TO: Interested Parties

FR: Guy Cecil, Executive Director, DSCC

DA: Monday, March 24, 2014

RE: 2014 Election Forecast

Nate Silver and the staff at FiveThirtyEight are doing groundbreaking work, but, as they have noted, they have to base their forecasts on a scarce supply of public polls. In some cases more than half of these polls come from GOP polling outfits. This was one reason why FiveThirtyEight forecasts in North Dakota and Montana were so far off in 2012. In fact, in August of 2012 Silver forecasted a 61% likelihood that Republicans would pick up enough seats to claim the majority. Three months later Democrats went on to win 55 seats.

In 2012, Democratic senate candidates won in nearly half of the states where Mitt Romney beat President Obama (five of 12: North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, & West Virginia), proving that senate races are not merely a referendum on the President or on any single issue but a choice between the two candidates on the ballot. Nate Silver predicted that Heidi Heitkamp had only an 8% chance of victory and Jon Tester had just a 34% chance. In 2010, he predicted that Majority Leader Reid had just a 16% chance and Michael Bennet had only a 34% chance in Colorado. All four are senators today because they were superior candidates running superior campaign organizations who made their elections a choice between the two candidates on the ballot. Only three Democratic incumbent senators have lost reelection in the last ten years, and our incumbents are once again prepared and ready

We don't minimize the challenges ahead. Rather, we view the latest projection as a reminder that we have a challenging map and important work still to do in order to preserve our majority.

Democrats Are Up For The Challenge

Most Democratic candidates are out-polling, out-fundraising, and out-campaigning their Republican opponents up and down the map. We’re going to hold the majority again in November because Democrats are fighting for the middle class and Republicans are fighting for Washington special interests like the Koch Brothers, the Tea Party, and their reckless and irresponsible agenda that voters despise.

It has become crystal clear that our opponent in 2014 is not the Republican Party but two billionaire brothers. The Koch Brothers have already spent more than $30 million this cycle savaging Democratic Senate candidates with grossly misleading attack ads that have been widely discredited. Their effort seeks to prop up Republican senate candidates who support an anti-middle class agenda that is good for the Kochs and bad for almost every other family in the country.

To date, the conversation has been one-sided. The Koch brothers and other Republican allies have spent months outspending Democrats, presenting only one (false) side of the story. Many of our candidates and allies are now starting to advertise and the DSCC will spend considerable resources making sure that voters see a clear choice in this election.

The Bannock Street Project

There's no question that one of the greatest challenges facing Democrats in the midterm is turnout. We are dealing with this challenge head on by preparing an unprecedented  investment in a national field and get-out-the-vote program.

The Bannock Street Project is the DSCC's 4,000-person, $60-million, data-driven field and voter contact program that will register, turn out, and persuade voters for the midterms. Bannock Street, named after the Denver office location of Senator Bennet's field operation in 2010, is the most aggressive effort waged by Democrats in a midterm election and will be run in concert with our targeted campaigns.

Changing The Map By Contesting Republican Seats

This map has always favored Republicans, but the math still favors Democrats.

Washington conventional wisdom is that McConnell is too mean to lose, but even McConnell allies admit his standing with voters right now is untenable. The latest bluegrass poll put his favorability at 27%. Charlie Cook now rates Kentucky and Georgia as Toss Up races. That could require Republicans to win as many as eight seats to take the majority.

Even worse for Republicans, they have tried to tame the tea party by nominating a slew of candidates that are too ideological for a general electorate (e.g. Personhood, pay equity, eliminating min wage, privatizing Social Security and Medicare) and internal polling continues to show every Democratic incumbent leading today. So while Republicans may have a lot of opportunities, they remain a party that is particularly good at losing winnable senate races.

Candidates and Campaigns Matter

In each of the competitive senate races, there is a crystal clear contrast between a Democratic candidate who is focused on creating opportunity for the middle class and is willing to disagree with their own party leadership when they think it is right for their
state and a Republican candidate who is beholden to the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, and a small group of right-wing billionaires who support an agenda that is dangerous for the middle class.

It’s clear that Republican Senate candidates, even candidates favored by Washington insiders, are pandering to the far right and embracing the reckless and irresponsible agenda of the Koch Brothers that will prove costly in a general election. Democrats have
strong incumbents, great recruits in Michigan, Iowa, West Virginia and Montana, and are playing offense in Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississippi.