CNN released a poll on Wednesday with results that shocked its own pundits: the much vaunted “Blue Wave” hoped for by Democrats in the coming midterm elections has virtually disappeared.
The Democratic generic Congressional Ballot advantage has dwindled to three points, 47 percent to 44 percent among registered voters, two points below the five point generic advantage Democrats need to hold onto the 196 seats they currently hold. That five point bar is due to the significant gerrymandering advantage Republicans obtained when Republican majority state legislatures in states that had Democratic majority legislatures in 2000 redrew Congressional district lines after the 2010 census.
The CNN poll of 901 registered voters was conducted between May 2 and 5, and has a margin of error of 3.8 points.
The fall to a three point advantage has been a steep one for Democrats, who according to the same CNN poll held a 16 point generic Congressional ballot advantage as recently as December.
Even CNN’s Chris Cillizza admitted that the poll was good news for the GOP.
“But dig into the poll further and other shoots of optimism for Republicans sprout up,” Cillizza wrote, adding:
1. The economy is becoming more prominent as a voting issue, as Trump recedes somewhat. More than 8 in 10 voters (84%) say the economy will be “extremely” or “very” important to their votes, while 64% say the same of the President. The better the economy does — or is perceived to be doing — and the less that people see the 2018 election as a straight referendum on Trump, the better for Republican chances.
2. While Trump’s job approval numbers remain stuck in the low 40s, he appears to be less of a drag on congressional Republicans today than he was a few months ago. In January, 52% said they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes Trump, while 41% said they’d be more likely to back someone who supports him. That margin has narrowed in the new poll; 48% said they’d rather choose a candidate who opposes Trump, while 43% prefer a candidate who supports the President.
3. Republicans are getting more interested in the 2018 election. In March, just 1 in 3 GOPers (and GOP-leaning independents) said they were “very enthusiastic” about the midterms. That number is up to 44% in the new CNN survey.
Comparing the latest CNN poll with the same poll conducted in the month preceding the midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 provides even further reason for Republican optimism:
In October 2010, for instance, Republicans enjoyed a six point generic ballot advantage, 49 percent to 43 percent. In the November election the following month, Republicans had a net gain of 63 seats in the House of Representatives, more than enough to allow them to take back the majority and replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
In October 2014, Democrats enjoyed a six point generic ballot advantage (three points more than they currently have), 49 percent to 43 percent. In the November election the following month, Democrats had a net gain of only five seats, not nearly enough for them to take back the majority in the house.
Overall, the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls paints a slightly better picture for the Democrats, currently giving them a 6.1 percent generic Congressional ballot advantage.
Though House Minority Leader Pelosi has been loudly and publicly measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s Office for some time now, her advisers who are reading the latest polls may well be telling her it would not be prudent to begin selecting new patterns quite yet.