Why the 2018 midterm elections matter

Beyond the balance of power in Congress, the 2018 midterm elections' impact will be felt at every level of government for at least the next decade. Learn what the effects might be.

Posted: Apr 5, 2018 5:49 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2018 5:54 PM

New polling from CNN and other outlets indicates that President Donald Trump's job approval has improved since mid-December, and that the Democrats' advantage over Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections has shrunk.

The reasons are obvious -- the Republicans cut taxes, the economy is good, and people largely approve of Trump's moves to break the logjam with North Korea. Basically, people like peace and prosperity. Or, as philosopher and fictional minor league baseball pitcher "Nuke" LaLoosh once opined: "I love winning, man. ... It's like better than losing."

The danger for Republicans, of course, is that peace and prosperity won't be enough to overcome the head winds they face. History is not on their side, as the party in power almost always loses seats in a president's first midterm. And Trump, despite the polling improvement, still carries a job approval well below what any GOP strategist would tell you is necessary to overcome history.

Polling averages today put Trump between 41% and 42%, depending on which tracker you use (and whether you look at polls of voters or mix in surveys of adults, not all of whom are registered to vote). By comparison, let's look at Gallup job approval numbers for President Barack Obama in the four polls leading into the 2010 midterm in which Republicans walloped the Democrats: 46, 45, 44, 45.

So even as Trump improves, Democrats should feel good that he has not improved enough to reach a level that would help his party overcome history. There are structural problems in the surveys (chiefly the gender gap) that might hold down Trump's ceiling as he continues to struggle mightily to gain the support of non-Republican women.

What Democrats should be more concerned about is the generic ballot, where their advantage shrunk to just 6 points in March, according to CNN's poll, a massive 10-point shift from their 16-point lead in February. While a 50% to 44% lead might sound good, remember that the sentiment reflected here essentially measures what the national popular House vote would look like but does not determine individual district results.

It is entirely possible for the Democrats to win more overall votes for the US House and not win the chamber. They could even win it by 6 points nationally and still not win a majority of seats, according to my favorite House handicapper, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

While some people reflexively argue that gerrymandering is the culprit, Wasserman points out that other factors -- such as the urban cloistering of the most partisan Democratic voters, incumbency and uncontested races -- are also to blame for this possibility. According to the average of generic ballot polling as tracked by several aggregators, the Democrats' lead is 6 to 7 points, right in line with CNN's data.

So why are Democrats struggling to grow their generic ballot advantage? Because they continue to ignore three political realities: Most Americans aren't as liberal as their outraged base voters (especially in urban areas); most voters want their taxes to go down instead of up; and most voters want the parties to work together when it makes sense. I'll give you examples of each:

The census outrage: This week, Democrats were in a full-scale meltdown because the Trump administration decided to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form. Democratic attorneys general readied their lawsuits. Liberal talking heads took to the airwaves. Democratic members of Congress wrote the most vitriolic statements their trembling hands could muster.

Meanwhile, most of America said: "What's the big deal?" There is nothing remotely illogical or illegal about the United States figuring out how many citizens it has, as it seems like a common-sense thing to know. Our government can tell us how many zoologists are employed in each state but can't count the total number of citizens? What a crock, and the associated outrage reminded me of Nancy Pelosi's unhinged claim of a looming "apocalypse" should the Republicans cut taxes.

Repeal the tax cuts? Democrats overreached on the tax cuts and squandered credibility when discussing the economy. And now, not satisfied with the damage they did themselves by block voting against the Republican tax cuts in December, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has rolled out a plan to repeal the Trump tax cuts. They are calling it an "infrastructure plan," but I know what it will be called in campaign ads this fall: Chuck and Nancy's plan to raise your taxes. Republican strategists are chuckling about this boneheaded move.

Finally, the liberal resistance to all things Trump doesn't square with recent polling conducted for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Here's the way Axios reported it:

"New internal polling ... suggests that Democratic candidates running in swing districts 'must express a willingness to work with the President when his agenda might help the district.' The survey also recommends that Democrats 'not appear out of sync with what people believe about the economy.' "

Squaring that strategy with the huge number of "nasty" Democratic primaries will be impossible as candidates seek to outdo each other with increasingly strident anti-Trump rhetoric. The "resistance" may nominate a bunch of candidates who can't connect with average voters who like their lower taxes, job security and life in a world at relative peace, all thanks to Donald Trump and his Republican Party.

I continue to favor Democrats slightly to win the House, but it isn't a done deal. The Democratic enthusiasm advantage is real, and the historical trends are no joke. But like the 2016 presidential campaign, there are things in the water making this a choppier ride than it ought to be for the party out of power.

Terre Haute
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 59°
Robinson
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 55°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 57°
Casey
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 60°
Brazil
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 59°
Another Nice Night
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

In Case You Missed It

${article.thumbnail.title}

Trace Adkins: The Way I Wanna Go Tour

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Avoid phony Amazon calls

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Beware of knock-off car seats

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Fake change-of-address websites

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Social media influencer ruse

Image

Police make arrests in deadly shooting case

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Fraudsters claim Apple iCloud breach to steal your info

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Schemes target military families

${article.thumbnail.title}

SCAM ALERT: Avoid Zoom phishing

Image

SCAM ALERT: Rental car shortage leads to phony deals

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1389443

Reported Deaths: 25592
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55642910467
DuPage924131318
Will769631033
Lake683861018
Kane59457808
Winnebago34140507
Madison30959526
McHenry29200295
St. Clair28348519
Peoria23455343
Champaign21112155
Sangamon19103240
McLean18560188
Tazewell17232305
Rock Island15247329
Kankakee14562217
Kendall1328599
LaSalle12789250
Macon10998211
DeKalb10123121
Vermilion10035143
Adams8694127
Williamson7609134
Whiteside7199174
Boone683878
Ogle621183
Grundy598778
Clinton578991
Coles5774100
Knox5647154
Jackson510165
Henry507970
Livingston489991
Woodford484482
Stephenson482785
Macoupin478388
Effingham476972
Franklin454278
Marion4515117
Jefferson4424122
Monroe438694
Lee419354
Randolph416587
Fulton405359
Logan398364
Morgan393482
Christian383975
Montgomery379374
Bureau378484
Fayette322955
Perry320360
Iroquois314167
McDonough291051
Jersey271752
Douglas260736
Saline260457
Lawrence241127
Shelby232838
Union228241
Crawford214525
Bond208724
Cass203527
Ford189048
Warren184349
Clark183933
Jo Daviess182724
Pike182153
Wayne181253
Hancock180931
Carroll178537
Edgar177040
Richland176940
White170626
Washington164825
Moultrie163128
De Witt157229
Mason154245
Piatt152414
Clay149743
Mercer149334
Johnson148116
Greene145234
Massac135940
Wabash135612
Cumberland130219
Menard125012
Jasper116718
Marshall108119
Hamilton84116
Schuyler7817
Brown7326
Pulaski7007
Stark64824
Edwards57712
Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4891
Putnam4863
Alexander47411
Gallatin4704
Hardin39112
Pope3284
Unassigned512433
Out of IL350

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 751526

Reported Deaths: 13799
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033281788
Lake557151010
Allen41710692
St. Joseph36998565
Hamilton36604417
Elkhart29413461
Tippecanoe22914227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19359326
Johnson18477389
Hendricks17689317
Clark13228195
Madison13158344
Vigo12625253
LaPorte12420221
Monroe12211176
Delaware10968198
Howard10337225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8577147
Bartholomew8172157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7812180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6972103
Morgan6765141
Dubois6221118
Marshall6211116
Cass6017110
Henry5902110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509176
Shelby501796
Lawrence4745122
Gibson445094
Clinton442755
Harrison441775
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438490
Whitley406643
Huntington403181
Steuben400259
Miami395269
Jasper388654
Knox376391
Putnam373260
Wabash362383
Ripley347270
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332253
Daviess3033100
Wells295381
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273172
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246136
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234631
Starke228058
Fountain221048
Sullivan214643
Owen212158
Fulton203042
Jay200932
Carroll193720
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166446
Parke149616
Pike138134
Blackford136232
Pulaski120747
Newton114336
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101914
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420