Now that we’ve all had a year-long respite from Washington electoral politics (stop laughing), it’s time once again for journalists to resume retailing their favorite narrative — the horse race. Fortunately for them, this year they can combine it with their Trump hatred and their fondness for the “resistance” and thus turn nearly every story about the president, the Republicans, conservatives and everybody else they loathe into the Left’s Coming Revenge on Trump.
In this scenario, the electorate is finally waking up from a long hangover; revolted, the righteous, female-dominated, Democrat-voting majority will now rise up at the ballot box, recapture the House, and immediately vote articles of impeachment. At the same time — and despite the extremely long odds of this actually happening — the Great Blue Wave will wash over the Senate as well, which means that a conviction and Trump’s removal from office would be at least a theoretical possibility. Why, just look at Virginia and Alabama!
Such daydreams, however, are very likely misplaced, as Nate Silver notes:
The Senate map is really tough for Democrats, with 26 Democratic seats in play next year (including a newly opened seat in Minnesota after Al Franken announced his intention to retire) as compared to just eight Republican ones. Moreover, five of the Democratic-held seats — the ones in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana — are in states that President Trump won by 18 percentage points or more.
Just how bad is this map for Democrats? It’s bad enough that it may be the worst Senate map that any party has faced ever, or at least since direct election of senators began in 1913. It’s bad enough that Democrats could conceivably gain 35 or 40 seats in the House … and not pick up the two seats they need in the Senate.
Don’t believe me? Check out the race-by-race ratings put forward by independent groups such as the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections1 and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. They suggest that Democrats are more likely to loseSenate seats next year than to gain them — and that while there’s a plausible path to a Democratic majority, it’s a fairly unlikely one.
Okay, so maybe forget the Senate, then. A bracing dose of Impeachment in 2018 ought to tide America over til 2020, when progressives across the fruited plain will join forces to toss the bum in the White House out. Right?
Not so fast: dislike of Trump may not translate into a GOP rejection at the polls, especially considering that the Democrats’ gimme constituency tends to show up en masse only during presidential election years.
We dug into the polling to figure this out, and the answer appears to be that Republicans have pretty low support from women, but they can take some cold comfort in knowing that it’s not as off the charts as things are for Trump. In the run-up to congressional elections, pollsters routinely ask people, “If the election were held today, would you vote for the Republican or Democrat in your House district?” (or some variation on that question). That’s what’s called “generic ballot” polling. Right now, Republicans aren’t doing great in generic ballot polling, down by around 7 or 8 points. By a sizable gap — 16 points — women favor Democrats, while men support the parties about the same, a nearly 1-point advantage for Republicans.
Both men and women are giving Democrats more favorable numbers than in any midterm since 2006, when the party won control of Congress. But the gender split isn’t unusual, as women’s support of Republicans isn’t uniquely low at a time when women’s support of the president is very low. This may suggest that, for as much as women particularly dislike Trump, that dislike isn’t exacerbating the numbers for Congress. Republicans are struggling among both genders ahead of this year’s midterms, just as a party historically does when it has a president in his first term.
In other words, same old same old. The party in the White House generally loses seats in the first congressional election after taking office, but not always, and not as dramatically as Clinton did in 1994 and Obama in 2010. Turnout is almost sure to be lower than for a presidential race, and older people, who skew GOP, vote in large numbers in off-year elections while young people don’t. And while it’s true that women favor the Democrats by 16 points, that doesn’t necessarily translate into votes:
There is a big caveat to comparing the generic ballot to approval ratings: They aren’t the same thing. Approval and the desire to re-elect are two different questions.
As the media and the Left learned the hard way in 2016, the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day. But, hey, if the election were held today…
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