In my post yesterday about freshly-announced benefits from tax reform -- here's another bummer for Pelosi and friends -- I warned that in spite of Americans' positivity on the economy and growing support for the GOP-passed law, outsized Democratic enthusiasm threatens to make a 'blue wave' inevitable. I stand by that analysis, but figured I'd keep you posted on data points and trends that push back against the 'doomed GOP' narrative. One was the Monmouth poll we covered last week. The latest national survey from Politico is another. The president's approval rating is up to a respectable level, Republicans have eaten away at Democrats' (once double-digit) generic ballot lead, and voters trust the GOP on a number of top issues:
POLITICO poll: Trump approval rises to 45/51, GOP gains on generic ballot (from down 10 in December to down 4 now), and voters give R's significant advantages on economy & national security. Biggest advantage Dems have right now is overwhelming intensity: pic.twitter.com/uFdYJD8705— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 8, 2018
In the poll, Republicans go three-for-three on national security (+13), the economy (+9), and jobs (+6). That ain't bad for a group that's on death's door, according to the conventional wisdom. I'm also a little surprised to see the immigration data; although it's true that despite media framing, Republicans' stances on the issue are actually quite popular. On the flip side, the survey finds that voters have moved in the Democrats' direction on every issue since Trump's inauguration. As for prominent DC leaders not named Trump, here's how they're faring in the court of public opinion:
On non-presidential favorability, only Pence is right-side up (+4), with all major Congressional leaders polling underwater. Ryan's in the least-bad shape of the Big Four, with Nancy Pelosi dead last #PoliticoPoll pic.twitter.com/4AYz0mVNLa— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 8, 2018
Another factor that works in Republicans' favor is how heavily the Senate map is tilted in their direction this year. Democrats are trying to defend 26 of the 34 seats that are up. Most of the GOP seats are in safely red states, and ten of those Democratic seats are in states Trump carried in 2016. A huge wave year can bring about the improbable, but it really would take a lot for Republicans to lose control of the upper chamber. Via Larry Sabato's crystal ball:
Republicans have better than 50-50 odds to hold control of the U.S. Senate even in the event of a Democratic wave in November. The reason is the map: Including the two independents who caucus with them, the Democrats are defending 26 of the 34 seats being contested this fall, which is the most lopsided Senate map any party has faced in a midterm since 1938. Five of the Democratic seats are in states that Donald Trump won in landslides, and another five are in states he won. Because the map is so good for Republicans, it is possible they will add to their majority even if the electoral environment otherwise breaks against them in other elections, such as those for the U.S. House of Representatives. That said, the Democrats do have a path to a Senate majority, albeit slim...Democrats need all the breaks to win a majority.
There are at least five Senate Democrats that I'd consider eminently beatable in November: Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Bill Nelson (FL). A few others shouldn't feel terribly secure, either. Even if things go sideways, and the GOP loses a seat in both Nevada and Arizona, knocking off just one of those aforementioned Democratic incumbents would keep the Senate in GOP hands. Here's one more encouraging sign for Republicans:
Blue wave? NC Republicans fare well in new poll https://t.co/eS5qu9Mol5— Ronnie Glassberg (@ronnieglassberg) February 7, 2018
The Meredith College poll found that there appears to be no difference in enthusiasm among Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters in North Carolina. The poll, taken between Jan. 21 and 25, found not only that preferences for congressional and legislative candidates appear to be relatively equal, but that voters expressed a slight preference for Republican candidates....Asked about congressional races, respondents favored Republicans over Democrats 45.2 percent to 43.5 percent. The gap existed for legislative races too but was smaller, as respondents favored Republicans 43.3 percent to 42.5 percent for Democrats.
Trump won North Carolina relatively narrowly over Clinton, and it's that reddish-type terrain on which a number of important Senate contests will be fought this year. The president's deep unpopularity among certain populations is a problem for House Republicans in places like California, but may not spell big trouble for statewide office-seekers in friendlier areas. All that said, polls are theoretical and rely on certain assumptions regarding turnout. What we've seen on the ground in low-profile, local races across the country (Virginia was a big red flag), the Left appears far more engaged than the Right -- and big money is flying into Democratic campaign coffers (except at the DNC). There's a reason why Democrats are bullish and on offense:
And since I've embedded a Kraushaar tweet, I'll leave you with his analysis of the current state of play:
Predictions of a Dem tsunami have evolved into a GOP comeback.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) February 7, 2018
My new column concludes with where I’ve been for a little while: Dems with a narrow edge (60%) at the House.
Too many “knowns” favor the Ds even as environment trending a little towards Rs.https://t.co/77RHZfV7sD
There's a reason why Republicans are eager for Nancy Pelosi to keep her profile as high as possible.