Uh Oh: Dems' Midterm Polling Edge Drops Below Five Points

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Posted: May 18, 2018 10:55 AM
Uh Oh: Dems' Midterm Polling Edge Drops Below Five Points

My usual caveats still apply, and the political winds seem to shift awfully quickly these days, but there's clearly a reason why Democratic pollsters and politicians are starting to feel antsy about the midterm elections.  Even a few short months ago, a sizable blue wave looked virtually assured; the historical trends, Trump's toxic approval ratings, Democrats' double-digit Congressional ballot lead, and an array of special election outcomes all cut heavily against the GOP's fortunes.  Flash forward to this week, and the picture is looking murkier.  The in-party's historical midterm disadvantage still applies, and the off-year and special election results we've seen remain pretty ugly for Republicans.  But the president's numbers have rebounded into quasi-viable territory -- and this week, the GOP's standing on the generic 2018 ballot hit a new Trump-era high water mark.  According to the RCP average, Democrats' national lead has been whittled down to less than five percentage points:


I mentioned Sean Trende's intriguing shift in 2018 outlook earlier in the week, and he's not the only political pro who's noticing a meaningful shift in the national mood:


Meanwhile, this is a slightly different metric than the number CNN's polling recently produced, but it's similar in that it shows the national electorate's satisfaction with the direction of the country at its best level in over a decade:


And then there are stray data points like this:


My money is still on substantial Democratic gains this fall, but the party may be hampering its chances by nominating some far-left candidates (yikes) who offer fertile ground for GOP oppo research attacks.   Bear in mind that Republicans ended up nominating some "unelectable" candidates in 2010 who ended up winning anyway because of the intense anti-Democratic national environment, but if this cycle ends up being more of a coin flip, the Democrats may end up kicking themselves in a host of districts.  Going hard left is not the model Democrats successfully employed in PA-18 earlier this year.  I'll add that as the generic ballot climate improves, Republicans' chances to hold the Senate shoot up substantially.  The map is already brutal for Democrats, and stronger numbers for Trump and the party across the country writ large mean the GOP is in even stronger position in the red-tinted states where key Senate races are being decided.  

On that front, a new poll shows Indiana's Joe Donnelley already in the danger zone (down by a point, job approval hovering around 40 percent) against the newly-minted Republican Senate nominee, while West Virginia's Joe Manchin (who struggled with my questions about Hillary Clinton recently and can't decide whether he wants Trump to visit his state) seems to recognize that he's in for a very difficult fight.  And here are some of the latest ads out of Florida's contested Senate race, which is looking like a real battle so far:


I'll leave you with this: