July 12, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
We Think the Senate Will Go Blue
The fundamentals are too steady, strong and convincing for Donald Trump to hold the Congress.
When it comes to the upcoming Congressional elections, most media attention has been on the US House. The conventional wisdom is the Democrats will take it, because most modern presidents have lost that chamber in their first term.
This is a neutral historic pattern having nothing to do with the individual residing in the White House. It’s America’s way of balancing things out. With one party running the country, another party is given the power to check and balance the other. Again, that’s presidential history unrelated to actual presidential personalities. Add Donald Trump to the mix, however, and you have something altogether different.
It bears repeating that the fundamentals have been clear for months: this is an unpopular president without a mandate to govern behaving as if half the country doesn’t count. This is the case even amid natural disasters. The impression Trump gives tends to offend the American creed: in this country, the majority rules.
To be sure, Trump’s approval rating has been flat for months, around 41 percent give or take a point. If he’s so bad, why isn’t his approval rating under 30 percent? On the one hand, you could see 41 percent as steady support. On the other, you could see it as steady support that’s weak. When it comes to the midterms, that’s what matters.
But it might be weaker than we know.
Consider this new Pew poll asking “which president has done the best job in your lifetime”? Ten percent chose Trump on the first go; 9 percent on the second. It’s not quite fair to compare a sitting president to former ones. Memory does have a way of putting a rosier tint on legacies. But bear in mind that Trump’s total, 19 percent, is one point less than Obama’s was in 2011. So there are two takeaways here: One, Obama got “shellacked” in 2010. Two, people said he’s the best of past presidents.
The president’s strength/weakness is one factor in midterms. Also important to consider is the intensity of the opposition: what’s called “mobilization.” Remember that midterms are about hard and soft partisans, not casual voters who show up every four years. Midterms are won, and lost, based on the determination of highly motivated minority factions within parties. This time, that faction is gendered.
It’s the women.
Back when the GOP had more swagger, in the months after Trump’s inauguration but before he sacked James Comey, an event that sent his polling numbers down to the 40s permanently, they had an idea, a bad one—defund Planned Parenthood.
I said “bad idea,” but US Rep. John Faso, a Republican from New York, called it “a gigantic political trap.” At a strategy session, he told colleagues: “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill. If you want to do it somewhere else, I have no problem, but I think we are creating a political minefield for ourselves—House and Senate.”
A new poll has Faso trailing his Democratic rival Antonio Delgado by seven points. Granted, the opinion survey was commissioned by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but it’s in keeping with the wider trend. Generic House polls show the Democrats even with the Republicans or leading by as many as 10 points.
But more important are the views of women. Polls regularly show women disapproving of the president more than men, especially young women. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from April suggested a stunning 64 percent of women disapprove of the president’s job performance while 68 percent don’t like his personality. Add legions of women running for office or organizing to support women running for office, and you have the making of what many are calling a “blue wave.”
As I said, most media attention is on the House. Not so much the Senate. The conventional wisdom, in Washington, is that the Republicans will hold the chamber. More Democrats than Republicans are facing possible knockoffs. While it’s true that four Democrats are running in states Trump won handily, the president, it bears repeated telling, does not have the cachet he had. That’s why the GOP has sounded the alarm on incumbents who skated to victory in 2016 but who face uncertain futures.
All of the above is why we at the Editorial Board are willing to say that the Democrats look like they are going to take Senate as well as the House. Forecaster Chris Luongo thinks they will pick up Senate seats in Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee while holding on to seats in West Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and Montana. As of now, Luongo is marking North Dakota and Indiana as toss-up, but he sees evidence of winds blowing in the direction of Democratic incumbents Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly.
In all, 52 Democrats, 48 Republicans.
This is one forecast. You should be skeptical. Still, it’s in keeping with others. FiveThirtyEight today has the entire Congress going to the Democrats by eight points. Real Clear Politics, a more conservative index, does the same.
The GOP might keep both houses, depending on the success or failure of the Russian government’s repeated attempt to move public opinion in favor of the Republicans by way of social media. But as I noted before, Russia probably won’t succeed. Unlike in 2016, Trump does not have an antipode. There is no Hillary Clinton to beat up on.
And unlike 2016, voters have gotten a good look at Trump.
Most don’t like what they see.
Please welcome Chris Luongo to the Editorial Board family! I asked Chris yesterday to contribute to our efforts here. Like me, he has a main gig but does politics on the side. He’s doing this for love of country, and because it’s fun. Follow him on Twitter!
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.