Dems, GOP using hot button issues to turn out the vote


It is a custom of Congress, in the fall of every election year, to leave Washington and hit the campaign trail.

But this year they don't really need to.

That's because, this year, Washington IS the campaign trail.

Democrats and Republicans agree on this much about 2014: There's little chance of new laws on any of the big issues they're talking about.

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The main point of their rhetoric is, instead, voter mobilization. They are emphasizing issues that, according to several recent surveys, appeal lopsidedly to their most reliable constituencies.

For Democrats, those key constituencies are liberals, single women, blacks and Hispanics; for Republicans, conservative whites and married voters. And if the issues in question split the base of their opponents, all the better.

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So President Barack Obama hammers away at Republicans for blocking an increase in the minimum wage. Fully 9 in 10 Democrats favor an increase, but only half of Republicans do.

Democratic leaders in Congress, like Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, hit Republicans over and over for blocking immigration reform. Seven in 10 Democrats say legislation should provide a path to legal residency for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here; only 1 in 3 Republicans does.

And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi blasts Republicans for opposing new legislative steps to assure equal pay for women. Half of Democrats say new laws are needed, while only 1 in 7 Republicans does.

On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner keeps attacking the new health-care law. Three in 4 Republicans believe the problems with Obamacare are not fixable.

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Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a feisty former federal prosecutor, will direct a new House committee to investigate the Benghazi tragedy. Seven in 10 Republicans say the truth about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack still needs to be determined, through only one in 4 Democrats does.

And Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California continues to press his controversial probe into IRS targeting of conservative nonprofit groups. Seven in 10 Republicans believe the White House itself directed the IRS targeting for political reasons, though only 1 in 4 Democrats does.

Nonstop political rhetoric with no concrete action is the sort of thing that makes voters hate Washington all the more. But "none of the above" is not on the ballot. And for now, polls measuring voter interest in the election suggest Republicans are more motivated to punish Democrats in November than the other way around.

—By CNBC's John Harwood.