Many right-leaning writers and bloggers seem shocked that pro-business groups like the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), pro-life organizations like the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in particular, are endorsing Democratic incumbents in this upcoming election.
Of course, these endorsements are nothing new.
More importantly, the knee-jerk notion that these endorsements automatically hurt Republican challengers is short-sighted.
In fact, a recent Zogby International/O’Leary Report poll shows that 61 percent of Democratic voters think that these endorsements represent a betrayal of their president and their values, and therefore, they could bite Democratic incumbents on Election Day.
It’s worth mentioning that all of these groups are nonpartisan, single-issue advocacy groups. Their memberships are comprised of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. This is especially true of the NRA, where 60 percent of the membership is comprised of Democrats and independents.
That these single-issue advocacy groups are endorsing Democrats is hardly anything new.
The only difference this time is that many of the races in these traditionally strong Democratic districts are actually competitive, and many Democrats are trying desperately to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.
Take Alabama Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright, for example, who recently launched a television ad bragging that he votes with Republican leadership 80 percent of the time.
In West Virginia, Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, who is running for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat, is vowing to kill Obama’s cap-and-trade initiative if elected, and he is also touting his NRA endorsement and strong record on Second Amendment rights.
Both Bright and Manchin risk alienating 61 percent of their Democratic base.
Still, some conservatives are skewering these single-issue groups for not abandoning Democratic incumbents, who have been faithful to the cause, and getting onboard with the Republican express.
Instead of trying to make news out of something that’s not very newsworthy, these folks ought to be focusing on the dilemma that “conservative” endorsements from single-issue advocacy groups pose to incumbent Democrats this year.
It’s a dilemma they haven’t had to deal with in past elections.
Take for example, an incumbent Democrat with an NRA, NFIB or NRLC endorsement. In previous years the endorsement wasn’t a major story in his district. Not only because his re-election was a foregone conclusion, but also because he didn’t trumpet his endorsement too loudly for fear of scaring off his base.
Rather, he would let the members of these single-issue groups in his district learn of his endorsement through their networks, and leave it at that.
This year, however, Democratic candidates are trumpeting their endorsements from single-issue groups, hoping that it will help separate them from the toxic Obama and Pelosi.
Now, there are 21 million American voters nationwide who consider themselves to be NRA members, and so an average of nearly 50,000 voters in any district are likely to admire an NRA endorsement. (Note: That 21 million is according to Zogby, Gallup and Harris polling, and does not represent dues paying members.)
There are also 43,000 hardcore pro-life voters (on average) in each district, and 55,000 small business owners.
However, there are 87 million voters nationwide who are still strong supporters of Obama and Pelosi, and 40 million of them strongly resent anyone who opposes the president and the speaker or the issues they support. So, on average, there are 92,000 voters in any district who are likely to be significantly turned-off by an NRA, NFIB or NRLC endorsement.
A good majority of these hardcore Democratic voters want to ban guns, raise taxes on small businesses, and force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions. These Democrats are not going to vote Republican, but are they going to vote for a Democrat who says he opposes everything in which they believe?
Is the incumbent Democrat who boasts these endorsements gaining more support than he loses? This is the gamble that many of them are making, and obviously, the gambling odds vary by district based on demographics.
A recent Zogby/O’leary Report poll conducted Oct. 8-11 of 2,071 likely voters shows that Democratic incumbents who try too hard to separate themselves from their party leadership, risk alienating a substantial number of both Democratic and independent voters.
The poll asked: "A number of Democratic congressmen are running ads stating their opposition to Obama administration policies, such as health care, cap and trade and stimulus spending. Which of the following statements comes closer to your feelings?
Statement A: “This is necessary for them to do so they can make voters aware of their positions in opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
Statement B: “This is an unethical betrayal of their President and done only so they can be re-elected.”
A majority of voters (51 percent) say that incumbent Democrats who run against the Obama administration’s policies are guilty of an unethical betrayal of their president.
More importantly to Democratic candidates 61 percent of Democratic voters consider opposition to the Obama administration a betrayal, as do 44 percent of independent voters.
Call it the blue-dog dilemma. Once upon a time, endorsements by conservative single-issue advocacy groups were hip pocket luxuries to incumbent Democrats in safe districts — only to be shown off in certain company. But today’s climate is much different, and most Democrats are using these endorsements to distance themselves from their unpopular national leadership.
We’ll know on Nov. 2 if this is a wise move for them, or if it only ends up costing them with their base.
Brad O'Leary is a veteran political consultant, publisher of The O'Leary Report, a best-selling author, and a former NBC Westwood One talk-show host. To see more, go to OLearyReport.com
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