Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Blue Wave Looks Bigger Than Anyone (In DC) Expected


In the political prognostication biz, DC Insiders are very conservative. I don't mean they back conservative policies or that they're anti-Choice or pro-Wall Street. I mean they are loathe to go out on a ledge prognosticating. When the degree of Trump's and Ryan's toxicity started becoming apparent outside the Beltway observers were predicting the Democrats would-- despite DCCC incompetence and corruption-- win back at least the 24 seats the Democrats need to take back the House. The DC-based prognosticators all agreed that the Dems could look forward to making gains, perhaps even double digit gains (10) but probably not. By the time it became clear-- primarily based on the 20-point swings special elections in red districts-- that the Democrats were on the track to win dozens of seats in an historic repudiation of Trump and Trumpism, DC prognosticators grudgingly agreed that 24 wins was "likely." Now that Democrats are looking toward 70, 80 or even more seats, we are getting catch-up pieces like this one from Stuart Rothenberg in Roll Call: Insiders See Democratic House Gains of 30-45 seats. "Polling, election results, fundraising," he wrote, "tend to point in one direction." That's right, they do-- and more than the pros are willing to admit. The wave is coming, even blind, deaf and dumb DC prognosticators see that now. But how big and how powerful?
Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November.

Just as important, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists also agree that an electoral wave has already formed. The attitudinal evidence begins with national polling.

President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has settled into a relatively narrow range, with between 39 percent and 42 percent of registered voters approving of his performance. Only 33 percent to 37 percent of respondents say that the country is headed in the right direction, another bit of evidence that reflects the extent of support for Trump and the Republican Party.

The current congressional generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have an 8- or 9-point advantage, a significant margin even if it is at least a couple of points below what Democrats would ideally want going into the midterms.

Taken together, these numbers paint a dangerous picture for the president and his party.

Trump drew about 46 percent of the vote in 2016, so the current numbers suggest a modest, but significant, erosion in support.

Exactly where the slippage has taken place isn’t clear, though it is certainly less severe in rural America and more significant in the suburbs.

That means some states, and some congressional districts, have been affected more than others.

The new March 10-14 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of adults is consistent with other surveys over the past six months. It shows Democrats with a large generic ballot advantage among younger voters, women, whites with at least a college degree and voters age 65 and older.

The GOP’s great strength in the generic ballot is among two pro-Trump groups, men and whites without a college degree. Unfortunately for the party, the survey also shows Democrats, whites with a college degree and older voters as having the greatest interest in the election (and therefore the greatest likelihood of voting). Each of those groups prefers a Democratic Congress.

Moreover, while independents don’t traditionally turn out in big numbers in midterms, one veteran Republican strategist sees them as a huge problem this year. “They are tired of the drama,” he said.

The worst case for the GOP, of course, would be mediocre Republican turnout combined with strong Democratic participation and independents behaving like Democrats (which is what they did in 2006).

If that happens, Republicans would take quite a beating in the fall.

The behavioral part of the equation is just as troubling for Republicans, since it confirms the survey data.

Election results in the Virginia governor’s race last year, the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District last week, and other state legislative special elections around the country have shown Democratic energy and turnout, particularly in suburban areas.

Hillary Clinton won Virginia by 5 points in 2016, but Democrat Ralph Northam took the gubernatorial contest last fall by almost 9 points.

Trump carried Pennsylvania’s 18 District by 20 points, but GOP nominee Rick Saccone ran about even with his Democratic opponent last week.

And in a Wisconsin state Senate special election in January, a district Trump carried by 17 points went Democratic by about 10 points.

Of course, not every state legislative contest produced that strong a gain for Democrats, and Republicans held all their open House seats in special elections last year.

But the recent trend is clear-- Republicans are swimming against a strong current.

“It’s baked in now,” one veteran Republican campaign veteran told me, noting the GOP’s problems with women and college-educated voters. “We knew single women hated [the Republican Party]. We couldn’t do anything about that. But married women were different. We figured out how to deal with them by talking about pocketbook issues. But now college-educated women hate us. Even with the current economy. It’s the bullying, the nastiness, the tweeting. It’s all about Trump’s behavior.”

Republican insiders also worry that a chunk of “Trump voters” won’t turn out in November even though they still like the president personally. “There are blue-collar Democrats who voted for Trump but don’t care about the Republican Party. They are unlikely to turn out for a Republican candidate in the fall, though they could still help Trump in 2020,” one GOP consultant said.

The problem for Republican congressional candidates this year is that there are plenty of clouds hanging over the president and the country despite the strong economic numbers and business optimism.

North Korea and the Russia investigation are only the most obvious ones, but the president’s inclination to attack (or counterattack) and disrupt makes it more likely that controversies and chaos will continue.

Indeed, the campaign season is likely to lead to more Trump political rallies, where his freewheeling style and off-the-cuff comments can create more controversies.

So, what is the current trajectory of the 2018 midterms? I interviewed a wide range of campaign professionals, including some sympathetic to the president. All insisted on anonymity, and almost all believe the House will flip.

The veterans generally expect GOP losses in the 30- to 45-seat range, far more than the two-dozen seats House Democrats need for majority control.

The retirement of longtime Republican incumbents from competitive districts is adding to the problem, as is candidate fundraising. While there is plenty of GOP super PAC money available, Democratic House candidates are outraising their Republican counterparts.

Given that, national conservative and Republican groups will need to make tough decisions about who to fund and who to cut off as the election cycle progresses.

Obviously, events between now and November could change things (something I intend to address in my next column). But that’s the point. The burden is on Republicans-- and the president-- to change the cycle’s current trajectory. If they don’t, the House will flip.
Conservative prognosticators still say, "but it's early... things could chance." I'd change one word in that. I'd swap out "but" for "and" because, in all likelihood, over the next 7 and a half months things will get even worse for Republicans, not better. Trump will continue horrifying voters by, well, being Trump and Ryan and McConnell will continue enabling him, infuriating independents, encouraging Democrats to get out in masses and discouraging mainstream Republicans from voting. I'd say the Democratic wins will be closer to 100 seats than to Rothenberg's top number, 45.

There's actually one good DCCC executive, West Coast Regional Vice Chair, Ted Lieu. He agrees that the sky's the limit on the number of seats Democrats can win in November. This morning he told us that "What makes America great is that the voters get to make a course correction every two years. The overwhelming majority of Americans are horrified by the destructive behavior and policies of Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him. Over 100 Republican held congressional districts are now being targeted. As the Conor Lamb victory shows, every vote counts. If we work hard and keep fighting, we will usher in a blue tsunami this November."

Yesterday Chuck Todd's First Read noted that the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll "finds Democrats with a 10-point lead in congressional preference, with Dems holding the advantage in enthusiasm and among independents, and with college-educated white women breaking heavily against the GOP. But there’s another ominous sign for Republicans in our poll: They’re losing ground on the congressional-preference question in GOP-held congressional districts."

His Bottom line: "Given that so much of the 2018 House battleground is in red/purple areas, the GOP being in single digits-- or even-- in Republican-held districts is a problem."

Dayna Steele was one of the few candidates who was in a contested Texas primary who won outright and doesn't have a May 22 runoff to face. Her next election will be against one of the most right-wing Republicans in Congress, Brian Babin, and in one of the "safest" red seats (TX-36). But the prognosticators who rate it "safe" don't understand the intensity of the connection Dayna, formerly southeast Texas' most beloved radio personality, has with voters. Yes, the PVI is a daunting R+26 and, yes, Trump beat Hillary 72-25%. But Dayna is anything but the status quo candidate Hillary was. Nor is she blinded by the recent successes Democrats have been having in special elections. "Though the momentum feels great," she told us today, "we cannot become too sure of ourselves or complacent. That is just what the Republicans are hoping will happen. It's what happened in the 2016 presidential race-- we got too cocky. In the words of the late great Yogi Berra, 'It ain't over til it's over.' We must stay loud and energized. We must keep thousands of boots on the ground. If you have the money, keep donating. Find the reddest districts in the nation (mine) and throw everything you can behind those Democratic candidates. Conor Lamb was in an R+11 district that Trump win by 19 points. And Lamb won. Now do the same for candidates all over the country (me). You can post and retweet and write and share all you want but if you really want to do something, join a blue army that needs help-- register voters, donate, volunteer. Do something."

Lisa Brown is running for the seat held by Ryan lieutenant Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the sprawling, mostly rural eastern Washington district that includes Spokane. Her race looks good but she warns that "At the same time, Democrats should not be complacent. In community meetings people applaud when I commit to putting 'country over party' and eastern  Washington’s interests over special interests. My sense is that people are not looking for someone who agrees with them on every issue, but want authenticity and independence from the 'pay to play' system of determining Congressional priorities."

UPDATE: Tennessee

Tennessee is just as impossibly red as Alabama-- R+14. But a new survey from PPP shows former Governor Phil Bredesen, a conservative Democrat, edging out crazy far right fanatic Marsha Blackburn in the Senate race-- 46% to 41%. Tsunamis are powerful and, once they take hold, unstoppable.

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At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly, the voters are ready for change in most areas of the country. But as is regularly covered here on DWT and other sites, the DCCC remains welded to the thought that -as Nancy Pelosi infamously expressed- "I don't think people want a new direction."

Their actions scream this, in that the Party leaders continue to support corporatists and do all that they can to force progressives out of races. They still continue to back corporatist positions, and enough "democrat" Senators made it possible to unleash predatory banksters from even modest regulations.

This is not a party which supports the average American much less the average American worker. I fail to see why I should continue to support a party which will do all it can to minimize the benefits the average voter expects them to deliver so that they can continue to beg for the kind of financial support the Republicans are handed by corporate donors.

So this isn't a "Blue Wave" as much it is an "Anti-Red" repudiation of the Republican Party and the clownish schmuck they allowed to throw the 16 other (bad) choices off the campaign slate and take the nation to the edge of the cliff.

At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:01, well said. Lipinski did win, so the DxCCs are being affirmed by voters... still.

So while the wave should be characterized as 'anti-red', the voters still need to be characterized as 'anti-sentient' as well.

As long as voters affirm the DxCC's toxicity, nothing will change. Seats may flip temporarily and majorities will come and go, but nothing will be fixed for anyone but the big donors.

It's 2006/2008 all over again. And 2010 all over again will quickly follow. And in between, it'll be the anti-mandate democrap congress of 2009 all over again.

Einstein is credited with reminding us lesser thinkers that "doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is the definition of insanity".

Given the choice of believing Einstein or DWT/BA/DxCCs, I'll take Einstein without question. Also, I have proof, as I keep reminding y'all.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If "Democratic" pols like Lipinisky can still win, there is no wave coming. The few who pay attention to voting when November comes will look at their choices and think 'why bother'.

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of us are already there, 8:57.

At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But with Pelosi, Hoyer and their boy, Lipinski, in power will it matter?

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:57, 11:52 and 1:36, this is what I've been saying for months now.

2010 was the big "why bother" year after the utter betrayal (of the mandate) of the 2009 congress. And with Pelosi, hoyer, Crowley, Lipinski (and 180 others), it will NOT matter.

But DWT and others still aren't able to see the chasm they're hovering over in their delusional haze.

I'm reminded of Wyle E. Coyote for some reason. I'm even hearing the sound effects.

There won't be any reincarnations after we all hit the dirt though.

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

{"people are not looking for someone who agrees with them on every issue, but want authenticity and independence from the 'pay to play' system of determining Congressional priorities."}

Is there a political party that advocates this???

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:11. Well, the Greens come close.

But most of those who SEEM authentically progressive insist on trying to join the corrupt democraps.

It's analogous to Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa both joining a pack of wolves in Yellowstone. They were good people but the pack is still killing and eating elk and deer. And if the elk and deer become scarce...

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's wonderful news from Tennessee. We can look forward to Bredesen, like Jones, voting with Trumpy 60% of the time rather than Blackburn voting with Trumpy 90% of the time. He'll be 1/3 less insane!

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great. all beer and skittles because the TN guy will vote with the money 100% of the time.

3 cheers for lesser evilism.


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