Something funny is happening with the much-hyped “blue wave” on the way to the fall midterms. That wave of Democratic candidates that is supposed to sweep away the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives? The one that the press and pundits have been predicting for months? One would almost think the steady narrative of a blue wave is an attempt at psychological warfare by the mainstream media and the Left in hopes of depressing Republican donors and voters into thinking the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
But that narrative is completely detached from reality. The numbers now tell a different story.
Democrats entered 2018 with a double-digit lead in the congressional generic ballot, upwards of 15 points in some polls. Yet somehow in May, their lead in the RealClearPolitics average has shrunk to just four points. In some generic polls, such as the Reuters survey, the Democrats’ lead has disappeared entirely. In fact, in the most recent Reuters’ poll, Republicans are up more than six points generically.
Democrats right now are in a position mirrored almost exactly in May 2014, when they held a one-to-four-point lead on most generic ballots. Remember what happened? Democrats lost 13 seats.
Unmistakably, the dynamics of 2018 are different. President Trump is a volatile and polarizing figure. Moreover, nearly 40 Republican incumbents—including House Speaker Paul Ryan—are retiring. And every race is subject to contingency and local events.
A Tea Party Precedent?
Nevertheless, as we consider the “great and awesome” blue wave in 2018, it’s worth remembering the Tea Party wave of 2010. That year, 85 percent of House incumbents won. Put in perspective, that supposed seismic election was the worst reelection average for House incumbents in the last 40 years. It’s not unusual in most off-year midterms for incumbents to have a 94-98 percent re-election rate. In fact, the average reelection rate for U.S. House incumbents since World War II has been 93 percent.
This isn’t to say Democrats lack a path to retake the House in 2018. An activist state Supreme Court in Pennsylvania gave the Left a huge leg up when it overturned the will of the people’s elected representatives and redrew the state’s congressional district lines in the state to favor the Democrats. Now upwards of seven Republican seats are in play.
As a number of Republicans retire and choose not to run, the party has lost the power of incumbency in dozens of seats, making it the perfect time for Democrats to snatch up the 23 seats they need to seize the majority. But even then it should be remembered that of the 23 Republican districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016, only six of those incumbents are retiring. The overwhelming majority of seats will have incumbents in them.
Complicating the Narrative
And there are other factors to consider: the Republican National Committee is flush with over $43 million in cash on hand and promising to put hundreds of more field staff into targeted districts. The Democratic National Committee, on the other hand, is more than $5 million in debt.
Add the fact that the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund has been working districts for over a year now, doing targeted voter outreach with an army of 4,000 people, and the “blue wave” narrative isn’t looking so swell.
Then there’s a new narrative building. Voters right now are starting to give Trump more and more credit for the economy, with nearly 70 percent crediting him with its success. Guess which is one of the top issues for voters in the midterms? To paraphrase a previous president, it’s the economy, stupid—not Russia or Stormy Daniels.
And then there’s impeachment. If there was one issue that would really fire up the Trump base, it would be impeachment. Yet there is a very real element of the Democrat base that is clinging to the Russia collusion fairytale and demanding 2018 be about the impeachment of Donald Trump. In fact, with refreshing honesty, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) stated very clearly: “Democrats will impeach Trump if we retake the House.”
‘Collusion’ Blowback in the Making?
But speaking of Russia, as I wrote earlier this year I wrote that it was a very real possibility that the overarching narrative on a variety of related issues could very well change, from unmasking to the Steele Dossier and FISA abuse. We’re already seeing that taking place as the collusion fairy tale fades away and we are finding that the real story, potentially, is about the massive abuses by partisan elements in the Justice Department, FBI and elsewhere in the U.S intelligence community (think John Brennan and the CIA) that could dwarf the Watergate scandal. As the committees in the House and Senate keep digging, we are sure to uncover more questionable behavior from the investigators who spied on the Trump campaign. While Democrats might think they hold the cards with the Mueller investigation, I’m of the opinion that Trump could drop his own “October surprise.”
Now, as the Cook Political Report moves more districts back into either “toss up” or “safe Republican” territory, that gurgling sound, which is growing louder by the week, is the “blue wave” going down the drain.
My prediction: I don’t believe the Democrats will take back the House. Could they gain 15-20 seats? Possibly, though I think even that number might be too high. It’s not beyond reason that Republicans once again could defy history, as they did in the 2002 midterms when they actually picked up eight seats. And with the Senate map being a brutal one for Democrats, they’ll likely lose seats in the Senate.
I’m actually growing more and more convinced that Democrats will find themselves in the minority after November 8, staring into a bleak future, experiencing a gut-wrenching, soul-crushing moment, with the horror of a Trump re-election in 2020 staring right back in their faces.