Heather Higgins

The real terrorism threat: it wasn’t just timing. Much was made of the importance of the Christmas Day Bomber to Brown’s surge coupled with the initial non-response of the Coakley campaign. Indeed national security was an important issue for 63% of voters, including 75% of independents and 82% of Republicans. But well over half of Brown’s voters had made up their minds by early December, and for 69% of them this issue was already a priority before Christmas. The implication? Transfers of terrorists to U.S. soil and decisions to have them tried in criminal courts are going to continue to cause trouble for Democrats.

It’s the economy, stupid. PS: Tax cuts rule. Eighteen percent of voters said jobs and the economy were top issues; an additional 62% placed economic issues in the top three. Given a given a choice between continuing to have the federal government spend money versus yanking the congressional credit card and cutting existing programs, 56% chose the latter, including 65% of Independents. Additionally, 82% of voters across the board think that providing tax cuts to small businesses for job creation will speed up the recovery – including 79% of frequent Ted Kennedy voters.

2010 elections: Independents, and particularly Independent women, matter.

Large majorities of Republicans and Democrats cast votes along party lines for their candidates. But while women overall voted 53%-45% for Coakley, Independent women voted 67%-33% for Brown. Given an option between reducing taxes and regulations on small business or increasing government spending, 51% preferred tax cuts while 30% chose infrastructure. On these issues, as well as health care and national security, independent women were lining up closer to Republicans than Democrats, bucking their sex and voting on issues.

Democrat attrition… but no Republican pickup. Here’s the bad news for Democrats but a word of caution for Republicans. When comparing past voting behavior to expected future voting behavior, Democrats suffer a decline of 7 points. The greatest is among Jews (-16), Catholics who aren’t frequent church-goers (-15), union households (-14) and moderates (-13). Yet this doesn’t translate into an increase for Republicans – just a big bump in people saying they don’t know for whom they are going to vote. Indeed Republicans may increase the number of men who vote with them but they may still lose women.

It’s going to be an interesting year.

Heather Higgins

Heather R. Higgins is the president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice (IWV). Hadley Heath Manning is senior policy analyst at IWV.