If you follow the news, you know that Republicans are in deep trouble 6 months out from the midterm elections in November. But to hear Democrats tell it, the election is in the bag and Nancy Pelosi is already measuring for new drapes in the speaker’s office.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll casts a more realistic light on Democrats’ chances. There is little doubt that Trump hatred is giving the Democrats an edge in voter intensity. But the numbers that would signal a blue wave just aren’t there. And against all odds, the president’s approval numbers are as high now as they have been at any time since he was inaugurated.
In the poll, Democrats enjoy a 7-point advantage in congressional preference, with 47 percent of voters wanting a Democratic-controlled Congress, and with 40 percent preferring a GOP-controlled Congress.
That’s down from the Democrats’ 10-point edge in March, 50 percent to 40 percent, although the change is well within the poll’s margin of error.
In past wave cycles for Democrats — in 2006 and 2008 — the NBC/WSJ poll typically found Democrats with a solid double-digit lead in congressional preference.
But the current poll shows Democrats with a significant advantage in enthusiasm, with 66 percent of Democrats expressing a high level of interest (either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale) in November’s elections, versus 49 percent for Republicans.
That’s a reversal from the merged NBC/WSJ polling data in 2010 — a wave year for Republicans — when 66 percent of Republicans expressed a high level of interest, compared with 49 percent for Democrats.
And among these high-interest voters in this new poll, Democrats lead Republicans in congressional preference by 21 points, 57 percent to 36 percent.
Bottom line: Democrats are angry and angry people vote. Unless the GOP has a “get out the vote” program that exceeds anything previously seen, they are going to be in trouble.
But history also holds a cautionary tale for Democrats. Parts of their coalition, especially the young, minorities, and single women, may tell pollsters they are all fired up to vote and then fail to show up on election day. This has happened more than once and may be one of the only things that will save the GOP from defeat.
The wild card is Trump himself, who, thanks to a booming economy, is enjoying his best approval numbers in a while.
The president remains poorly rated overall in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll -– 56 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance, versus 40 percent who approve, and “strong” disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by nearly 2-1.
His average approval rating after 15 months in office (38-57 percent approve/disapprove) is the lowest on record in polls dating to the Truman administration.
Still, it’s numerically Trump’s highest approval rating in a year, coming just as consumer confidence reached its best since February 2001 in the weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. And while he’s 16 points underwater in approval overall, Trump gets essentially an even split for his handling of the economy –- 46-48 percent (approve-disapprove).
Other polls have Trump’s numbers significantly higher. The point being, if Trump’s approval is in the low 40s on election day, the GOP is probably toast. But if they’re in the mid to upper 40s, Trump loyalists could tip the balance in some close races and keep the GOP in power.