RealClearPolitics, which keeps track of polling averages, has some worrying news for Democrats and liberals who were counting on a “blue wave” to sweep them in to power in Congress this November. Since the beginning of this year, more or less, a clear trend has emerged: President Trump's approval rating has gradually risen, while Democrats' lead on the “generic ballot” question in national polls (that asks whether respondents would be more likely to vote for a Democratic or Republican candidate for Congress) has been steadily shrinking. To bring these numbers into sharper perspective, Trump's average approval rating hit a low point in December 2017 of around 37 percent, and it has since rebounded to about 45 percent. Likewise, Democrats held a 13-point lead on the generic ballot six months ago, but now that lead is down to 3 points – a political sea change.
In truth, Republicans should be even more encouraged than these positive numbers suggest, because, as always, most national polling organizations are biased towards Democrats, and their methodologies reflect this. For instance, many polls are based on surveys of “American adults” or “registered voters,” rather than on the more narrow category of “likely voters” who are actually going to determine the results of the midterm elections in November. This skewed approach guarantees that Trump haters will be scooped up in deceptively large numbers. By “oversampling” registered Democrats, minorities, and other anti-Trump demographic categories, pollsters can further depress Republican support and exaggerate Democratic prospects. They know, based on their flawed predictions for the 2016 presidential election, that these methods are potentially disingenuous, but they continue to use them regardless, for the simple reason that they tend to make President Trump and Republicans look like “losers,” and apparently this has become the purpose of the news, as many mainstream journalists see it. The upshot, in any case, is that the current standing of the President and of Republicans among likely voters in the November 2018 midterm elections is probably even stronger than polling averages suggest.
Why has this shift occurred? The reasons for President Trump's rebound are myriad: a more disciplined White House operation (yielding fewer “unforced errors”), a booming economy, declining unemployment, a popular crusade to challenge other countries to end their unfair trade practices, the potential for peace on the Korean Peninsula, the steady delegitimization of the Mueller probe into “Trump-Russia collusion,” and perhaps also the Left's pivot away from collusion and towards less promising anti-Trump narratives, such as the Stormy Daniels farce. Trump also benefits from the dynamism on the hard left of the Democratic Party, which is pushing a radical agenda of impeachment despite efforts by the party's establishment, including Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, to softpedal the rhetoric of insurrection. Such talk is, as many establishment types realize, a gift to President Trump and all who support him.
Republicans running for the House and Senate in November naturally benefit from all of the favorable developments already noted, but in addition they can point to the successful passage of major tax reform and tax cuts, as well as the repeal of the Obamacare mandate, as proof that Republican majorities in Congress can indeed produce results. The inexorable flow of President Trump's conservative judicial nominees onto the federal bench also gives conservatives and Republicans ample reason to turn out and vote in November. Needless to say, hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by the Republican Party and outside groups to remind conservative and Republican voters of the high stakes in November, on issues as varied as taxes, gun rights, abortion, and illegal immigration. The level of organization and mobilization by conservative groups will be unprecedented.
As a result of all these developments, analysts are dialing back their predictions of a blue wave, and in fact most credible commentators now expect Republicans to gain seats in the Senate, which would ensure that the refreshingly red tide washing over the federal courts will, if anything, pick up steam in 2019 and 2020. No one can say for sure, but there is now an excellent chance that the midterm elections will produce a severe disappointment for Democrats and liberals. This means an even more Republican Senate, and a House that remains under Republican control. Likewise, Republicans may hang on to their dominant position in governorships and state legislatures.
Assuming that recent polling trends continue, and Republicans dodge the bullet of a blue wave in 2018, the really interesting question that will emerge is this: how will Democrats and leftists react? The election of President Trump was already a body blow to the Left. The only thing that has brought liberals some cheer since then is the idea that Trump is a buffoon who will surely self-destruct, taking the Republican Party down with him. Many polls since November 2016 have supported (by design, it must be said) this leftist conceit. Should Democrats lose in 2018, however, it is hard to imagine that there will not be a reckoning between the Democratic establishment and the hard left in this country, which will surely blame one another for their latest joint humiliation.
In that case, I would confidently predict that President Trump will ride the circular firing squad that will emerge on the Left all the way to victory in 2020. What will be left of “progressives” after that is anyone's guess.