Democratic Senate candidates face a major challenge to win in states where voters are more likely to view the midterms as an opportunity to vote against President Obama and his policies
Barack Obama is increasingly viewed as political liability by his own party. Democrats running for the Senate in a range of key races have sought to distance themselves from the President and are not using him on the campaign trail to try and boost their chances of victory. Research shows that the President's approval ratings are underwater in forty-three states, with the President's popularity being particularly limited in some states with the most competitive Senate races in 2014.
Results from the New York Times / CBS News / YouGov Battleground Tracker for the 2014 midterms shows that Democratic candidates are faring poorly in states where many voters see their 2014 vote as a vote against the President. Overall, 45% of likely voters in the midterms see their vote as a chance to 'vote against President Obama and his policies', while only 24% see it as a chance to 'vote in support of President Obama and his policies'. 32% of the likely electorate say that they don't consider the President or his policies to be a factor in how they decide to vote.
In the latest Battleground Tracker, Democratic candidates have the lead in fifteen of the thirty-six Senate races taking place across the country. This varies from Hawaii where Democrat Brian Schatz has a 54% lead over his Republican opponent, to Iowa and North Carolina where the Democratic candidates barely hold on to a 1% edge over their Republican opponents. Only in North Carolina, however, is the percentage of voters who see their vote in the midterms as being a vote against the President (48%) higher than the national average of 45%. In every other Senate race where Democrats are in the lead, the percentage of likely voters who view the election as a chance to punish the President is below the national average.
It is a similar story for Republican candidates, who are leading in twenty-one of the thirty-six Senate races. In general, states where Republicans are leading the Senate race are also states where likely voters are more likely than the national average to say that they view the 2014 midterms as an opportunity to vote against the President and his policies. The key tipping point is the 45% mark, above which point voters' hostility towards the Obama administration begins to outweigh local political considerations.
Only one state, Maine, bucks this trend. In Maine Senator Susan Collins enjoys a 24% lead over Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, but only 37% of likely voters in Maine say that they see 2014 as a chance to punish the President. Rather, 44% of Maine voters say that the President and his policies will have no impact on their vote.
Only in one state, Hawaii, do likely voters tend to see their midterm votes as being in support of the President (27%) rather than against the President (23%), though overall most voters (51%) say that Obama isn't a factor in their vote. In each of the other forty-nine states, including liberal bastions such as Vermont and Massachusetts, voters are more likely to say that their vote is motivated by opposition to the President than support. Wyoming is the state most hostile to the President, with 65% of likely Wyoming voters saying that they see their 2014 vote as a vote against Obama and only 7% saying that they are voting in support of him.