Real Clear Politics shows that Democrats lead Republicans by an average of 9.6 points in a generic congressional ballot polling. This goes along with a corresponding sag in President Donald Trump’s approval rating (RCP average – 17 spread).
Democrats appear to be on a role, but we need to keep a few things in perspective.
First, the Virginia Gubernatorial Election was not a surprise. Ralph Northam led Ed Gillespie in polling leading up to election day. Virginia, based on population trends in Northern Virginia, is trending blue. Gillespie also had problems with anti-Trump and pro-Trump voters in the Republican party. Gillespie was a weak candidate.
What should concern Republicans in that race is not that Gillespie lost, but that he lost by a wider margin than President Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in the state. Also, the state legislative races were a disaster. So is this a blue wave or does this just represent a shift in Virginia’s electorate?
Time will tell.
Second, pointing to a win in the New Jersey Gubernatorial Election as representative of a national mood would be a mistake. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating tanked… in a blue state. Having back to back Republican governors in the Garden State would have been a minor miracle after that.
I hold generic balloting with a grain of salt because ultimately it comes down to the candidates in specific races. This current drag is symbolic of a couple of things that Republicans should be aware of, however.
- Even though President Trump will not be on the ballot, he will be on the minds of many voters come 2018. It is far from unusual to see the incumbent President’s party to see some losses in midterm elections. President Trump’s approval ratings could amplify that however depending on the race.
- There is dissatisfaction within the Republican Party. Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare. They have failed to defund Planned Parenthood. Tax reform is a must pass, but it needs to be a strong bill. The Republican base is tired of broken promises.
In terms of 2018, Republicans are probably most vulnerable in the House of Representatives. According to Roll Call, there are 189 solid Republican seats compared to 181 solid Democrat seats. Right now Republicans hold a 237 to 193 edge. Republicans have more soft seats than Democrats do, and Roll Call currently has labeled five of those seats as toss-ups while three of the Democrat seats are considered toss-ups.
As far as the Senate goes (Republicans hold a 52 to 46 majority), I don’t think the map is the Democrats’ favor for 2018. In fact, Democrats could lose seats in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia states that President Trump won convincingly. Those races are considered toss-ups. Some Republican seats could swing to Democrats as well. Arizona has an open seat, but U.S. Senator Jeff Flake’s decision to not for reelection could help preserve that seat for Republicans. U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is vulnerable. With the whole debacle with Roy Moore, the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, could end up winning the special election next month in Alabama. Jones, Alabama’s Attorney General, has a 0.8 RCP average lead over former Moore who is a former Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. That particular race should have been a cakewalk for the Republican nominee.
Republicans should be concerned, but a Democratic wave is far from certain.