In recent days, Republicans' standing on the national generic ballot has eroded considerably, again bouncing in Democrats' favor. Five consecutive public surveys, all conducted in late August gave the opposition party a double-digit lead among the general electorate, forecasting a blue wipeout in November. The GOP's position improved at times over the summer, but could be slipping back into extremely dangerous territory:
Democrats now lead Republicans by 9.5 points on the RealClearPolitics average - their largest lead over the GOP since February.— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) September 4, 2018
And now that Labor Day is over... it's about to get (even more) insane. pic.twitter.com/8EEcr60Tg3
If late-breakers tend to side against the party in power in wave years (Republicans may push back that their double-digit lead on the economy is a significant tally in their favor), it's conceivable that things could grow worse heading deeper into the fall. Or this downward trend could stabilize and improve. To wit, two generic ballot polls added to RCP's average since the streak of five straight double-digit deficits peg the GOP's standing at (-5) and (-4) respectively. And another survey, not included in RCP's formula, shows Republicans within the margin of error:
This is what I mean by generic ballot polling being noisy/bouncy. Democrats had a bunch of *excellent* generic ballot polls yesterday, but then one of the best pollsters in the country, Selzer, came out with them only +2 in a new poll today: https://t.co/nSPeKmDTNc— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 5, 2018
Amid a string of ugly generic ballot polls for the GOP in recent days, this one -- highly regarded by FiveThirtyEight -- shows a much closer race (43/41 Dems). A more positive glimmer for R's, but watch the trend: pic.twitter.com/bnvQ2IpWnv— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 5, 2018
Meanwhile, President Trump's ultra-stable job approval rating has taken a bit of a hit lately. If it's not because of the Cohen and Manafort developments, what might be at play here? Allahpundit reviews one popular theory, tying Trump's dip to his handling of the death of Sen. McCain:
McCain died on August 25. By the morning of Monday the 27th, Trump had already ordered the White House flag to be raised from half-staff to full. Reporters badgered him all that day with requests to say something nice about McCain, with POTUS maintaining an icy silence. Only after the American Legion called on him publicly to be more respectful of McCain did the flag come back down to half-staff and Trump say a few complimentary words to a group of evangelicals about respecting McCain’s service. There were anecdotal reports last week that vets weren’t happy with how McCain was treated. The plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data,” but — well, actually it is if there are enough similar anecdotes. Does the McCain snub explain the drop in his numbers?
He goes on to write, "there may be something to the idea that this is McCain-related. Logically, with all left-leaning voters virtually unanimous in opposition to him, the only way to dent Trump’s approval rating is to give right-leaning voters a reason to be mad at him. That’s hard to do, particularly with the economy cruising, but affection and sympathy for McCain among Republican non-populists and annoyance at the pettiness of Trump’s flag snub might have managed to do it. Which, if so, is relatively good news for the GOP as it suggests the recent damage isn’t permanent." That's not an unreasonable analysis, but it rests on a lot of if's and assumptions. Let's check in again in mid-September and see how things have shaken out. I'll leave you with two new polls from critical Senate races, each showing an exact tie:
New Quinnipiac poll just out in the Florida Senate race shows incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott locked in a 49%-49% tie among likely voters. #FLSen— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) September 5, 2018
NBC/Marist poll of Missouri among likely voters:— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) September 4, 2018
McCaskill (D): 47%
Hawley (R): 47%
Among registered voters, it’s Hawley 47%, McCaskill 46%
Neither of these polling series is typically favorable toward Republicans, so I'd imagine the Scott and Hawley campaigns aren't too displeased with these results. The Missouri contest is extremely tight: In three public polls released in July through September, there have been two ties and one giving Hawley a razor thin edge. In Florida, Rick Scott enjoys a small overall advantage, and Bill Nelson hasn't led in a public poll since June (although the last two have been ties). The good news for Republicans that if they pick off either of these two races, there is a pretty strong likelihood that they'll protect, or even expand, their upper chamber majority. The bad news is that if Democratic voters parlay higher intensity and enthusiasm into a turnout win, tied races will likely fall like dominoes in their favor.
UPDATE - Since I mentioned the economy earlier...
Jobless claims fall to 203k, lowest since Dec. 6, 1969— Joseph Lawler (@josephlawler) September 6, 2018