"Paranoia": Dems starting to worry about blowing the midterms; NBC: Early vote totals "stunning"

Just remember, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. In this case, though, it’s likelier to be paranoia than prophecy. The Daily Beast reports on the existential angst facing progressives if they come up short in their bid to win the House:

Nearly two years of organizing, marching, candidate recruitment and unprecedented fundraising has led the Democratic party to a critical moment. On Tuesday, it can either reassert itself politically or fall short, prompting an utter and complete psychological meltdown.

Most in the party believe that the path they will go down will be the former; that they will gain a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since former President Barack Obama’s first term. But paranoia is part of the Democratic DNA, especially after the shock of the 2016 election. And in the final stretch of the midterm campaign, a scenario in which the party is unable to flip the requisite 23 House seats looms in the dark recesses of the mind.

“It will be paralyzing for a while, it will,” said Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “Candidly, I think there will be a fair amount of soul searching and people will feel back on their heels… We will have to rebuild. But the resistance is built on opposition to [Donald] Trump’s extremism. And the more extreme he is, the more we will have.”

Or, as veteran Democratic strategist Paul Begala put it: “After all this work, all these volunteers, it would be absolutely shattering.”

Let’s say they do lose this opportunity. It might be “shattering” for progressives like Tanden the CPA because of their insistence that Democrats had to embrace a hard-Left agenda to become competitive. It would spell the end of Nancy Pelosi’s career, one of their House champions, and it might force her entire slate of leadership to give way to more moderate leaders from the Midwest and Rust Belt, where Democrats have had trouble competing. They might need to rethink their DNC leadership too, but Democrats won’t be “paralyzed” any more than Republicans were after losing in 2006 and 2008.

However, it seems less likely that they will have this dark night of the soul in the first place. They only need to pick up 23 seats to win the House majority, and the redistricting in Pennsylvania gives them a five- or six-seat head start on that process. Of the 70 or so competitive districts up for grabs this year, almost all of them are held by Republicans or recently vacated by them. Republicans need a near-sweep of these to hold the majority, and none of the polling or early voting numbers suggest support at that level.

Even if you buy the Politico/Morning Consult generic-ballot lead of only D+3, that’s probably enough in this scenario for Democrats to pry loose 20 seats out of 70 plus the Pennsylvania pickups. Even with the Rasmussen R+1 it would be tough for the GOP to hold 50 out of the 65 or so they hold now. If the RCP average of D+7.3 is closer to reality, it might be a bigger pickup than just a bare majority in those close-run districts. And if today’s CNN D+13 is correct, well … we’re gonna need a bigger boat for the competitive districts.

Outside of that outlier being the norm, however, it doesn’t make it impossible for Republicans to hold onto a majority. Election Day turnout might unexpectedly wind up favoring the GOP in a big way and the polls might undercount GOP support as they did in 2016. That’s still quite possible, but it’s not likely, which is why this cri de coeur sounds more like base-covering than an actual deep-seating anxiety.

Ironically, the most paralyzing outcome for progressives may be a narrow Democratic majority in the House, of ten seats or fewer, with Pelosi in charge. They will have won that majority in part by recruiting and appealing to moderates in Trump country, which will make it more difficult to get the progressive agenda passed in the House — and it will go nowhere in a Republican-controlled Senate. Two years of failure, added to fanatical anti-Trump recriminations, will undermine their message in the next cycle, making it tougher to hold that majority especially if Democrats really turn on the progressive jets in the next presidential cycle. It won’t be fun for Republicans, mind you, but it might be a longer-term headache for Democrats to just barely eke out a win in the House.

Update: NBC calls early-voting numbers updated today by their partner TargetSmart “stunning,” and they might be … for Democrats:

The NBC News Data Analytics Lab, using voter file data from TargetSmart, found that 35,526,881 early votes were counted nationwide as of Monday. In states that have early voting, 42% of voters are Republican, 41% are Democrats, and 17% have either independent or have another party affiliation.

Republican-affiliated voters have outpaced Democratic-affiliated voters in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas. In Nevada, Democratic-affiliated voters have outpaced their Republican counterparts.

Take a look at the individual states in this report to see the daunting nature of the early vote. The GOP has a 180,000-vote lead in Arizona, 120K in Georgia, 105K in Indiana, 52K in Montana, 755K in Texas, and 85K in Ohio, just to name a few. The impact will be mainly felt in Senate races, but it’s going to filter down at least somewhat to House races too, unless Democrats really turn out tomorrow at much higher rates than Republicans.