The latest round of Election Day results has Democrats boasting of outperforming Republicans in a key congressional district in the battleground state of Ohio. While at first blush this may be seen as positive for Democrats, the news is anything but spectacular. During a midterm election year in which liberal leaders promised their base a “blue wave,” even this week that wave looks more like a trickle of water caught in the elaborate drainpipe of election recounts, newly found ballots, legal challenges and delayed certifications.
Perhaps even more important than Tuesday’s close election is the fact that generic ballot polling — often thought to be the best indicator of election day performance — tightened again this week, and it wasn’t in Democrats’ favor.
A Rasmussen Poll shows that the generic ballot now only favors Democrats by 4 points — well within the margin of error. Compare that to the generic ballot earlier this year that had Democrats ahead by a whopping 15 points. (Note: Before Democrats dismiss Rasmussen as being a Republican-leaning firm, it is important to point out that Rasmussen was one of only three polling organizations that called the 2016 presidential election accurately).
The point is that Democrats should be doing better than they are at this midpoint, given the intensity of their distaste for President Donald Trump.
Earlier this spring the Washington Post reported that a record number of Americans — 20 percent — had participated in a protest since Trump took office. The protests included the Women’s March, the March for Our Lives following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, and other events.
Given this intensity on the left, the Democrats’ victories should be blowouts, but protests don’t necessarily equate to victories at the ballot box.
The truth is, Democrats right now are approximately where they were in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, both years in which Democrats suffered devastating defeats.
In the 2014 midterms, Democrats were ahead on the generic ballot by an impressive 8 points most of the year but saw their lead vanish, just as it has this year. Republicans ultimately trampled them on election day, retaking the U.S. Senate and winning the largest margin of seats in the House of Representatives in American history.
The Democrats’ position also currently rates worse than their generic ballot ranking in the 2010 midterms.
In 2010, Democrats were polling closely to Republicans in the summer months but, ultimately, Republicans ended up winning back control of the House of Representatives.
Given the fact that Democrats now have just a measly 4-point advantage in generic ballot polling, November looks to be anything but a wave.
This is not to suggest that Republicans will have it easy in the fall — they won’t.
Republicans still have the challenge of maintaining seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, while the lightning rod that is President Trump is on the airwaves day after day. That will take a careful threading of the needle.
However, Democrats have the bigger challenge here of overcoming another new polling number: 44 percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the right direction. This figure is up 3 points in August and moving in Republicans’ favor.
Bottom line: The 2018 midterm elections are anything but settled, and if Democrats are to deliver on their promise of a massive tidal wave this November, they are going to have to perform much better than they did on Tuesday.
About the Author
Jen Kerns has served as a GOP strategist and writer for the U.S. presidential debates for FOX News.