Democrats stand to make gains in the upcoming midterm elections -- but their cockiness about winning sweeping victories has reportedly become more restrained in recent days, thanks to tightening generic ballot polling and improved presidential approval numbers. CNN's newest national survey shows most Americans are pleased with the general state of the country, with Democrats' 2018 advantage down to just three points (as opposed to 16 points in the same series several months ago). Reuters' national data shows Democrats' lead whittled down to one measly point, well within the margin of error. At the beginning of the year, 'Chuck and Nancy's' party held a double digit average lead on the generic ballot, according to Real Clear Politics. That margin has now been chopped in half, to just under six percentage points.
Perhaps more worrisome to liberals is President Trump's increased public opinion standing. Trump is still somewhat unpopular, but his ratings have recovered from disastrous nadirs. It's impossible to tell what the mood of the country will be in five-plus months -- and history, both recent and more broadly speaking -- remains on Democrats' side. But via Ed Morrissey, the Washington Post reports that confidence is (once again) giving way to anxious hand-wringing:
After months of confidence that public discontent with President Trump would lift Democrats back to power in Congress, some party leaders are fretting that their advantages in this year’s midterms are eroding amid a shifting political landscape. Driving their concerns are Trump’s approval rating, which has ticked upward in recent weeks, and high Republican turnout in some recent primaries, suggesting the GOP base remains energized. What’s more, Republicans stand to benefit politically from a thriving economy and are choosing formidable candidates to take on vulnerable Democratic senators...
Democratic worries are mounting in the House, as well, where the party has been more confident of gaining the 23 seats it needs to retake the majority. Democrats are picking strong candidates in dozens of Republican-held suburban districts where Trump has lost significant support — but recent surveys suggest the races may be tightening. Trump’s approval is now at the highest point it has been all year, measured by Gallup in early May at 42 percent, a five-point increase from the start of 2018. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ advantage when voters are asked which party they want to control Congress has shrunk...
Part of Democrats' problem is the sheer volume of noise being generated by disparate anti-Trump factions, much of which is focused on issues like Russia and Stormy Daniels. Congressional candidates may be struggling to focus on bread and butter issues that speak to persuadable voters while their base is fired up over Mueller, porn stars and the prospect of impeachment. The Daily Beast explores this frustration:
Eager to move a message that focuses on things like minimum wage hikes and health care premiums, they have been overtaken by a steady stream of stories of Russian meddling, porn star payoffs, and shady Trump-world figures. Ultimately, many offices and aides have come to the conclusion that they should simply give up on trying to break through on cable news at all. “It’s impossible,” said one Senate aide, “unless you want to talk about Russia.” In conversations with The Daily Beast, numerous other aides echoed this point, sharing stories of fruitless calls and emails to bookers and abrupt cancellations on pre-existing bookings. Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said she was bumped three times from a prime-time MSNBC show due to Trump scandals
The Resistance may be drowning out Democratic Party's messaging, and the endless festival of Trump bashing may be causing uncommitted voters to tune out. That risk is not lost on chief Democratic strategist and American Pope Jimmy Kimmel, who is starting to contemplate the perils of anti-Trump fatigue:
WAIT WHAT? Jimmy Kimmel Thinks People Have Had Enough Trump-Bashing https://t.co/oH9d5vC6kL— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) May 13, 2018
Asked if he had a "barrelful of barbs" aimed at the president ready to be unleashed during the annual "cable news upfront" event — a friendly gathering of the major networks' "executives, media, producers, and advertisers" set to take place later this week — Kimmel said he'd be pulling back on the anti-Trump rhetoric, even though that's become a signature of his late-night monologues. "I don't know. I don't know how much focus there will be on [Trump]," Kimmel said. "I think that people have had an a** full of Donald Trump."
It's not as if he's coming around on Trump, of course; he just seems to be concerned about the utility of endless, over-saturated attacks. And he's not the only one sounding the alarm over the media's counter-productive, overheated obsessiveness:
I'll leave you with this: I asked Mitch McConnell last week about the conservative complaint that Congressional Republicans are wasting their precious opportunity of unified government by shying away from any serious agenda in an election year. Here's Roll Call reporting on House Republicans' busy legislative schedule in the weeks ahead. Parting thought: Will this be featured on the GOP agenda? If so, anti-progress Nancy Pelosi seems conflicted about how to react. I'll leave you with this shift in prognostication from a respected political analyst who's been decidedly bearish on the GOP's midterm chances over the last year-plus:
If the election were held today, I'm not sure who would win the House. First time I've been able to say that since summer of last year.— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) May 14, 2018
Especially when you narrow down to Registered/Likely voter polls. So, my expectation remains that Ds will take the House, but it is now a VERY weakly held one. I would not be surprised if it did not flip. And if trends continue (IF), it probably won't. 7/7— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) May 14, 2018