Sasha Issenberg’s new TNR cover-story goes over it in extreme detail. One of his main arguments:
If Democrats fail to see midterms as sufficiently sexy, the problem may lie not with the party’s rank-and-file but with its donors and activists. The strategists engineering the party’s campaigns now have at their disposal databases containing the names of every Unreliable voter in the country, as well as guidance on where, how, and when they can be reached. (Democratic analysts have developed predictive models to anticipate which voters are most likely to actually open and read their mail.) Volunteers who live near those passive sympathizers can be dispatched; when in-person contact is unfeasible, carefully crafted letters can be sent instead.
But all of these increasingly powerful tools also require money and manpower. This is why it’s not intensity scores on polls but rather the bustle of field offices and the sums on fund-raising reports that are the best guide to the Democrats’ midterm prospects. When those indicators sag, says Mike Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director and chair of the Analyst Institute’s board, “the effects are cascading.” For a party populated with Unreliable voters, the midterm imperative is clear: Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments. Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won’t show up without a friendly nudge.
In an accompanying piece, TNR charts out some voters Democrats will need to capitalize on. One group: “non-electorial college college students”:
Most of this year’s big Senate races are in states, like Georgia, that never got worked over by Obama’s field team. Their Democratic turnout targets will include not only Unreliables but also non-voters who weren’t even mobilized in 2012, many of them young whites. (A majority of this year’s Senate races are also in states whose African American population is smaller than the national share.)