After the Hobby Lobby decision some liberals licked their wounds, some continued to foam at the mouth, and others thanked conservatives for giving them an issue to energize the base.
As 2014 draws closer, should Republicans be worried that this issue could ruin plans to effectively kill what’s left of the Obama agenda? My colleague Noah Rothman wrote earlier this week that single, urban women could be the key for Democrats in retaining control of the Senate:
Like it or not, many young women believe that Republicans are hostile to their wellbeing, and no one is willing to listen to you if they think you don’t care about what is important to them or look down on their life choices. If there is one lesson from the Obama years that the GOP must internalize, it is that the party’s core coalition is not large enough to win the presidency. A double-digit gender gap in favor of Democrats will almost always deliver the White House. Party building is a project for the off years. If the GOP waits for 2016 to appeal to nontraditional GOP voters, it will already be too late.
This is partially due to poor messaging on behalf of Republicans and dismissing young women as lost to the Democratic Party.
Nevertheless, there are some issues where conservatives and young liberals actually find common ground. In case you missed it, both of these groups feels that America has done enough to create equality for African-Americans.
Right now, Republicans need six seats to retake the Senate; we have six Senate races in states where Romney won by 10-plus points or more. It’s no shocker that the GOP has a great opportunity to retake the Senate after eight years in the minority.
National Journal analyzed the seats that are most likely to flip last week and noted that Republicans are likely to win in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana:
1) South Dakota (Open D, Sen. Tim Johnson retiring) (Previous rank: 1)
With two former Republicans running as independents and likely to split votes on the Right, South Dakota could have been a better opportunity for Democrats. But Rick Weiland isn't the first-tier candidate the party was hoping for, and it doesn't look like he'll be able to make the race to replace Johnson competitive. Former Gov. Mike Rounds has the surest path of any Republican challenger in the country.
2) West Virginia (Open D, Sen. Jay Rockefeller retiring) (Previous: 2)
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant was always playing from behind against the top GOP recruit, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, and the president's new EPA regulations aren't doing her any favors in a coal state. Tennant has so far kept on par with Capito's fundraising, but she has a lot of ground to make up running against a popular incumbent in a state that really doesn't like President Obama.
3) Montana (D, Sen. John Walsh) (Previous: 3)
Steve Daines isn't Denny Rehberg, John Walsh isn't Jon Tester, and 2014 is looking a whole lot tougher for Democrats than 2012. That, in a nutshell, explains why Democrats aren't too optimistic about Montana despite the party's strong track record of success there. Walsh's appointment to the Senate in January gives him the benefit of incumbency—sort of—but an internal report from the U.S. Army that the then-adjutant general misused resources has put him on the defensive over his military background, which should be a major strength of his campaign. Just five months into his term, Walsh is clearly the midterm elections' most endangered incumbent.
As for Louisiana, North Carolina, and Arkansas, they’re toss-ups; but the Journal noted that if Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is defeated, then Sen. Pryor and Sen. Hagan in Arkansas and North Carolina could go with her. Overall, Republicans could easily net five seats, even six, which is Republicans’ magic number.
One race to also look at is Sen. Mark Begich’s uphill re-election bid in Alaska. So far, he’s run a strong campaign, but his state’s antipathy towards Obama will make this race competitive.
It’s not a bad forecast. Then again, Republicans were suppose to retake the Senate back in 2012, given the string of Democratic retirements and the disproportionate amount of seats they had to defend. In the end, there were 23 Democratic – or Democratic-caucused – seats in the 2012 cycle; Republicans ended the night losing two seats. It was a disaster.
Again, one of the factors that allowed the Democrats to hold the line was this fictitious “war on women” narrative that energized young, single women.
RNC spokesman Raffi Williams says the GOP feels “feel pretty good about where we stand with voters:”
The Democrats are trying to use the Hobby Lobby ruling to fire up their base but for all of those in America who stand for religious freedom and against the president’s constitutional overreach, we feel pretty good about where we stand with voters. Independents and undecided voters are questioning the actions and policies of this administration. They are aching for a government that doesn’t force one size fits all policies on the country which kills jobs and hurts American families. They are clamoring for a White House that works with Congress and obeys the Constitution. Republicans have been fighting everyday for a government that works for American families not against them. The difference between what Republicans are offering Americans and what Democrats are is clear, and poll after poll show that Americans are more aligned with Republican priorities, like getting our economy back on track, than they are with the intrusive inefficient government Dems support.
Now, as for the House races, I think Democratic hopes of regaining the majority died a long time ago, especially after you re-read this 2010 Gallup piece that said presidents with an approval rating below 50% lost an average of thirty-six seats during their midterm elections.
Right now, Gallup has Obama’s weekly average at a dismal 42%. Nevertheless, keep in mind Rothman’s warnings about young women being the electoral obstacle to Republican efforts to retake the Senate.
The ripple effect of this decision for the 2014 midterms remains to be seen. As Emma Roller of the Journal wrote last Monday, "Getting young female voters fired up about a decision is one thing; getting them to vote is another."
Liberal women are surely "fired up," but let's not make the mistake of not doing something if the latter occurs on the eve of the election.
It would be prudent for conservatives to at least attempt to engage these voters in a more concerted effort before the Hobby Lobby decision ostensibly resurrects the “war on women” with a vengeance. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still a smart strategy to avoid making unforced errors. That would be ignoring – or failing to reach – single women.