Marginal improvement in President Trump’s job approval ratings and a shrinking Democratic advantage on the national generic ballot has spooked a lot of Democrats and cheered up a lot of Republicans. What once looked like a huge tsunami that threatened to demolish the GOP in the House (and maybe in the Senate), may now be more of a moderate wave. Yet, a quick round of check-ins with smart political operatives on both sides found that Democrats remained bullish and Republicans pessimistic (though maybe a bit less so than they’ve been previously) about the November elections.
After a rough start to year, House Republicans are suddenly feeling less pessimistic about their fall prospects. At the "macro" level, robust economic data and positive developments on the Korean peninsula have helped lift President Trump's approval rating to 42 percent, his best mark in over a year.
Given the warped time-space continuum in which those of us in DC live – a flood of news, tweets, and leaks makes each day feel like a week – it may be hard to comprehend ‘real’ time. So, let me help out. We are less than six months – 173 days – from the midterm elections.
So, it’s a good time to check in on what we know – and still don’t know – about how the midterms are shaping up.
Trump and the GOP are in a better place than they were this fall. The question is whether it is good enough to hold the House?
Lots of folks are throwing around the phrase, “Year of the Woman,” to describe the 2018 election. And, understandably so. Everywhere you look, it seems, a woman is introducing herself as a candidate for Congress.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, first elected in 2014, is probably the single most vulnerable GOP incumbent in the House. In 2016, she won reelection by six points while her Northern Virginia district voted for Hillary Clinton 52 percent to 42 percent. In the 2017 governor's race, Democrat Ralph Northam annihilated Ed Gillespie 56 percent to 43 percent in the 10th CD. Down-ballot in the 10th CD, the "blue wave" swept out six incumbent GOP state delegates.
Republicans badly need a few lucky breaks to hold their House majority in November. So far in 2018, it's been the opposite story — from an unfriendly new Pennsylvania map to Speaker Paul Ryan's retirement and bleak special election results. But with five weeks to go before California's June 5 primary, Democrats are at risk of squandering several seats that would otherwise appear to be golden pickup opportunities.
Less than a week before Ohio's May 8 primary, uncertainty surrounds both primaries for the August 7 special election to replace GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned in January to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable. Republicans remain locked in a bitter air war between state Sen. Troy Balderson and Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan, while Democratic Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor is seeking to stave off a late surge from the left.
Every day, it seems, another warning light goes off on the GOP’s dashboard, a blinking reminder of their ensuing troubles for 2018. There are a record number of GOP retirements — including that of House Speaker Ryan. Democratic challengers are outraising GOP incumbents. And, of course, there's the most recent under-performance of a GOP candidate in Arizona’s 8th district special election.