By now, if you care about who controls the US Senate, you’re probably worn out watching the polls that are updated daily on many different websites. Especially if it’s the Democratic Party that you’re pulling for, whose fortunes just seem to keep on sinking as November 4 nears.
But as you watch those projections dive, what makes it even more frustrating is knowing that there is one group of voters who, if they would just get off their asses and get to the polls, could easily swamp this election for the side that actually cares about things like health care coverage, women’s issues, and, you know, evidence-based rational thought.
We’re talking about Millennials, voters between 18 and 32 years old, who have a much greater tendency to vote for the Democratic Party. During midterm elections, the percentage of young voters drops precipitously. Generally, they seem to be motivated to vote only when the presidency is on the line, not for control of Congress.
We’ve put together a package of stories about what’s at stake in this midterm election, and what effect young voters could have on it.
— We talked to one of our favorite cartoonists, Matt Bors, who has been thrust into the role of Millennial spokesman in the past. He’s done yeoman’s work defending the Millennials against negative stereotypes — but can he tell us why they don’t vote?
— Raw Story’s Travis Gettys defines the problem for us, looking at how much the Millennial vote drops off and what it means for close races.
— And if the Millennials do fulfill expectations and largely stay home on Election Day, Gettys has also talked to experts about what happens if the GOP takes control of the Senate.
— For your election night party needs, we’ve also put together a handy hour-by-hour guide to which state results actually matter, so you don’t get overwhelmed with the night’s information overload.
And in this piece, we’ve hit upon a solution that should finally get Millennials to pay attention to this doomsday election.
In 2008, young voters turned out at a healthy 52 percent and were a significant reason why Barack Obama became president. But in the midterms? Those numbers plunge.
Take Kentucky, for example, where one of the closest races for US Senate is about to reach its conclusion.
In the 2010 midterm election, Kentucky’s youngest registered voters, those 24 years and younger, turned out at the anemic rate of 23 percent. Old angry white guys — male Republicans aged 62 or older — turned out at 72.2 percent. You see the problem.
Kentucky’s election pits the Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, against Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Both sides have been battered and bruised in a contest that the whole country has been watching.
Grimes was slammed by NBC’s Chuck Todd because she wouldn’t divulge whom she voted for in the 2012 presidential election. It was bad strategy on her part to stay mum, but as a few observers pointed out at the time, who Grimes backed for president was a lot less important than Mitch McConnell’s dishonest statements about Obamacare — statements which were intended to obscure the point that if McConnell has his way, 500,000 Kentuckians would lose their health care coverage overnight.
At this point, polls show the two in a virtual dead heat. As Louiville’s Journal-Courier put it earlier this week, “McConnell is in the fight of his political life despite being the most powerful Republican in the Senate.”
The race is so close, Kentucky’s young voters, if they bothered to get to the polls, could easily decide the race. So why don’t they?
We figure the proposition just hasn’t been marketed correctly to the Millennials, who have been bombarded by advertising and marketing like no other generation before them. These kids were soaking up memes and subliminal messaging right out of the crib. So why not appeal to them in a language they understand?
Here’s Raw Story’s solution: Just show the youngsters these images. Democrats, you’re welcome.
Until about three weeks ago, the race in Georgia was mainly about whether Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, could make a strong showing against businessman David Perdue. Neither of the candidates has ever held public office, and despite her famous last name. Nunn was several points behind in a very Republican state. But that all changed when 2005 court testimony was dug up which had Perdue admitting that most of his career had been about outsourcing jobs. Nunn quickly shot up as a result and is getting very close with just days to go as more revelations about Perdue’s plutocratic history have come to light.
Democrat Kay Hagan looked to be one of the most vulnerable incumbents in this cycle, but Republican Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, has been battered by an intense Democratic advertising blitz. As a result, Hagan amassed a surprisingly strong lead, but things have tightened up in recent weeks.
What a difference a few weeks have made in Kansas. Republican incumbent Pat Roberts was vulnerable, in part because of press reports that revealed he doesn’t actually seem to live in the state he’s supposed to be representing in the nation’s capital. Then he became even more vulnerable when the Democratic challenger dropped out of the race so an independent, Greg Orman, could take on Robert directly. Suddenly, Orman was several points up and Roberts was in a big hole. But with help from a sudden infusion of outside money, Roberts has made up the difference, and this race could go down to the wire. (If Orman wins, although he’s an independent, he’s indicated he’ll caucus with the Democrats.)
We ran into Rick Weiland at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit — the Democratic candidate was working the room, trying to explain that in South Dakota, there was a really remarkable three-way race developing. And it turns out, he was exactly right. Former Republican governor Mike Rounds was expected to take the race easily, but then Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator, got into the race as an independent. They’ve split the conservative vote in this deeply red state, and that puts Weiland within striking distance.
As a conservative Democrat in the US Senate, Mark Pryor has to map out his moves like he was plotting castle intrigue and is keeping everyone guessing about who’s side he’s on. He’s facing a tough challenge from U.S. Representative Tom Cotton, an Afghanistan war veteran, who has been doing well lately in the polls.
Democratic incumbent Mark Udall knew he’d have a hard road to re-election, especially against a strong candidate like Republican U.S. representative Cory Gardner. But we can’t help it. All we can think of now as far as this race goes is Deadspin’s epic foul-up when the website accused Gardner of inventing a story he told a reporter about playing high school football. Gardner never played high school football Deadspin said, in what it clearly believed was this campaign’s “October surprise.” But then Gardner posted photos of himself in his high school football uniform to Twitter, and Deadspin had to eat crow. (Although its editor used another word.)
Louisiana is an odd state (which is one of the reasons we love it so much), and so it’s only fitting that it elects senators in an odd way. Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is up against Republican challengers Bill Cassidy (who is leading) and Rob Maness, and if one of them doesn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face each other in a December runoff.
With Tom Harkin retiring, Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley started with an advantage — which he squandered thanks to gaffes. Republican State Senator Joni Ernst got national attention for her ad about castrating pigs, but she’s also been effective at not letting some of her nutty statements from the past catch up with her. In January, she was catering to the lunatic fringe who worry that the UN has a plan (“Agenda 21”) to turn the United States into a bizarre puppet state. As the election neared, she tempered those views. This race has been one of the closest, but in recent weeks Ernst has shown signs of pulling away.
Here’s a fun fact about Mark Begich, the Democratic incumbent who’s running for re-election against Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in Alaska: He never went beyond high school. In fact, he’s the only member of Congress who didn’t at least do some college.
Well, the man’s a senator, so his lack of higher education obviously hasn’t held him back. In fact, we think he should use it to his advantage. So we’re finishing with two icons of high school.