If you’re a Republican, you’re probably over-confident in your party’s chances in the forthcoming midterms. Of course you are. The common wisdom online and on cable news is that the Democrats are headed toward another 2010-style shellacking due to President Obama’s responsibility for everything that’s wrong in the world, not to mention the (non)reality that he invented presidential golf vacations. Admittedly, I hadn’t looked at the polls in a while so I was thinking along the same lines: it’s going to be a shitty November for the Democrats. Some headlines:
Then I checked Real Clear Politics today and it appears as if Democratic prospects aren’t as horrifying as everyone says. Far from it. In fact, if the election were held today, nothing at the congressional or gubernatorial levels would change all that significantly. Sorry, folks, your fabricated narrative is horseshit.
Before we get into the midterm numbers, let’s begin with the overall approval numbers for each party. With a 45-percent approval rating, the Democrats have a nearly 10-point edge on the GOP’s 35.2-percent approval. Right off the bat, I have no idea how this indicates an impending Armageddon for the Democrats. Sure, a lot can happen in the next two months or so, but enough to give voters a significantly better view of the congressional Republicans? Highly doubtful.
What about the generic congressional ballot?
As of August 17, the GOP-leaning Rasmussen poll showed a dead heat — tied at 39-39, and brand new Rasmussen numbers show a GOP advantage of just 1 point. The Real Clear Politics average shows a 1.2 percent advantage for the Democrats. Meanwhile, the Fox News poll shows a 7 point Democratic lead. On this date in 2012, the RCP average showed a 0.1 percent advantage for the GOP. But somehow the Democrats are doomed now.
Regarding the Senate where the balance of power is wafer-thin, Nate Silver forecasted a 60-percent chance of the GOP taking over the Senate, but that was June. Rewinding four years to August of 2012, Silver’s model showed only a 39-percent chance of the Democrats retaining a majority. As for this year, Silver shows the GOP winning three seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, but the Republicans will have to win half of six other contested seats in order to win a majority in the Senate, and all six of those races are too-close-to-call right now. Again, iffy but nowhere near “blow-out” territory.
As for the gubernatorial races, Silver is predicting a total wash. Everything will remain exactly as it is today.
There’s only one reason why this thing is even close at this point: the administration continues to be horrendous at messaging, not to mention completely inadequate at ballyhooing its myriad accomplishments. There’s no reason why a president with Obama’s oratory ability shouldn’t be able to break through the GOP noise machine. But it hasn’t happened.
To wit: the Dow and S&P are at record high levels; the NASDAQ is 4,550 — comparable to the zenith of the dot-com boom; the deficit has been cut by more than a trillion dollars; GDP is only a percentage point off its late-1990s average; the number of Americans without health insurance is “falling rapidly,” according to Forbes; and unemployment is on the verge of dropping below six percent — its lowest level since 2008. Yes, there are Americans who are still hurting from the recession, but based on top shelf metrics, improvement has been significant and yet the president’s disapproval numbers on the economy are hovering at around 53 percent. Why? The White House and the DNC frankly suck at projecting a sense of economic victory in the face of a louder-than-ever disinformation campaign from the GOP.
However, once the serious campaigning begins after Labor Day, the White House will likely up its game (at least the Democrats are hoping it will). And I suspect that a month or so from now, after voters start paying attention, things will look a lot different with the Democrats opening a noticeable lead on the generic ballot.