Are the Democrats going to win big in November? Will the Republicans manage to hang on to their majority?
We’re all keen to know the answers to these questions. And while we’ll have to wait to know for sure, we have had 30 primary elections already. What have we learned about how voters (and candidates) are responding to the current political landscape?
✦ Trump’s approval rating has never been above water and the intensity of the disapproval rating had folks wondering if Republican candidates would distance themselves from him as they campaigned. The answer is no. The Republican party is most definitely the party of Trump. Although his approval ratings aren’t great, he is very popular with Republican voters.
✦ Democratic women are winning more than Republican women in their primaries. By early June–in primaries for House or Senate seats–women won the primary 50% of the time if they were Democrats, compared to only 32% if they were Republicans. Matt Canter, a Democratic strategist, on why women are winning: “It’s a confluence of a number of important factors, most importantly that these women who are winning are great candidates.”
✦ As much as the TV pundits like to talk about a “struggle over the direction of the Democratic Party,” the Democrats are looking like the coalition party that they always have been: Primaries have been won by all stripes of Democrats, from the established moderate to the super-progressive newcomer, and everything in between.
✦ The top two issues on voters’ minds this primary season: Healthcare in the top position, followed closely by economy/jobs. Gun safety has also emerged as a winning issue for Democrats.
✦ Immigration, as an issue, is equally motivating for both Democrats and Republicans.
✦ The Republicans’ Plan A for the midterms was to primarily focus on their one major legislative accomplishment, the tax bill, but have found its popularity sinking. As those numbers have gotten worse, they have started pushing other achievements more, like confirming Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch and many lower level federal judges, and getting rid of regulations.
✦ Americans don’t feel a lot has happened under the Republican Congress, so in a play for optics, McConnell cancelled the August recess. He wants people to see Republicans “hard at work.” (And, of course, prevent vulnerable red state Democrats from campaigning in their home states in August.)
✦ While state and local races often turn on local issues, i.e. “all politics are local,” many districts are finding that Trump is an ever-present issue, especially as he dominates the news cycle 24/7. In Republican primaries, we’ve seen candidates smear each other for being too close or not close enough to Trump, and Democratic candidates often say they will be a check on Trump.
✦ Surveys bear this out: A huge cross-section of voters want to vote for a candidate who “will be a check on Trump.” From the Washington Post: “By 52-19, voters in competitive House districts are more likely to support a congressional candidate who promises to be a check on Trump.”
✦ Following a trend from previous years, voters are less inclined to vote for a candidate who declares that they want Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker of the House.
To wrap this all up, here’s where the enthusiasm for midterms stands with voters (surveys from early June):
Wall Street Journal: “Five months before the voting, Democrats are more focused on the campaign. Some 63% of Democrats said they are very interested in the midterms, compared with 47% of Republicans. Democrats’ interest in the race exceeds that of a comparable point in 2006—a year when the party picked up 31 House and six Senate seats in a midterm rout that then-Republican President George W. Bush called a ‘thumping.’”
We don’t have any primaries this month but they get started again in August and will wrap up in September.