It is three weeks to the election - and Democrats are in position to finish closer. That is the possible ‘October Surprise’ we spotlighted last week. For sure, the Democrats are still behind, in grueling race-by-race battles against overwhelming outside spending and a very pessimistic mood and tough economy. Gains in the actual races in the House and Senate battlegrounds are in inches, with many key races virtually tied. Nonetheless, Democrats are making gains. In this week’s Democracy Corps poll, they are trailing Republicans by 2 points in the named congressional ballot (45 to 47 percent) - a 4-point improvement in the margin from the prior week (43 to 49 percent) and another 4-point improvement from Labor Day (40 to 50 percent). Democrats can legitimately claim to be battling for control.
But there is more going on than the vote.
- More Democrats are joining the likely electorate. At Labor Day, the electorate tilted Republican in party identification (46 to 43 percent) - but Democrats have grown 2 points at the Republicans’ expense. The electorate is evenly divided at this point but could change further.
- The number of strong Democratic congressional voters - firm and unmoving in their preference went up 4 points this week to 41 percent - equal to the number of strong Republicans for the first time.
- Democrats are closing the gap with independents - now losing by 10 points. This is not great, but clearly many Democratic-leaning independents have come back into the electorate.
- The Republicans no longer enjoy an advantage in party favorability - and the Tea Party is now viewed negatively (41 percent cool and 36 percent warm). The number of voters who now say they will never support the Republican candidates has gone up 5 points this week to 39 percent - now equal to the number who would never vote for the Democrat.
- Most important, Democrats are making their biggest gains on who is ‘on your side’ - now preferred to the Republicans by 6 points for the first time in four months.
- That underscores why the strongest Democratic message poses the choice: Democrats for the middle class and American jobs and Republicans for Wall Street, lobbyist special deals and exporting your jobs.
- More voters are looking for somebody in Washington “who will fight big corporate special deals and work for the middle class and American jobs” (52 percent), than who “will rein in government spending and deficits and stop higher taxes” (40 percent). Without the “American jobs” we lose the choice by 3 points. That is our framework. The Democrat at this point talking about the state of the economy, spending and taxes just gets in the way of the clear choice.
- Republican threats to Social Security and Medicare are powerful attacks that are bringing older women and seniors in play.
- The attack on foreign corporations funding the attacks on Democrats protecting American jobs is an important new contribution.
These conclusions emerge from Democracy Corps’ weekly national message tracking poll conducted October 9-11, 2010 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner among 928 likely voters (margin of error of 3.2 percentage points). Note that this survey includes a cell phone sample - that includes voters more favorable to the Democrats.