Democrats Win Big in 2018? Not Just Yet By John Zogby
The one certain thing about conventional wisdom on American politics these days is that it has been wrong more times than right. The foregone conclusion of Congress watchers and aggregate geeks is that the Democrats are poised to take over the House and possibly the Senate as well this November. On the surface, this looks like a pretty good bet. As of this writing, the Congressional generic vote stands at an average of 13 points in the favor of the Democrats – 49 percent to 36 percent. Some polls even have the differential as high as 18 points.
In my polling experience, Democrats need approximately a 4-5 percentage point lead to gain seats in the House. A substantial double-digit lead indicates the possibility that the 2018 election cycle can produce a national wave that spells a major gain in the House. A further examination shows a number of Republican congressional districts where there are good Democratic challengers and where Hillary Clinton performed well in 2016.
But let’s take a closer look. Beyond the generic lead, the Democrats have some distinct advantages going into the fall. First, they are not Donald Trump and the GOP. We have seen already that that factor was enough for the party to score bigger than expected wins in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. They also picked up an unexpected victory in Red Alabama, especially by virtue of running against a Republican who claimed personal virtue but had very little.
The even more important news for the Democrats is that all three states showed a revival of the Obama Coalition of nonwhites, younger voters (especially women), and the Creative Class. This powerful demographic coalition was missing in previous off-year elections and even in the 2016 Presidential election. Huge majorities of Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and the sum total of all voters under 35 years of age are voting Democratic these days. The key is getting them out to vote. The #MeToo revolution has brought out a record number of women candidates and in Alabama we saw a very big turnout among women of all ages.
But the Democrats also need more to seal the deal. There are some major disadvantages they bring into the campaign. First, is a compelling message and bumper sticker. Being not something carries you only so far in competitive races. The promise of “Better Jobs, Better Education, Better Wages” is clumsy and a tad disingenuous. Why was so little of this happening the last three times they held the Presidency and the Congress? Where is the money supposed to come from? Will that be the match that lights up the Trump/Bannon Coalition one more time?
The second disadvantage the Democrats bring to the fore is that the major factions that have comprised the party for many decades- today let's call them the Clinton Establishment vs. the Sanders Wing- actually detest each other. Unity efforts notwithstanding both factions see themselves as the true and only legacy of the Democratic Party- and that is before we get into both the overt and covert efforts made by the Clinton Wing to suppress the Sanders presidential campaign in 2016 and the effort in 2017 to reform the party's rules. I hear talk that is most unfriendly in several states and even suggests efforts to run primaries to split the party. Even worse, if one side is less than enthusiastic, low turnouts can kill chances of victory.
The Republicans’ disadvantages are well known. The party has more than two warring factions and disgust by many in the party’s establishment for the President is palpable. They cannot win without Mr. Trump and they cannot live with him. His embrace of Judge Roy Moore in the recent Alabama Senate race only exacerbates their problem.
But the GOP has some clear advantages as well. There are party organizations in many states where the party rules are healthy and there are plenty of activists and good candidates waiting in the wings who have served in state legislatures. They also have an economy with a very low unemployment rate, a 3.2 percent rate of the growth for the GDP, a stock market that continues to soar into the stratosphere, and a nullification of many regulations which encourages business growth. While the full impact of Mr. Trump’s tax cuts will not be felt by the fall, there is at least a perception that the party can at least make good on one promise.
In the final analysis, it should be a good year for Democrats – but remember way back in November 2016?
John Zogby (@TheJohnZogby) is the founder of the Zogby Poll and Zogby companies, including John Zogby Strategies, and author of We Are Many We Are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in the 21st Century America.