years before the last election. It went like this, “Sure, Obama hasn’t acted as a radical, but just wait until he’s re-elected!” Well, he’s been re-elected and he is the same old middle of the road Milktoast that he always was.
The main thing is that I suspect that the trend in elderly voters is real. Time will tell, but one thing is certain: the Republicans are not going to have the blowout election they had in 2010. For one thing, they already have about as many seats as they can given gerrymandering and the advantages they naturally get when only the more wealthy show up to vote. I think what we are seeing is that slowly (for now) the whole electorate is pulling away from a party that long ago became too extreme and beholden to their very limited base.