In North Carolina, GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis had built leads of up to 14 percentage points among men in recent polls. Republicans who have won male voters by that margin have only lost two Senate races in the past 10 years, according to exit polls. It’s equal to the margin Republicans posted nationwide during their electoral sweep in 2010.
But Tillis has consistently trailed in recent surveys, because Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan—whose campaign, like her party’s efforts in Colorado and elsewhere across the country, has focused relentlessly on issues of greater importance to women—has run up the score even higher among female voters.
The “gender gap”—the difference between Republicans’ usual margin of victory among men and Democrats’ usual margin of victory among women—is nothing new. It has been evident for years in almost every election up and down the ballot. But a National Journal analysis of public polls, and interviews with strategists from both parties, suggests that the gap has ballooned to historic proportions across 2014’s battleground states. Democrats are running campaigns designed to press an advantage among women that is helping the party compete in a number of races despite an unfriendly political climate and steep GOP advantages among men. Meanwhile, Republicans are searching for issues to combat the trend with female voters.
“I think the gender gaps are growing compared to past election cycles,” said Matt Canter, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s deputy executive director. “We’ll see how that turns out, but that’s certainly what the public and internal polling shows, in every race across the board.”
It’s a trend several Republicans privately admitted they are watching nervously, though some point out that one end of the growing gap isn’t bad news for the GOP. “I haven’t seen gender gaps like this in any race until this year, and we’re seeing them all over the place,” said Nicole McCleskey, a New Mexico-based Republican pollster for Public Opinion Strategies. “Typically people say we’re in bad shape with women, but it’s also that Democrats are not doing well with men. That’s why the gap is exploding like it is.”
In Senate and governor’s races since 2004, the average gender gap has been 13 points, according to a review of exit polls from the past decade, and just seven races (out of more than 200 measured in that time) have had gender gaps of more than 30 points. (The 2010 Colorado Senate race, in which Republicans carried male voters by 14 points but lost among women by 17 points for a 31-point gender gap, is one rare example.)
Since August, though, independent live-caller polls of Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds have had an average gender gap of more than 20 points, and the gaps have topped 30 points in multiple polls of three races: the North Carolina and Iowa Senate contests and the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. There are only three battlegrounds where Democrats have trailed among women in a Senate or gubernatorial contest, and only another three where Republicans have trailed among men in any independent live-caller poll.
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In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."
According to the most recent Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally disliked. The poll, conducted between July 18 and July 25, shows both major party candidates for president are viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 58 percent of respondents. This poll is bad news for Clinton, who has received better favorable and unfavorable ratings in nearly every poll over the last year.