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Democrats Should Take the House … But Will They?

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Democrats Should Take the House … But Will They?

Democrats Should Take the House … But Will They?
October 17
19:00 2018

From the headline, you can infer that I do not see the Democrats taking control of the Senate – and you would be correct.  Even though it is traditional for the party that occupies the White House to lose seats in both the Senate and the House in midterm elections, political vicissitudes, fate and providence have stacked the odds against the Democrats. 

They are defending 23 seats, while the Republicans have only 8 seats to defend.  Even worse for the Democrats is that 10 of those 23 seats are in states that Trump won by a good margin.  At this juncture, the general consensus is that the Republicans will actually pick up a couple seats – maybe more.  That will make it easier for President Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to keep filling those federal court seats – including any Supreme Court vacancy that may pop up – like cans of soda in a bottling factory.

The real question mark hangs over the House.  The off-year jinx for the party in the Oval Office should apply to the lower chamber.  Democrats have been running on undue confidence for months.  They predict a wave victory in the House with all the certainty that they predicted the election of Hillary Clinton.  Recently, however, there is a bit of anxiety cropping up on the left – the wave is dissipating.  They are still predicting the flipping of the House, but it is sounding more like wishful thinking or the belief in self-proving prophesy.

In looking at the current polls, we need to keep in mind that a poll – to the extent it is even accurate – is like a photograph.  It is a picture of the situation today.  Any predictions based on the polls are pure conjecture.  Being ahead today does not mean a candidate will actually win in a couple weeks.

In looking at the most current numbers, I apply a couple Larry’s rules of thumb – that Republicans surge in the final days and that the GOP will do better than polls suggest by a minimum of 3 to 5 points.  If you apply that to the current data, the control of the House is a toss-up at this moment – but Republicans are moving up.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Since both sides talk about this election being “nationalized” – essentially a referendum on President Trump – we should look at his figures first.  I should interject, that I am not convinced that this or any election can be fully nationalized. The Democrat House Speaker was not entirely wrong when he said that “all politics is local.”  We need to keep in mind that President Barack Obama won two impressive victories while his Party was sinking into political oblivion across the country in all those “local” legislative races.

According to the ABC/Washington Post survey, Trump has moved up 2.9 percentage points in personal popularity.  Averaging out the key polls, he has moved up to 43.5 percent in favorable rating.  That is close to the historic teeter point separating a Democrat or Republican win.

The most optimistic statistics for the Democrats are also the most unreliable.  It is what is known as the “generic ballot,” in which voters are asked to reveal their party preference.  At this moment, it is advantage Democrats by an 11-point margin, 53 to 42.  This tends to be unreliable because Democrat voters tend to be highly concentrated in urban districts.

By way of example, let’s say there are 1000 voters in four congressional districts and 700 of them are Democrats.  The generic poll would show a Democrat advantage of more than 2 to 1.  But if 90 percent of the democrats were in only one district, Republicans would prevail in the other three.  Pollsters try to take this into consideration when doing the sampling, but it remains a problem.

What should be causing some apoplexy at the Democratic National Committee headquarters is the polling by congressional district.  It actually shows a very slim Republican advantage of 47 to 46 over the Democrat candidates.  That would suggest a lot of incumbent retention or retaining Republican open seats.  This polling gives a better indication of what is happening on the ground in the real contests.

As Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University Polling Institute describes it: The GOP congressional seats that were initially believed to be out of reach for Democrats, but shifted to become battle ground districts, are now drifting back out of reach.  This means that Democrats haver fewer and fewer opportunities to pick up Republican-held seats.  Still, there are more Republican seats considered competitive than the Democrats need to take over the House.

Of the major voting blocs claimed by the Democrats, the women’s vote seems to be the most discussed.  Recent polls show an advantage for the Democrats by 59 to 37 percent.  That is a pretty big gender gap, if it is true.  But it is really only a 4 percent shift in the women’s vote compared to Trumps election victory in 2016.  This can easily be made up from marginal increases in GOP votes from other groups, such as men and even minorities.

Trump lost the women’s vote in 2016 vote 54 to 42 – not exactly a huge gender gap.  He carried the white women’s vote 53 to 42.  Black women will do what they have done for generations.  They will vote overwhelmingly Democrat.  That is not a gender vote, but an ethnic vote.  There is very little Republicans can do in the short-run to improve those numbers and very little Democrats can do to drive black voters – men or women — away.  That is not to say that the Republicans will not pick up a point or two in the black vote – maybe even more among Hispanics and Asians.

For the Republicans to lose two-thirds of the women’s vote, they would have to lose a lot of White women who voted for Trump AND who have voted Republican over the years.  If there is a major mistake in the Democrat’s calculations and the pollsters’ findings it will be the size of the so-called gender gap and the failure to consider the male gender gap.

Republican candidates may also marginally improve their numbers in the black and Hispanic communities.  These will not be huge gains, but cumulatively important.  Again, it would be a mistake to judge minority voting based on those highly dense and segregated minority communities in the Democrat urban strongholds.

Finally, there are the issues.  Democrats have done well in convincing the voters that the tax reform bill was a rich man’s gift.  However, they have not been able to shake some very fundamental issues such as border security, crime, sanctuary cities and programs that require much higher taxes.  There is still a feeling out there that the Democrats may just tank the economy.  People may not believe in the benefits of tax reduction, but they sure as hell do not want to see the economy to go south on the charts.  We have to keep in mind that even if they do not believe in the benefits of the new economy, they are still very optimistic about the future – and the way the country is going. 

Democrats can point to Trump’s pugnacious personality, but they have not escaped the handicap of being the party of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tom Perez, Keith Ellison, Richard Blumenthal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and so many others from the radical left that now control the Party.

If there is anything to be derived from this analysis, it is that there is no justification for exuberant optimism among Democrats or depressing pessimism among Republicans.

So, there it ‘tis.

About Author

Larry Horist

Larry Horist

Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at lph@thomasandjoyce.com.

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