A couple of polls have come out in the last week suggesting that Democrat enthusiasm is down to the point where their lead is within the margin of error.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken between May 4th and May 8th, shows Democrats with a +1 advantage. A CNN poll from May 2nd to May 5th showed Democrats with a +3 advantage. These are down a bit from the last Pew poll (D+5) and Monmouth and Quinnipiac (D+8).
Many conservatives have latched on to these two most recent polls, proudly claiming that Trump is, once again, beating the odds and Republicans will win the day again in November. At the same time, Democrats and liberals will be quick to refer to these polls as “outliers,” noting that virtually all other polling has shown they are, in fact, going to win the House in November.
And, somewhere out there in a bunker is a handful of people saying “HAHAHAHA 2016 PROVED THE POLLS ARE ALWAYS WRONG” despite the fact that all the polling in 2016 pretty much showed Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote. She just lost the election because she chose the wrong states to pin all her hopes on, and Trump took advantage. But, that’s neither here nor there. I just thought I’d remind folks that those people exist.
Meanwhile, looking at the calendar, all we know is one thing: It’s May. We’re still six months away from the elections. That is a very, very long time in electoral politics, and anyone making any absolute, lay-down-the-marker predictions right now is basing it on very little data.
Here’s the data we have: Trump had a good week last week. Trump in past months has had some very bad weeks and some very good weeks. The polls have fluctuated accordingly. We also know that in some special elections Democrats have been highly motivated, while in others they are pretending they have a chance when, in reality, they don’t (paging Beto O’Rourke!).
Right now, it could very well go either way, but we still have to make it through summer, when most people are vacationing and pay less attention to politics, and early autumn, where a political surprise of some sorts usually lurks. When September hits, we’ll likely see a major pick up in Democrat enthusiasm… but, we could just as easily see something happen that gets Republicans rallied.
Historically, off-year and midterm elections prove to be bad for the party in power. And, while Donald Trump has a very active and very vocal base, the moderate Republican and independent voters are wary at best. Under normal circumstances, that indicates that the Republicans are indeed in trouble.
And, while I still feel the Republicans will lose the House, I am also equally convinced that they will at best stay even in the Senate. We are seeing a handful of deep red state Democrats flounder while very few Republicans seem to be.
The midterms are a long way away. We haven’t even seen all of the primaries take place yet, and so we have just a little bit of observable data to really gauge voter enthusiasm. The trend right now seems to be that Democrats have the edge, but the Democrats will have to be smart and put their resources into smart races. Meanwhile, Republicans need to keep open fields small and closed fields challenge-free if they want to survive – something that no one really seems to be willing to do.
Don’t count out the blue wave… but, don’t guarantee it either. A lot can happen, and if Donald Trump has proven anything in the last three years, it’s that the conventional rules are no longer absolute. Anything could change the game.
Ultimately, that’s a good thing.