Is this year going to look like 2010 or 1998?
It’s the end of May, and this week came with the stunning news that the generic ballot gap has narrowed to almost zero.
The “generic ballot” is a type of poll which asks voters if they would be more likely to vote for the Republican candidate or Democrat candidate in their district. It generally does not name candidates specifically, but is a good measure of the mood of voters and how they feel about the parties generally.
As soon as President Trump took office, Democrats opened a huge lead in the generic ballot. Polls routinely showed Democrats with a double-digit advantage over the GOP as late as February this year. But after the last few months, the gap has narrowed to essentially zero. Generic ballot polls show Democrats with a mere 4-point lead (44 percent to 40 percent), a negligible gap given the margin of error.
What explains this?
One obvious part of the answer is the Republican tax cuts. Americans love taking home more of the money they earned. They remember how hysterical Democrats and the media were when the tax cuts were passed in December, and how Nancy Pelosi infamously claimed they amounted to no more than “scraps.” The resulting bonuses and larger paychecks have hurt Democrats’ credibility with the public.
But another less obvious part of the answer is that the American people are seeing what Democratic control of Congress would mean. These are not the Democrats of the 20th century or even of the Clinton era. Today’s Democrats are so radical that, however unpopular the Republican president may be, the Democrats still appear much worse.
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Americans aren’t blind to the loony candidates Democrats are nominating. Folks who are skeptical of President Trump’s Republican Party and looking for a reasonable alternative are not finding one in the identity-politics Democrats of the Trump era.
Democrats and the media have been hoping that 2018 would look like a blue version of 2010, where an electorate shocked at what Barack Obama was doing initiated a massive wave that swept more than 60 members of the president’s party out of office.
Instead, this election might look more like 1998, when the opposition party failed to make gains despite a scandal-ridden White House. Republicans were expected to take advantage of a wounded president in the 1998 midterms. Instead, the GOP failed to translate their battle against President Clinton with a positive agenda for the future. The result of the 1998 midterms was a stalemate — the party balance in the Senate remained unchanged and Democrats actually gained a few seats in the House.
Today’s Democrats are hysterical, moralizing, and obnoxious. And it’s now looking increasingly like the American people will not reward them for it.
Photo credit: Senate Democrats via Flickr, CC BY 2.0