Thank goodness we have polls to give us a reliable insight into the mood of American voters.
Let’s do the good news first. Not one but two respected firms have surveys out showing the generic ballot tight. Ann Selzer’s outfit has Democrats ahead by just two points while YouGov has them up three. Even better, Selzer looked at likely voters, one of only two major pollsters to be focused on that group right now. (The other, Rasmussen, has Democrats ahead by four, in line with Selzer’s results.) Anything in the range of a two- to four-point advantage for Democrats on Election Day would be a godsend for Republicans, as it would almost certainly mean that the blue wave had petered out before reaching shore. With that margin the House would be a toss-up and the Senate would be a near-lock to remain Republican. If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic, you have one right here. Just, er, try to ignore Trump’s declining approval rating, as that’s an anchor wrapped around the party’s ankles for the moment.
A bloodbath among women is unfortunately to be expected at this point. Trailing Democrats by six among men is a shock, though, and a disaster in the making. If this is how it looks on Election Day, the House is long gone and the Senate is almost certainly gone. Marist has better numbers for Republicans among men — they lead by six this time, 47/41 — but the bloodbath among women is a full “Red Wedding” at 57/29. A two-to-one margin among a group comprising half the country. Put all of that together and you get a 12-point lead overall for Democrats, 50/38. That’s a blue wave and then some.
I wonder why women would be so alienated from the GOP. Oh, right:
The best thing that could happen for Republicans is not for Obama to become more vocal and active; it’s for Trump to become less vocal and less active. Ask any Republican in a tough campaign what they’d like most from Trump; it’d be to put down his phone, stop threatening to fire Jeff Sessions, and don’t say nice things about Putin. In just the last few weeks, he’s done all three…
[T]he “all me all the time” messaging is exactly what makes him radioactive in the swing, suburban seats that Republicans need to hold in the House. The more Trump keeps the focus on himself, it means less oxygen and space for issues that are important to these voters; the economy, the Supreme Court and de-regulation. This is especially true during these last few weeks when the spotlight has been on everything that’s gone/is going wrong with the Trump White House (the New York Times op-ed; the Bob Woodward book; the Manafort/Cohen drama), and very little on what’s going right.
He lost women by 13 points on Election Day 2016 and it’s been all Trump, all the time ever since. It would never happen, but Amy Walter’s right that the best thing he could do for the party would be to go on vacation for two months and let people try to forget that the Republican Party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization. (She’s also right that the Woodward book appears to be doing some damage, per another poll out today.) Relatedly, Quinnipiac followed up the generic ballot question in its new poll with another salient question: Do you want Congress to be a stronger check on Trump or not? Behold.
A margin of better than two to one among registered voters generally and nearly three to one among women. If in fact the election is destined to be all about Trump — and it is, as midterms are almost always referenda on the president — then it follows that people’s votes are bound to turn on whether they want a Congress that’ll work for him or work against him. The results from Quinnipiac here point directly at a blue wave. And if you think that’s just me being an “eeyore” and that a Trump-touted “red wave” is on the way instead, watch the clip below of his “shadow chief of staff” on Fox last night. Hannity wouldn’t be sounding the alarm if he wasn’t worried about Republican turnout in November. And Senate Republicans wouldn’t be clamoring to campaign for Ted Cruz to try to drag him over the finish line in Texas if they didn’t think he suddenly stood a real chance of losing.
Conventional wisdom holds that if a blue wave does strike this fall, it’ll break (or at least loosen) Trump’s grip on the party. The aura of invincibility will be gone. A Trump-led GOP will have been routed. I think that’s all wrong, though: If the GOP gets crushed, the base won’t turn on Trump. To the contrary, they’ll reason that he’s the only Republican who knows how to win. They’ve invested every bit of political capital they have in him. They’re not going to write him off as a loss when Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan can safely be scapegoated for the outcome instead. “What congressional Republicans should have done,” we’ll be told, “is cling more tightly to a guy with a job approval in the high 30s.” And the punchline is that congressional Republicans will go along with that spin because, in the end, they have no choice. If they break with Trump while the base remains in his corner, we’ll have the same dynamic we had at the 2016 convention: The establishment wants a different leader, Republican voters say no, and so the establishment has to go along with their choice or else risk seeing turnout in their own races collapse. MAGA can’t fail, it can only be failed. That’ll be the lesson from a blue wave.