Chuck Todd: Is it time to start believing that Democrats might hold onto the House?

Source: Hot Air

Short answer: No.

Slightly longer answer: Uh, definitely not.

In fact, it’s ironic that he posed this question yesterday on “Meet the Press” since I’d argue that the new poll from his own network, NBC, was reassuring on balance for the GOP.

The time to start worrying that Dems might hold the House, I’d say, is if and when they reach something like a four-point lead on the generic ballot. That would point broadly to a “neutral” electoral environment rather than to a red wave of some greater or lesser magnitude. The last time Democrats held even a three-point lead on the generic ballot was 10 months ago. And since November of last year they’ve trailed almost every day, finally catching up to the GOP and briefly taking the lead last week — before sliding behind again today.

I don’t want to flatly declare that it’s impossible for Dems to gain four points between now and November while inflation is at a 40-year high, but it’s prettttttty unlikely. Control of the Senate is a live issue, as even Mitch McConnell acknowledges, but the suspense in the House is entirely about how large or small next year’s Republican majority will be.

The new NBC poll does contain some encouraging news for Democrats, most notably a surge in enthusiasm among lefty voters. The GOP had a huge lead in enthusiasm this past spring. It’s almost all gone now.

Choose your own adventure in trying to explain that. It could be a “Roe effect” as angry liberals resolve to turn out and make their anger at the Dobbs ruling felt. (Approval of the Dobbs decision split 38/58 in this poll.) It could be rising optimism as inflation slows and gas prices drop. It could be good vibes among progressives after Joe Manchin pulled a rabbit from his hat and gave them a Build Back Better bill against all odds. There might even be a “Trump effect” at work, as 57 percent of Americans in this survey said the FBI investigation of Trump at Mar-a-Lago should continue versus 40 percent who said it should end immediately. Having Trump in the news distracting from Biden’s problems is the opposite of what Republican leaders want this November.

But here’s the kicker. Despite the rising enthusiasm on the left, despite the favorable abortion numbers, despite the “Trump effect” in action, the GOP’s lead on the generic ballot in NBC’s survey is as good as it’s been all year. They lead by two, 47/45. In May the parties were tied at 46 and in March the GOP lead 46/44. In polls before that since the start of Biden’s presidency, Democrats led every time. Liberal enthusiasm isn’t translating into more votes if NBC’s polling is correct. It may be that people who were already strongly inclined to show up and vote are now super-charged to show up and vote because of Dobbs, but those votes were likely going to happen regardless.

The last time Republicans had a tiny lead in voter enthusiasm in NBC’s polling was 2014, when they killed it in the midterms:

A two-point Republican lead on the generic ballot — really, any Republican competitiveness on the generic ballot — also augurs poorly for liberals in recent history:

Nate Silver’s theory of why November might be better for Democrats than anyone expects is that there could be special circumstances this year that upend the traditional dynamics of midterms. Since 1990, all but two midterm cycles have ended with wave elections for the out-party. One of those was 1998, when the backlash to the GOP moving to impeach Bill Clinton led to Clinton’s party doing better than expected. The other was 2002, when Bush’s popularity after 9/11 led to his party doing better than expected. Those were some very special circumstances! Obviously, Roe v. Wade being overturned could be another special circumstance that fuels higher than expected Democratic turnout this fall.

But the wrinkle this year is that there’s also a special circumstance working in the opposite direction, namely, historic inflation. NBC’s poll finds Biden’s job approval topping out at 68 percent among black voters and 40 percent among Latinos, lower-than-expected numbers in normally reliable cohorts that probably have to do with the working class getting crushed by the rising cost of living. (As Ed noted earlier, the mood of Americans in the NBC poll is *dark.*) If the irresistible force of lefties angered by Roe’s repeal meets the irresistible force of working-class voters angered at Biden for having to pay 10 percent more for everything, what happens? Do they cancel each other out and we end up with a “normal” midterm by the standards of modern times?

Because, as I just said, a “normal” midterm since the early 1990s would mean a sizable wave for the minority party, the GOP. Not a tidal wave in which even Washington state turns red, as seemed vaguely possible six months ago, but surely enough to flip a House with a thin Democratic majority.

Watch five minutes of Todd and his panel digesting the poll data yesterday and being too sanguine about what it says for Dems. If you’re on Team Blue, probably the most optimistic number available to you lately is the fact that Biden’s job approval is up four full points since late July in the RCP average. At 41.2 percent, he still has a ways to go before his party has real cause to get excited. But if he makes it all the way back to 44, 45, 46 percent by Election Day, that could be the difference between a Republican Senate majority next year and a Democratic one.

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