NBC/WSJ poll: Don't look now, but ... here comes Trump

Remember when Donald Trump’s widespread unpopularity would fuel a blue wave in the midterms? Trump’s still underwater on job approval, but a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll puts Trump at his best rating as president yet, 47/49. Republican interest in the election continues to rise, with both parties hitting a new record for midterm engagement:

Voter interest in the midterm elections has surged to records within both parties, helping to drive up President Trump’s approval rating while maintaining the Democrats’ lead as the party most preferred to lead Congress, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.

The findings point to an energized electorate, buffeted by dynamics that bring great uncertainty to the outcome of an election just two weeks away.

Nearly two thirds of registered voters showed a high level of interest in the election—the highest ever recorded in a midterm election since the Journal/NBC poll began asking the question in 2006.

The Kavanaugh effect seems pretty well established now. Not only did it provide a catalyst for GOP enthusiasm, that burst hasn’t subsided with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, either. On top of that, Republicans now have a +15 advantage on the economy, the highest level ever for the GOP. Those numbers can’t look good for Democrats who have been campaigning in this cycle to make the midterms a referendum on Trump.

Even the good news for Democrats turns out to be something else, as when the WSJ notes that they’re still up by nine on the generic ballot. That turns out to be location dependent:

Although Democrats are preferred in the national poll overall, their advantage has vanished in the House districts that matter most. In districts rated as the most competitive by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, the parties are dead even on the question of which one should control Congress. In last month’s poll, Democrats led by 13 percentage points among registered voters and six points among likely voters.

This mirrors a poll last week from the Washington Post and ABC News. Their poll put Democrats up 11 points on the generic ballot, but Republicans at +1 in the 66 battleground districts, also a big swing from their earlier polling. That suggests that Democratic enthusiasm intensified in districts where they were already safe, and that Republican enthusiasm has changed the election where the House majority will be determined.

RCP’s Tom Bevan broke it down:

Trump’s overall job-approval ratings remain underwater (44/52) in the RCP aggregate. Again, though, it matters where those ratings come as well as when. The gap has been narrowing over the summer and especially in October, as Trump rebounded from a few bad polls last month.

And that gap-narrowing may not be over, either. With caravan(s) approaching the southern border, Trump will get an opportunity to take executive action highlighting his favorite domestic-policy issue. A new poll from Scott Rasmussen shows that a plurality of Americans want stronger action to enforce the border, and Trump might oblige just as they head to the polls:

A solid majority of voters (71%) believe that legal immigration is generally good for the nation. At the same time, however, 79% believe illegal immigration is bad. …

When it comes to enforcing immigration laws, 24% of voters nationwide believe the United States Border Patrol is too harsh on on illegal immigrants. A ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that 42% believe the enforcement policies are too lenient and 34% are not sure.

There is a strong partisan divide on this question. Among Republican voters, 70% believe the enforcement is too lenient while just 5% say it is too harsh. Democrats are more divided but lean in the opposite direction: 43% say too harsh and 27% too lenient. A plurality (46%) of Independent voters are not sure. Thirty-three percent (33%) of Independent voters say the policy is too lenient and 21% too harsh. …

Data released earlier showed that 60% favor sending U.S. military troops to the southern border of the United States to prevent people from entering the country illegally.

Undoubtedly, that will make Democrats even angrier in the districts they already hold. That might spike the nationwide generic ballot in their favor, but it’s also likely to boost Trump and Republicans where it counts most. Voters like expressions of executive authority in the short run — it’s the political equivalent of crack cocaine. Longer term, they tend to resent it, but action this week will likely redound to Trump’s benefit for much longer than the 15 days between now and the election.

Newt may be right after all:

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022