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SPECIAL EDITION: How 2014 GOP Ads Will Backfire In 2016

SPECIAL EDITION: How 2014 GOP Ads Will Backfire In 2016

We don't yet know how today's elections will turn out, but here is what we know now: Republicans' strategy for 2014 will hurt them in 2016.

Republican Rhetoric in 2014 Will Be an Albatross for 2016

The 2014 elections are upon us. Make sure to vote! (And use this resource to make sure you have all the information you need.)

While control of the Senate may be determined very late on Election Day—or perhaps not for months as run-off elections are waged–a new memorandum from Neera Tanden and Ted Strickland lays out what we know now: Republicans’ strategy for 2014 will hurt them in 2016.

2014 voters are expected to be more white, more rural, and more conservative than those in 2016. In order to appeal to this 2014 electorate, Republicans have counted on the structural advantages in participation patterns for the midterm elections and doubled down on their far-right positions on a number of issues. While these positions may benefit them today by driving out the traditional conservative base, everything changes starting tomorrow. Many of their actions and messages risk alienating the rising American electorate of 2016 and beyond—Latinos, Millennials, African Americans, and single women.

The memo highlights are four issues that will come back to haunt the GOP when the electoral map changes for 2016. Click here to read it in full.

This cycle has seen some of the most extreme anti-immigration messaging from Republican candidates and allied groups. Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton spent six figures on an ad that accused Senator Mark Pryor, who voted in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, as casting a vote for “amnesty” and “citizenship for illegals.” New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown and Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue employed similar tactics, using immigration fears as a wedge, irresponsibly linking immigration to the public’s concerns on issues such as ISIS and Ebola.

These scare tactics are not only dishonest and disrespectful, they also put the GOP’s short-term gains ahead of long term trends. More than half of Latinos say that immigration reform is the most important issue for the president and Congress to address. And while they play a disproportionately small role this year — Latinos make up 11 percent of all eligible 2014 voters, but consist of just 4.7 percent of eligible voters in the eight states with the closest Senate races — their political power is growing. There will be more than 4 million more eligible Latino voters in 2016 than there were in 2012.

Climate Change
Climate, energy, and environmental ads have surged in 2014. Republicans and their allies have centered their early campaign attacks on predictions of dire economic consequences associated with the Obama administration’s proposed carbon-pollution standards. At the same time, a slew of high-profile GOPers in close races like Mitch McConnell, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst have employed some version the new anti-science climate denial tactic to say “I’m not a scientist.”

That’s a bad long-term strategy. American voters of all kinds are increasingly likely to support a candidate who supports action on climate change, but support is even higher among a group the GOP finds notoriously hard to attract: young people. And Millennials are becoming a larger and larger share of the electorate, projected to be up from 23 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2016.

Voting Rights
Stoking unfounded fears about voter fraud has been part and parcel of many Republican campaigns around the country in recent election cycles and in this cycle—from claims that illegal immigrants will steal American votes to outlandish charges of registering dogs to vote. This in turn leads to voter suppression laws that disenfranchise voters, particularly low-income and minority voters.

What is happening to one of the key groups, African Americans, who feel alienated by such actions? Their political power is growing, too: African American turnout decreases in the midterms, but they have increased their share of the electorate is each presidential election since 2004.


Women’s Issues
In an attempt to target young women voters, the College Republican National Committee created a series of seven “Say Yes to the Candidate” ads modeled after the popular TLC series “Say Yes to the Dress.” They were widely condemned, with Time calling the series “the most sexist Republican ad of the year.” It is just one example of Republicans’ ham-handed efforts to win over women voters with style while driving such voters away on substance by voting against paycheck fairness, opposing a minimum wage increase, and wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (just to name a few issues).

While it is unlikely that the GOP’s efforts to target women with this messaging will help them in 2014, it is far more likely that it will hurt them in 2016. Unmarried women, the cohort that Republicans have the most trouble attracting, may drop off in midterm elections but like African Americans make up an increasing share of the electorate in presidential years and are extremely reliable Democratic supporters.

BOTTOM LINE: Regardless of today’s election outcomes, Republican candidates and allied groups have doubled down on narrow, unpopular positions at the expense of their long-term success. As they look to 2016 and a rising American electorate that doesn’t agree with their policy positions, they may have to hope for a case of collective amnesia to erase the memories of 2014.

PS: Be sure to follow live Election Day coverage on ThinkProgress, which has reporters and video teams on the ground in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Virgina, and Ferguson, Missouri, contributing to an ongoing liveblog throughout the day.

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