ABC: Generic ballot in battleground districts is ... R+1?

The key to voter enthusiasm in this midterm cycle may be the same as it is in real estate: Location, location, location. ABC News’ Rick Klein takes a look at the current generic-ballot polling from the latest Washington Post/ABC partnership and notes that the double-digit Democratic lead would normally spell curtains for the GOP. However, Klein points out that almost all of it comes in districts well in hand for Democrats — and that the battleground looks far different:

If this was a national referendum on President Donald Trump, he’d be set for a thumping, or a shellacking, or whatever word a president not named Trump might select in conceding defeat.

But it isn’t. Therein lies the core of Democrats’ concerns with 22 days to go, as they worry that a whole lot of their midterm enthusiasm will wind up wasted in places they don’t need the extra votes. …

Nationwide, Trump has a 41 percent approval rating, and Democrats have a 53-42 percent edge in the generic ballot for the House. But inside the 66 districts that are tossups, or only leaning toward one party or the other — the majority makers, or breakers — that lead evaporates into a 46-47 Democrats v. Republicans race.

It’s a similar dynamic — driven by Democratic strength in cities, and weaknesses in rural areas — that is driving House and Senate forecasts in opposite directions, amid a campaign close set to be dominated by the president.

It could be even worse than that from the Democratic perspective. The WaPo/ABC generic ballot result is on the outer edge of the aggregation at RCP, where Democrats have a 7.3-point lead. It’s probably too much to call it an outlier, as Reuters and CNN both give Democrats similar leads, but most other recent polls put the difference in single digits. Rasmussen calls it a solid tie and IBD/TIPP has it at D+2, but most of the polls are in the D+6 -to- D+8 range.

Even going by the WaPo/ABC poll’s numbers, the results from the 66 battleground districts would tend to make it difficult for Democrats to win control of the House. They need a 23-seat flip, which means they’d have to win 45 of those seats in an aggregate R+1 environment. The redrawing of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts makes that easier, perhaps lowering the number of other seats to flip to 18 or so. But that still means they’d need to win 42 out of 66 seats in an environment that slightly favors Republicans. It’s not impossible, but it’s not the way I’d bet.

That assumes that the poll accurately reflects the mood in these districts, of course. Salena Zito, reporting from the ground in these areas, sees a red wave coming rather than a blue one. If that happens, Zito concludes, Democrats will have done it to themselves:

This November, the question is: What will encourage the conservative populist coalition that put Donald Trump in the White House to vote for Republican candidates — and help keep their majorities — in both the House and Senate?

Would it be the president himself?


If you understood what happened at all in 2016, the election was never about him. He didn’t cause the coalition to form, he was the result of it. …

If people like Westbrook and Vogel coalesce around the GOP, the Democrats could be in trouble. And if the Democrats keep supporting people who claw at the doors of the Supreme Court in protest, or harass Republicans and their families at dinners, or talk nonstop about impeachment or echo Hillary Clinton’s sentiment that: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for,” then they may do what I thought unlikely: stop their own blue wave mid-flow.

That’s still less likely than a Democratic win in the House, but then again, we said the same thing in 2016 for the presidency too. There was some evidence for the eventual outcome in polling that cycle, but it was largely overlooked in favor of a focus on the toplines. If Democratic enthusiasm turns out to be focused in urban and academic precincts where they already dominate, we might end up with a big surprise in three weeks.