An Early Summer Snapshot of Democrats’ Electoral Prospects

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) revealing Republican efforts to sabotage Obamacare. Photo: Getty Images.

“Civilization as we know it is at risk in this election. We have to win.”


The following quote has a jocular parallel to the old playground chant on close plays: “But your own guy says it!”

George Will, the long-time deeply conservative columnist for the Washington Post and national syndicated columnist, had this to say about the upcoming midterm elections:

The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. In today’s GOP, which is the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream. So to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him.” (my emphasis)

I am fairly certain Mr. Will wrote this with a heavy heart, with fingers trembling at the very idea of urging a vote for the opposition. But George Will perceives Donald Trump as an existential threat to democracy and the rule of law. He also understands that congressional Republicans have been stubbornly unwilling to stand up to the threat.

George Will loves America.

The latest Trump approval/disapproval rating, by FiveThirtyEight.

So How Are We Doing?

Donald Trump’s approval rating has remained constant over the last few months. The reality show with North Korea could have been offset by Trump’s uninformed and unnecessary tariffs imposed on our allies and on China.

The tariff issue is already resonating in battleground states and could propel rust-belt Democrats in tight races.

Democrats must have the fortitude to go after the tax bill, with its 36 percent approval rating, in which only 4.3 percent of workers will receive a bonus or wage increase tied to the business tax cuts.

Health care is also a winning issue for Democrats. To inoculate themselves against premium increases that were inevitable when the tax bill eliminated the individual mandate, Trump and the Republicans have been pushing “junk” plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

The presidential approval rating is important because it historically predicts midterm election outcomes. But let’s not be lulled into complacency. Pennsylvania deftly got rid of its gerrymandered districts, but it remains the exception. Turn-out is crucial.

The Senate

Democratic Senators Jon Tester Heidi Heitkamp, Sherrod Brown & Joe Manchin. All four will face voters in 2018 in states won by Donald Trump.

Yes, Democrats have a far better chance at flipping the House of Representatives. However, the Senate is a bigger prize in two crucial aspects.

Cabinet members and judiciary nominees must be approved by a Senate majority. The den of thieves that comprise Trump’s cabinet would have certainly faced stronger resistance if Chuck Schumer were majority leader (Republicans control the Senate, 51-49).

The recent pathetic parade of unqualified and ideologically rabid federal judge nominees would have been stared down by a Democratic majority. And then there are impending retirements at the Supreme Court. Whichever party prevails at the ballot box could mold our country’s judiciary for a generation.

Recent Polling

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, currently Senate minority leader.

The premier polling website FiveThirtyEight just released an election model by a conservative publication that gives Democrats a 31 percent chance of winning the Senate. The poll numbers cited below were all certified by FiveThirtyEight, a trusted source.

The Good News

Democratic candidates (Bob Casey and Sherrod Brown) in Pennsylvania and Ohio, states won by Trump, are polling ahead of their Republican counterparts by double digits.

Red state incumbent Democrats are ahead in Montana, where Jon Tester leads, 51-44; and in West Virginia, where Joe Manchin is up, 48-39.

Democrats could pick up a seat vacated by Jeff Flake of Arizona. Heading into an August primary, Democrat Rep. Krysten Sinema is polling better than her likely opponent, Rep. Martha McSally, by nine points.

Two other possible Democrat pick-ups: In Tennessee, popular former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen is in a horse race with Trump cheerleader Marsha Blackburn for Bob Corker’s seat; and in Nevada, a state won by Hillary Clinton, incumbent Republican Dean Heller has his hands full with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen.

North Dakota incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is down in the polls in a very red state, 48-44. But Heidi closed the gap in 2012, winning by a margin of 2,994 votes. And President Trump’s tariffs on China and Europe would hit hard North Dakota’s soybean farmers and machinery manufacturers.

BREAKING: A recent Marist poll shows Florida Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson opening up a 49-45 lead over termed-out Republican governor Rick Scott in this competitive, back-and-forth Senatorial contest.

In any case, even in the more tradition-oriented Senate, candidates are messaging a bolder, youth-oriented issues package that includes gun safety, decriminalization of marijuana and net neutrality.

Democrats’ prospects have improved since the last generic poll.

The House

Although the generic congressional ballot (above) has improved for Democrats since it last narrowed to within the margin of error, it sure isn’t the 13-point margin Democrats enjoyed for a good part of 2017. It’s making liberals ask nervously, Did the blue wave peak too soon?

Well, maybe not. Pennsylvania’s new map and the fact that Democrats didn’t get “locked out” of California’s unusual “top two” primary system on June 5 is good for perhaps one-third of the House seats Democrats need to flip. The respected Cook Political Report identifies 99 competitive House seats, 45 of which range from likely Democrat to toss-up. Pollster extraordinaire G. Elliott Morris’s statistical model gives Democrats a 63 percent chance of taking the House in November.

Nancy Pelosi

Image: New York Times

Civilization as we know it is at risk in this election. We have to win.
–Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader

Nancy Pelosi’s midterm election playbook: Donald Trump is his own worst enemy.

Trump not only chased over 40 House incumbents into retirement. He also made candidate recruitment a breeze for Democrats, something that plagued them in 2016.

“Trump recruited them for us,” Pelosi asserts. “So we get the A Team and they get the retirements.”

Pelosi seems well aware that she is a walking negative ad for the Republicans. In that special election in Pennsylvania last spring, while his GOP opponent mentioned Pelosi in 60 percent of his advertising, victorious Democrat Conor Lamb repeatedly declared that he wouldn’t back Pelosi as House speaker.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Pelosi told Rolling Stone. “I just want them to win.”

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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