DCCC polling: Winter is coming

Red wave or Red Wedding? The answer to that question in the midterms is known, Punchbowl reports this morning, and the DCCC has it. They’re not talking about it, and not because they want to protect against any spoilers for the season finale:


House Democrats may be in worse political peril than they’ve let on publicly.

During a Thursday luncheon last week with DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney, Frontline Democrats – the party’s most endangered lawmakers – were told that, in battleground districts, the generic Republican is beating the generic Democrat, 47-39, according to lawmakers, multiple party officials and the DCCC.

This is a stunning margin and highlights the incredibly perilous position Democrats find themselves in.

Given that Democrats generally have a three- or four-point built in advantage on the generic ballot, this is a particularly concerning development for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s majority. An eight-point deficit on the generic ballot could be a sign of a wave for House Republicans.

The advice that strategists offered in this environment? Call your opponents “MAGA Republicans.” Yeah, that oughta do it. I guess the “ultra-MAGA” label was still under development at that time.

The DCCC poll results may still underestimate the problem. First, the most recent Monmouth poll puts the GOP up seven points overall, not just in battleground districts. RCP’s generic-ballot aggregate average has Dems down 3.5 points, and that has looked stable for months now:

The only pollster giving Democrats a lead outside the margins of error in this list is YouGov, which has been a consistent D+4 – D+6 outlier. Without them in the mix, this chart would look even worse.


The second question is whether the DCCC has accurately defined the universe of “frontline House Democrats.” Given these numbers, the number of at-risk seats has to have expanded, especially as Joe Biden’s numbers remain mired near his floor and inflation rages all around. Perhaps the DCCC has accounted for this already, but I’d bet that they’re at least in some form of denial as to just how bad their situation actually is.

The primaries taking place this spring should serve as a siren on that point. Last month, Ohio had competitive primaries for both parties in their statewide gubernatorial and US Senate elections, and Republican turnout was double that of Democrats. Last night’s primaries in neighboring Pennsylvania had the same  competitive primaries for both parties in the US Senate race (Josh Shapiro ran unopposed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary). Republicans cast 140,000 more ballots so far in their Senate primary (1,314,747, 94% of precincts counted)  than Democrats did (1,173,189). That turnout may reflect a somewhat more competitive primary, but Conor Lamb was a legit contender against John Fetterman in the Democratic contest. That kind of turnout advantage for the GOP in a state where Democrats usually cruise in statewide elections should get everyone’s attention.


The DCCC has other issues distracting it from midterm strategies based on reality, however. Its chair may get the boot, thanks in large part to the redrawn CD map imposed by a New York court:

House Democrats could find themselves picking sides in a deeply uncomfortable primary this summer: their campaign chair versus a Black freshman. And a growing swath of the caucus is blaming its midterm chief, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, for the predicament.

Maloney’s decision to abandon a newly redrawn version of his current swing district — and instead run for a seat that includes most of Rep. Mondaire Jones’ turf — is raising private concerns from across the party that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief has put himself in an inappropriate scenario: leading the party’s midterm strategy while potentially battling a fellow member.

While the map is not final and Jones hasn’t yet said whether he’ll take on Maloney, his other option if New York’s current maps hold is challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), another Black progressive freshman. Many of his colleagues are now bracing for the prospect of a freshman being forced to go up against the member who controls the party’s campaign coffers — a scenario they describe as completely avoidable.

Unlike typical midterm gripes about the party chair, the Democratic worries over Maloney’s move run the ideological gamut, according to conversations with nearly two dozen lawmakers and senior aides. But many lawmakers say they’re unable to raise that issue publicly, given that Maloney and his team decide how much the DCCC will spend in individual battleground races. Maloney lives in the newly drawn district, though members of Congress are not required to live where they run.


Punchbowl also reports that Maloney’s decision may force his removal, and that it has produced a lot of anger within the House Democrat caucus. His defenders want Jones to run against another freshman Democrat incumbent instead, which will ignite fury in The Squad:

Maloney’s decision caught everyone by surprise, including Jones, who was furious. Jones complained to anyone who would listen about the move. It’s especially sensitive because the DCCC chair – who sits at the leadership table – is bigfooting a first-term minority lawmaker.

Defenders of Maloney said Jones would be a better fit for the reworked NY-16, currently represented by Bowman. But if Jones does that, it could cause a huge split among progressives. Bowman – also in his first House term – is a member of the Squad. Jones is often described as “Squad adjacent.” Some Democrats also sent us unsolicited emails backing Maloney.

Maybe Maloney can run against Jones in a primary by calling him “ultra-Squad.” And we can keep passing the popcorn.

Update: Dave Wasserman gets to the heart of Maloney’s decision:


Biden +5 won’t be safe in November, not even in New York. One has to wonder how safe Biden +10 districts will be.

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John Stossel 12:00 AM | June 21, 2024