Alishia Tisdale, proud of the small role she played in Barack Obama’s two White House victories, says she turns out whenever the presidency is on the ballot.
Yet life got in the way for this 27-year-old mother of four, a nursing student, when Florida held a special election for an open congressional seat last month. Without her or a lot of other Obama-backers voting, Democrats lost that contest by almost 2 percentage points in a district the president carried by 1.5 percentage points in 2012.
“The day of the voting, it seemed like everything just went wrong,” Tisdale said. “I had school, my car broke down. I just didn’t make it to the polls.”
A fall-off in turnout is the biggest threat Democrats face in the 2014 midterms when the electorate will trend older and whiter, two constituencies their party hasn’t won in recent elections.
That potentially more hostile voter pool comes amid other signs of trouble for Democrats. In October, nonpartisan political analysts had just one race featuring a Democratic incumbent, Senator Mark Pryor in Arkansas, rated a “toss-up;” five such contests now have that ranking.