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Left-behind polling memo shows abortion hurting outlook for GOP

Generic support for Democratic House and Senate increased

Demonstrators march to the White House to call on the Biden administration to protect abortion rights on July 9, 2022.
Demonstrators march to the White House to call on the Biden administration to protect abortion rights on July 9, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

One party’s trash is another party’s treasure.

In the latest chapter of what seems to be a long-running series about Roll Call getting ahold of things people shouldn’t leave behind, a binder from a conference an outside group held for top GOP Senate staffers at a West Virginia resort had some cautionary signs about the 2024 climate.

The generic ballot has shifted toward Democrats, with Republicans losing ground among independents on the abortion issue, according to a new polling memo from a GOP firm that fell into Democratic hands.

“There has been a 6 point swing in the last year on the Generic Senate ballot from R+3 to D+3. This movement is [led] overwhelmingly by Independent and NEW voters that identify abortion as one of their top issues,” according to a “National Issue Study” by co/efficient, which was in the news recently as one of the pollsters for Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron. 

The poll, conducted April 20-24, had similar findings on the House side. “There has been a 10 point swing in the last year on the Generic House Ballot from R+6 to D+4. This movement is [led] overwhelmingly by Independent and NEW voters that identify abortion as one of their top issues,” it said on slide seven. “Reproductive Freedom is the #1 issue among those that DID NOT vote in 2020.”

Republicans have been reticent to publicly admit the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent and subsequent lawsuits and state laws to restrict access to legal abortion hampered their midterm gains and could hurt them in the upcoming 2024 cycle. 

“In March of 2022, Independent voters were breaking 3 to 1 for the Generic Republican. Today, Ind’s are breaking for the Generic Republican by only a few points. Nearly tied,” according to the survey of 1,956 likely general election voters via mobile text response.

The poll numbers were part of a 34-slide presentation and part of a binder for a conference by Senate Working Group, a nonprofit that sponsors training for Senate staff. The April 28-29 program was attended by Senate Republican chiefs of staff and staff directors. 

An individual attending another event at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia found the binder in an empty meeting room and subsequently sent it to a friend who works on Capitol Hill. That Democratic aide sent the binder to a Democratic operative, who passed along a PDF of the polling slides and photos of the binder to Roll Call.

Republicans need a net pickup of two seats to take control of the Senate next year, or one seat if the party wins the White House since the vice president breaks ties. Initial ratings show nine Senate seats previously won by Democrats are on the battleground, compared with only one Republican seat.

Democrats had a 40-36 percent advantage in the House generic ballot and 42-39 percent advantage in the Senate generic ballot in the co/efficient poll shared with top Republican aides. On Election Day 2022, Republicans had a 1.2-point advantage in the national generic ballot, according to the FiveThirtyEight average. In that election, the GOP flipped control of the House with a net gain of nine seats but lost one Senate seat. 

President Joe Biden’s job rating in the recent co/efficient survey was 35 percent approve and 54 percent disapprove, which didn’t look as bad compared with Republican leadership in the House (27 percent approve/57 percent disapprove) and Democratic leadership in the Senate (32 percent approve/55 percent disapprove). “Women’s reproductive freedom” was one of the top three issues that voters said the federal government should be focused on (24 percent), narrowly behind Inflation/Higher Prices (30 percent) and Border Crisis & Illegal Immigration (26 percent). The poll’s sample included 35 percent self-identifying Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 34 percent “Other.” 

In 2016, Democrats found a script for an upcoming ad for GOP Sen. Rob Portman lying on a bench near the Ohio Clock outside the Senate. In 2002, a Democratic aide found a computer disk with PowerPoint presentations by top White House advisers Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman in Lafayette Park, which was first released to Roll Call

The policy briefing book housed in a navy blue three-ring binder also contained information on other sessions, including Government Accountability, Foreign Policy and the Economy & Inflation to go along with How the Issues Play at Home and the corresponding polling information. Resort owner/governor/U.S. Senate candidate Jim Justice attended the opening dinner of the event, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to the group.

Remember, don’t leave behind something you don’t want to see in Roll Call. 

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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