Roll Call's election analyst, Stuart Rothenberg, attempts to calm Democratic nerves, recently rattled by downward-drifting generic ballot numbers. He speculates that "the generic ballot probably now sits … in the 5- to 8-point range," which is decent enough. The Times' Upshot says a 7.4 margin in the popular vote is needed for Dems to retake the House, and "most estimates put the generic congressional ballot very near that number." Concludes Rothenberg: "Warnings of the Democrats’ weakening position [are] overblown."
He notes that Quinnipiac's findings, from early December through late January, gave Democrats a double-digit lead in the generic ballot (in February, plus 9). In other words, Quinnipiac has shown consistency. Others haven't, and their inconsistency is suspicious. In early December, Monmouth, for instance, showed Democrats 15 points ahead on the generic ballot question. By late January, however, Monmouth's "survey showed the party holding a mere 2-point edge." A similar plunge occurred in CNN's polling. In mid-October, it had Democrats with a 16-point lead in the generic, which grew to an 18-point by mid-December. Then, in mid-January, CNN put the Democratic advantage at a paltry 5 points.
The decay in Democrats' generic position is not what's suspicious. Stuff happens. Rather, the precipitous decline is what raises doubts as to the polls' accuracy. As Rothenberg observes: "Public opinion rarely moves so dramatically in seven weeks."
What's more, notes Rothenberg, "the generic ballot is just one measure of the two parties’ strengths during the cycle, which is why any analysis should look at multiple indicators." That's precisely what the Upshot's Nate Cohn has done. His conclusion: "Slowly but surely, the considerable structural advantages — like incumbency, geography and gerrymandering — that give the Republicans a chance to survive a so-called wave election are fading, giving Democrats a clearer path to a House majority in November."
Cohn seems most optimistic in the field of gerrymandering, where recent court rulings have inflicted real damage on Republicans' advantages in the "four big states" of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. There also are 34 Republican retirements — and counting — aa well as robust Democratic recruitment (military veterans, elected officials) combined with superior fundraising.
This is all quite comforting — all these tangible, quantifiable Democratic margins of strength. I put even more faith, however, in the Rumsfeldian yet-unknown known; which is to say, the virtual certainty that Donald Trump's abysmal performance to date will thunderingly gallop into even deeper abysses of abject incompetence, otherworldly tone-deafness and unequaled stupidity.
Strictly by the numbers (and, it should go without saying, for a thousand non-numerical reasons), the Donald should not be in the White House. Millions more voted against him than voted for him, and many of those who voted Aye did so only out of some ignorant, primally screaming confidence in the magical abilities of a billionaire outsider. They — [updated clarification: those marginal Trump supporters] — now know better, which is why Democrats hold a resepctable advantage in generic balloting. As those numbers close in on Trumplethinskin, and as Robert Mueller closes in as well, he'll crack, snapple and pop under the pressure — with an accelerated frequency that will astound even the jaded and benumbed.
Yes, Benedict Donald possesses nine more months — count 'em, nine — to further degrade not only his degraded reputation, but that of the pitiless Trumpbots in Congress. And the more pitiless they become, the more pitiless toward them the electorate will become. Thereafter, the year of Our Lord Twenty-Eighteen will forever be known as the electoral Year of Revenge.