House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill on July 26. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Opinion writer

CNN reports: “Democrats now lead Republicans by 52% to 41% in a nationwide generic Congressional ballot according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released Tuesday. The blue lead has increased slightly from eight percentage points in June of this year to an 11 percentage point difference in the most recent poll.” While that may sound like a lot, the difference between 8 and 11 percent is not statistically significant in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent. That doesn’t, however, mean that Republicans should take any comfort in the poll numbers.

Among the poll’s findings: “Democrats have taken a much higher leap in enthusiasm vs. 2016 than Republicans. When CNN last asked the question, in September 2016, only 38% of Democrats said they were ‘more enthusiastic,’ while 48% of Republicans said the same. Registered Democrats jumped 32 points since 2016 and Republicans moved 20 points.” In addition, Republicans talk about the tax cut, or worse, about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) aren’t doing them much good:

Health care tops the list of important issues voters will consider this fall with 81% saying it’s extremely or very important to their vote for Congress, followed very closely by the economy (80%). . . . and corruption — an issue newly in the spotlight following Rep. Chris Collins’ arrest on insider trading charges — outpaces trade policy and taxes in importance to voters (74% call corruption extremely or very important vs. 64% on trade policy and 71% on taxes).

As for Pelosi, only 34 percent of voters think she is an important factor in the midterms.

Another sour note for Trump and the GOP is Russia. Rather than discredit the investigation as a “hoax,” Trump’s jabbering about the issue (not to mention the trial of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort) has raised the issue’s importance:

Six-in-ten say it’s very or somewhat likely that a foreign government will interfere in the U.S. elections this fall with only 37% saying it’s not too likely or not likely at all. There are sharp differences by party on this question, with 35% of Republicans seeing foreign meddling with U.S. congressional elections as likely, well below expectations among Democrats (83% likely) or independents (56% likely).

If a foreign government were to meddle in U.S. elections, almost three-quarters say it would be a crisis or major problem. Almost three in 10, 28%, think it would be a crisis, 46% a major problem, 16% a minor problem, and 8% believe it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

At least for now, Democrats are talking about the issue voters care about most: health care. They’ve also latched on to the corruption issue, which holds the potential for more scandals between now and Election Day. Republicans’ focus on Pelosi seems entirely misplaced. Moreover, they are defending Trump cultists’ ludicrous position that there may not have been Russian interference and, in any case, it’s no big deal. The voters flatly reject those views by a large majority.

It’s not hard to figure out why Republicans are so out of whack with the electorate: They’re following Trump. Trump wants the base’s approval and either cannot tell or doesn’t care if the rest of the voters are turned off by his message. His pernicious habit of focusing on female adversaries — e.g., Pelosi, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — isn’t based on political data, but on his own misogyny.

Above all, Republicans are paying the price for a fundamental misjudgment on health care. They set out to destroy the Affordable Care Act without an alternative, and failing to kill it, they figured hobbling it would somehow endear themselves to voters. No, it turns out making voters’ health care worse, or threatening to take it away altogether, is politically daft. Sometimes rotten policy is also rotten politics.