The opening for action, business leaders believe, has been shown by polling Mr. [Doug] Schoen has done for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks. At a time when the favorability rating of Congress lurks in the low teens, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's favorable rating is 71%—and 85% of voters have a favorable view of their local Chamber of Commerce, in Mr. Schoen's polling.
The polling also pointed toward one potentially significant mission for business groups: early voting. In 32 states, it's now possible to cast ballots before Election Day rolls around, and Democrats have jumped well ahead of Republicans in getting their voters to take advantage.
Mr. Schoen surveyed 2,000 early voters and found that 50% said a Democratic campaign helped facilitate their early vote, while just 35% said a GOP campaign had done so. Chamber officials now see an opening to use their financial and organizational network to drive early voting toward GOP candidates they prefer.
That finding is helping the Chamber plot its role in next year's congressional elections. On Tuesday it will launch a TV ad on behalf of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces a tea-party primary challenger in his home state of Kentucky. "Our whole strategy this cycle is we're going to go local," says Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative who advises the Chamber. "We're going to run it like a sheriff's campaign."
The model was created in last month's runoff in Alabama's first congressional district to determine the GOP nominee to run for a vacant seat. It pitted Bradley Byrne, a lawyer and former state senator, against tea-party favorite Dean Young. Business groups backed Mr. Byrne with money and organization, says William Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, and helped drive turnout higher than in the original primary. That sets up an almost-certain victory for Mr. Byrne—and his business backers—in the general election in two weeks.