It is often said, believed and undoubtedly right that the Republicans' ace in midterm elections is apathetic Democrats not showing up at the polls. But that once predictable waltz into November is threatened by blabbermouths of the right's seeking self-aggrandizement by hurling darts at the sleeping Democratic bear.
It's not that they don't know better. It's that their fame and fortune rests not on electing Republicans but on nurturing their brands. Brands don't take summer vacations.
Recent calls to impeach President Obama and unsubtle attacks on users of birth control have been bombastic enough to crash through the wall of midterm inattention that surrounds two large and very reliable groups of Democratic voters: African-Americans and single women.
As any self-respecting Republican strategist understands, the ground game is to keep these potential voters disengaged. Leave the older, white conservative voters who predictably show up to determine the midterm results. Let the political planets revolve on their appointed paths and find a lounge chair beside the pool.
But now you have Sarah Palin demanding to impeach Obama. African-Americans are hardly alone in finding such talk emblematic of a civic culture in decline, but this group tends to take it more personally. It also enjoyed the recent experience of having helped save Mississippi pork-meister Thad Cochran's bacon in a runoff election with a tea party challenger. That was a power surge that calls for impeachment could recharge come November.
Thus, the conservative Wall Street Journal got rather personal in blasting Palin over talk of removing Obama. "Progressives would like nothing better than for Republicans to try to impeach Mr. Obama, so they could scare up otherwise demoralized Democratic voters to come to the polls this November," an editorial said.
It is right, of course.
Next up at bat but playing the part of the ball are single women. Single women now represent 25 percent of the potential electorate and half of voting-age women. In 2012, nearly 3 in 4 voted for Obama. But their participation in elections drops off dramatically in nonpresidential years.
And that's why Republicans should find the Hobby Lobby case so worrisome. For single women, the part that soared over the fence of distraction was not so much the Supreme Court decision, regrettable though it was. Rather, it was the circus of insulting taunts against sexually active women that surrounded it.
On Fox News Channel, you had Jesse Watters expounding on single women as "Beyonce voters." He explained, "They depend on government because they're not depending on their husbands."
You have to get the full picture. On the set, Watters was flanked by four leggy dolls giggling appreciatively at his wit. Fox News can transform the most average white guy into an hombre.
But when it comes to birth control, most women have no sense of humor at all. Many of the younger ones work like dogs for meager pay, often raising children at the same time. For them, an unwanted pregnancy can be economically disastrous. And of course, the unmarried sisterhood is a diverse club, including many older widows, independent careerists and divorced mothers trying to make it through the day. They're not laughing, either.
Don't worry if you missed the Fox News performance. The liberal site ThinkProgress has thoughtfully posted the video.
Democratic strategists are up nights trying to get distracted Democratic voters to circle Nov. 4 on their calendars. Social media open new pipelines, but the right's entertainment-industrial complex provides a much-needed prod to find a pencil.
So go ahead, Fox News. Tell a quarter of the voters that they are sluts for wanting a sex life. Make Nancy Pelosi's day.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)