A number of months ago, when Republicans' collective 2018 fate was looking fairly bleak, I attended an off-the-record briefing that reviewed internal party polling, highlighting the party's strengths and weaknesses heading into a challenging midterms. The political headwinds, as they're often referred to, were blowing against Team Red -- based both on historical precedent and measurable electoral outcomes. Many of those same obstacles remain firmly in place today. But two of the bright spots that the assembled GOP gurus underscored were (a) the growing strength of the US economy, thanks to tax reform and other policies, and (b) the polarizing unpopularity of Nancy Pelosi among many independent voters. Pelosi was also a boon to her opponents, the data showed, because she polled as a strong motivating, turnout-driving factor for core Republican voters.
Late last week, these two GOP advantages collided in one memorable soundbyte from the House Democratic leader. Not merely content to ridicule the "crumbs" millions of American workers are enjoying as a direct result of the tax law every Congressional Democrat voted against, Pelosi expanded her sneering to include the recent jobs numbers, which showed US unemployment falling to its lowest level since 1969. Pay attention not only to her sarcasm about the extraordinary jobs numbers, but also her follow-up assertion about the other indicators that should matter more, in her estimation:
Matt broke down these comments over the weekend, but it's worth reiterating: Not only is joblessness scraping multi-decade lows (only twice in the last 50 years or so has US unemployment hit 3.8 percent), the other metrics mentioned by Pelosi are also in very strong shape. The Obama recovery -- the most lethargic since the Great Depression -- was held down by wasteful and job-killing programs and regulations. It was also characterized by stubbornly stagnant wages. The May jobs report showed that wages are finally rising, up close to three percent year-over-year since May 2017. That is significant progress. Pelosi also insistently bumbled on about the importance of consumer confidence, which is...approaching an 18-year high. In short, House Democrats' multimillionaire San Francisco liberal leader managed to sound pointedly dismissive of truly incredible jobs numbers, while simultaneously demanding that people instead pay attention to other economic measuring sticks that also highlight how robust the economy is right now. It's almost impressive how terrible that messaging is.
The question is, will Pelosi's unlikable ineptitude matter at the polls in November? And will the outstanding state of the economy help stave off a blue wave? One week ago, the Real Clear Politics average of generic congressional ballot polling showed Republicans pulling into an approximate statistical dead heat. Trump was up, Democrats were down, and the conventional wisdom was starting to look awfully silly. Again. But a spate of newer polling has caused the Dems to bounce back out to a significant lead (7.6 percentage points as of Sunday). That's still half the level of their peak advantage, but it's a reversal of the electorate's anti-Democratic trend. Their improved statistical standing has been assisted by a Reuters survey showing the Democrats ahead by 11 points. Reuters was also the polling series that pegged the GOP slightly ahead not too long ago, so there's obviously some weirdness going on in those samples. Republicans did not lose roughly 17 net points in a matter of a few weeks. But the poll that should worry the GOP isn't the bouncy Reuters result -- it's this last data point from Fox News:
Latest Fox News polling results that should concern GOP:— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) June 10, 2018
- Trump approval rises to (45/51)
- Trump economic approval at (52/41)
- Economic optimism at robust 59/35
- Plurality support (+5) for tax reform law
...yet Dems +9 on the generic ballot, w/ many wanting check on Trump.
A fresh NBC/WSJ survey also shows Trump's job approval improving and tracks Americans' brightening views on the economy, yet it also demonstrates how resistance might be a winning posture in 2018:
From the latest NBC/WSJ poll: By a 25-point margin, voters say they’re more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on President Trump. #2018Midterms— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 7, 2018
READ MORE: https://t.co/ApTVZ1rOmR
If voters ultimately decide that a humming and growing economy is attributable to Trump and GOP policies, and yet they still want to vote against Trump, that's a very dark sign for the president's party heading into the fall.