Whence the Democratic resilience?

A couple of new CNN polls showing Democratic incumbents Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu holding onto narrow Senate leads are the top news among election horse race watchers.

The key question is how these Democrats are surviving, even in the South, even with all the headwinds stacked against them. The election model forecasters continue to shift their predictions in favor of potential Democratic control of the Senate, with the key unknown at this point being voter turnout.

Which means that while the balance hangs on a knife’s edge, public sentiment even in many Romney states is still generally in favor of Democrats retaining control of the Senate. The only pertinent question is whether enough of the majority who feel that way actually turn out to vote.

But why? Well, it’s hard to say for sure without direct access to the internal polling data. But at least in North Carolina it seems that the libertarian candidate Sean Haugh is taking some anti-Landrieu votes away (though it should be noted that most poll respondents who threaten to vote third party usually come back to one of the two majors when they actually cast their votes.)

What seems to be happening more than anything else is that Republicans are simply failing to close the deal with enough voters. There is frustration with the Democratic Party in many places, but the Republican Party has made itself so toxic in so many places that they’re having a hard time benefiting from anti-Democratic headwinds even in an extremely favorable environment.

It’s important to remember that Democrats will almost certainly have a banner year in the Senate in 2016 barring some unforeseen calamity, and the White House doesn’t look so good for the GOP in 2016, either. And, of course, the demographic challenges only get worse for the GOP with each passing year.

Republicans may or may not narrowly edge themselves into Senate control this cycle. But either way, it’s clear that a large and growing number of voters simply don’t see the GOP as a credible governing alternative to the Democrats.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.