Three weeks before critical midterm elections, voters are expressing significantly more interest in turning out than they were four years ago, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Enthusiasm is up across almost all demographic groups, but the increases are greater among younger adults, nonwhite voters and those who say they favor Democrats for the House. . . .
Certainty to vote is up 32 points among women younger than 40, compared with 2014. Among men and women ages 18 to 29, it has risen 17 points. Among nonwhite registered voters, 72 percent are now certain to vote, up from 48 percent in Post-ABC polling in October 2014. White men without college degrees represent the one heavily Republican group whose certainty to vote is lower than average and has increased less than other groups since 2014. In contrast, white women with college degrees are up 15 points to 88 percent. For white women without degrees, the figure is up 12 points.
This is potentially disastrous for a party that has pitched its appeal to a narrow slice of the electorate — white men without college degrees. Thanks to President Trump, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Republicans who act and talk as if the Fox News audience is identical to the U.S. electorate, Democrats have the chance to make massive gains in the House and keep Senate losses to a minimum for 26 incumbents on the ballot.
While the House generic polling gap remains large (+11 for Democrats), it’s the gender gap that is likely to obliterate the Republican House majority:
Among registered voters, women favor Democratic House candidates by 59 percent to 37 percent while men split about evenly, with 48 percent favoring Republican House candidates and 46 percent favoring Democrats.
Those registered voters who describe themselves as independents favor Democrats by 52 percent to 38 percent, driven primarily by a 2-1 advantage for Democrats among independent women (62 percent to 29 percent).
White women with college degrees split 57 percent to 42 percent for Democratic candidates while white women without a college education lean toward Republicans, 49 percent to 43 percent.
Trump, you might recall, won independents 46 percent to 42 percent and lost independent women by only five points. In case anyone is wondering if the #MeToo movement, Republicans’ misogynistic taunting and Trump’s unpopularity have had any impact, one need only look at the gigantic gains for Democrats (in comparison to Trump’s 2016 performance) among independents (-4 to +14), independent women (+5 to +33) and white college-educated women (+7 to +15). The amount of polling and punditry over the last year devoted to the proposition that “nothing mattered” because Trump retains his white, male and non-college-educated base was absurd; he and the GOP have managed to alienate everyone else and boost Democratic enthusiasm through the roof.
The story is much the same in the CBS Battleground Tracker poll in which “Democrats are being helped by a gender gap in the race for the House in these key districts: Men are backing Republican candidates by 7 percentage points, while women are supporting Democrats by 12 points. The gender gap has widened somewhat since last month.” As a result of female voters and defecting Trump voters, the number of House seats Democrats are likely to pick up has grown. (“[CBS’s] current estimate is four seats higher than it was in August, by which time candidates had been nominated to the general election in most districts.”)
The race for control of the Senate looks very different because of the disproportionate number of Democrats (26 of 35) defending seats and the geographic distribution of the seats (10 of the 25 are states Trump won). Nevertheless, it is not as if Republicans are gaining from the best map they’ve seen in years.
According to the Cook Political Report, none of the Rust Belt states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin) in which Trump broke through in 2016 are rated any worse than Likely Democrat. Even West Virginia, which Trump won big in 2016, remains in the Lean Democrat column. Among the five Democratic seats rated Toss-Up, four are perennially GOP strongholds (Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Montana); only one is a swing state (Florida). In short, states Republicans won for the first time in a while are now very safely Democratic, while Republicans are fighting for any gains in deep red states. This is not exactly progress.
The Senate and the House are moving in opposite directions, as the punditry would have it, only if you create a very select group of states and a tight time frame. Republicans have already lost pickup chances in four key Rust Belt states and have no easy breakthrough opportunity with the possible exception of North Dakota.
If the blue and purple state Republicans were up for election this time (e.g., Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio), you might see losses for the GOP; it’s the luck of the draw that they don’t face that prospect in 2018. Similarly, Democrats are in contention in states they virtually never win (e.g., Arizona, Tennessee, Texas). If they don’t win them, that’s not a sign they’ve lost ground; it’s a sign they cannot make up double-digit deficits in two years. What will be interesting is how tight these races are, a possible precursor for 2020. Meanwhile, Democrats remain in contention in Florida (which Trump won) and Nevada (against a GOP incumbent in a state Hillary Clinton won).
So why all the talk of the Senate and House moving in opposite directions? If your perspective is where polls were four or five months ago in certain red states and where they are now, yes, there has been a change. But that is not indicative of much of anything other than Republicans in the deepest red enclaves deciding that their embattled senators are worth defending. If you look at results — 2016 vs. 2018 — I suspect we will find that both maps moved toward Democrats; Democrats simply started the Senate race in a far worse position.