The big news from this NPR poll is that the 70 most competitive races in the House this year comprises 10 Republican seats and 60 Democratic seats. That speaks to both the size of the current majority of 77 seats (255-178) and the political forces arrayed against the Democrats in the midterms. Republicans lead the generic ballot by eight points in these 70 districts, 49/41, but that’s not actually the worst of it:
The anti-incumbent fever that so many have discussed appears only to apply in Democratic districts. As this chart shows, the GOP leads where Democrats have incumbents by five points, outside the margin of error. In current Republican districts, the GOP leads by 16 points, which indicates that voters don’t have much of a problem with Republican incumbents.
We see the same conclusion from questions specifically aimed at testing incumbency. For Democratic districts, 46% of voters want to vote for “someone else”, while only 34% want to re-elect their current Representative. Those numbers flip in Republican districts, with 37% demanding “someone else” and 49% planning to support the incumbent. Yet another question on incumbency showed a commitment to re-elect incumbents in Republican districts of 52% to 39% opposed, while in Democratic districts, those numbers were reversed again, 36/56.
And bear in mind that these were the most competitive Republican districts NPR found.
This poll clearly shows that the midterms won’t be an anti-incumbent, throw-them-all-out election. It’s a referendum on the Democratic agenda and leadership, and the Democrats will lose big if these numbers hold up through the summer.