Analysis: Dems Are Closing Strong. Republicans Are Closing As Ugly As It Gets

A few updates: strongly recommend our new video conversation about the surge in women voting and registering - a big 2022 development - with TargetSmart's Tom Bonier.  We've just posted a new, updated version of our "New, Bluer Election" presentation, and you can me on three new podcasts talking about the election: with Joe Trippi on That Trippi Show; with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld on The Brief; and with David Rothkopf on his Deep State Radio program. 

Newly updated on Thursday, Sept 29th -  The 538 generic has Dems up 1.3 points, a 4 point shift since June. In the 538 "lite" model Dems have a 79% chance of keeping the Senate and a 39% chance of keeping the House. President Biden has jumped 10 points in 538's approval tracker over the past few weeks, from 38.2-56.9 (-18.7) to 43.5-52.2 (-8.7). That's a lot. 

In a Fox News interview on Wednesday, Aug 3rd Mitch McConnell acknowledged the new, bluer reality of the election, and even raised the possibility of Dems keeping the Senate this year: " I think it’s going to be very tight.....And I think when this Senate race smoke clears, we’re likely to have a very, very close Senate still, with us up slightly or the Democrats up slightly."  McConnell's repeated acknowledgements that the Senate may stay Democratic has led to Sean Hannity and Donald Trump calling on him to step down as Senate GOP leader. 

Let's look at some recent GOP polls which might be leading him to believe this election is slipping away from the GOP.  These five polls, all from influential and established GOP institutions, have Dems up an average of 3.8 points in the generic:

        Chamber of Commerce     46-41 (+5)

        Echelon Insights                49-44 (+5)

        Wall Street Journal           47-44 (+3)

        Fox News                          44-41 (+3)

        Americans for Prosperity   42-39 (+3)

Additionally, these 6 GOP-aligned polls which had initially shown the GOP with meaningful leads in the generic have shown swings to the Ds in recent months:

        Fox News                              39-46 to 44-41 - 10 pt shift to Dems

        American Greatness             42-50 to 45-44 - 9 pt shift 

        Rasmussen                           39-49 to 42-44 - 8 pt shift  

        WSJ                                      41-46 to 47-44 - 8 pt shift

        Cygnal                                   45-49 to 47-47 - 4 pt shift  

       Senate Opportunity Fund       42-47 to 43-46 - 2 pt shift  

A Fox News poll released Sept 14th finds: " Overall, if the Congressional election were today, 44% would back the Democratic candidate and 41% the Republican. The Democrats’ 3-point edge is within the survey’s margin of sampling error – and Fox News modeling suggests it translates into a GOP gain of about one House seat."  And thus Democrats keep the House.  In Fox News polling. 

It should be noted that the 5 independent media polls out in recent days found gains for Democrats since their last poll of 3 points (Fox), 2 points (NBC), 1 point (CBS, Economist, NYT). 

A recent poll for the John Locke Institute in North Carolina finds many of the same trends.  This data is from its pre-Roe June poll and one recently released:

         State House Generic     39-51 (R+12) to 43-48 (R+5)

         Congressional Generic  41-52 (R+11) to 44-47 (R+3)

         Beasley-Budd Senate    40-45 (R+5) to 42-42 (Even)

         Biden Approval               33-60 (-27) to 39-56 (-17)

This data is from their polls - Dems with big generic leads and/or big movement towards Democrats. This is what they are seeing, and this is why McConnell and others are now admitting we are in an entirely new election much more favorable to Democrats. 

As the new Fox polling suggests Dems will need a 2-3 point national win to keep the House.  G. Elliott Morris of the The Economist also believes Dems are now at a level of support where they can keep the House.  Data suggests the electorate itself is becoming Democratic as we get closer to election day.  Tom Bonier of TargetSmart has been documenting a huge surge of women registering and requesting early mail ballots post-Roe, and a new NBC News poll shows the GOP advantage on vote enthusiasm dropping from 17 pts in the spring to just 2 pts now.  It is our belief that these trends will continue to break in Democrats’ favor over the next few months.  A recent CBS/You Gov poll had this bit of omnious data for Republicans - when asked about whether a party's agenda was extreme or reasonable, independent voters said Dems were 29-33 (-4) reasonable/extreme, Rs 25-49 (-24). 

All this data suggests that the Democrats have a bit of wind at their back and a real shot at keeping both chambers this fall.  Senate polling remains very strong for Democrats, as Kelly in AZ and Hassan in NH have strong, solid leads, and Warnock in GA and Cortez Masto in NV continue to lead in most polls - though these two races appear closer.  In the 5 GOP held seats Fetterman appears to have a comfortable lead, things are now tied in NC, OH and WI and Rubio maintains a 3-4 pt lead in Florida. Georgia's polls has been all over the place in recent days, though the three highest quality polls had Warnock with leads of 5, 5 and 6 points.  If the election were held today the Senate would clearly stay in Democratic hands. 

In retrospect, the big Dem overperformance in the NE House special on June 28th appears to have been a harbinger that a new, bluer election was at hand, and should not have been treated as some weird outlier.  It was after all actual voters voting, not a poll. That big Dem overperformance has now been replicated in Kansas, the MN-1 House special, NY-19 and NY-23 and Alaska. Six key elections with actual voters, six overperformances by anti-extremist electorates, three in very red states and two more in red districts.  In the 5 House specials Dems have outperformed their 2020 results by an average of 7 points (and it was much more in Kansas):

NE-01 - Trump +15 in 2020 R+5 in 2022

MN-01 - Trump +10 to R+4

NY-19 - Biden +1.5 to D+2.2 (was +5 over their internals)

NY-23 - Trump +11 to R+6

Alaska - Trump +10 to D+3

To put a bit of emphasis on this – in all of these races Dems significanly outperformed the public polling and their 2020 numbers.  In Pat Ryan’s victory in NY-19 he outperformed his internal polls by 5 points.  This means there is a possibility that current polling is actually underestimating the current standing of Democrats by 3-5 points.  The “hidden vote” in 2022 may turn out to be a Democratic not a Republican one. 

The new climate and health care reconciliation bill (IRA) has been a big boost to Democrats.  It has made our closing argument stronger; lifted Joe Biden's approval rating; brought the party together for the home stretch; and gave us a powerful tool to reach young voters who are overwhelming Democratic but also are the most likely not to vote this year.  It is as Joe Biden likes to say "a big fucking deal."  The student loan relief package should also help as new Navigator polling suggests it is broadly popular.

Republicans, on the other hand, are closing this election with a truly ugly mix of extremism, criminality and acts of national betrayal which once again feel like treason.  There are signs that the GOP is struggling to put its coalition together this year, is splintering and cracking up. For we see broad underperformance in polls and significant defections by prominent Republicans across the country.  It's not just national Republicans like Liz Cheney, Joe Scarborough, Matthew Dowd, Nicolle Wallace, Michael Steele and Bill Kristol working against Republicans, you can now find local GOP leaders in CO, MD, MI, OH, PA, TX raising opposition to the direction Rs are heading.  This story of 150 leading Rs in Michigan backing Gov. Whitmer is a very good example of this growing trend.

Our current 2022 election toplines: 

  • The election has moved 4-5 points towards Democrats in recent months. The anti-MAGA majority has been awakened. Biden's approval is up 9 points. 
  • Dems have significantly overperformed expectations in 5 House specials and in Kansas, and there's been a surge of women registering, voting, requesting mail ballots. Dem coalition appears energized.
  • The Senate is leaning Dem, House is up for grabs
  • GOP is struggling - few candidates at 50, money/candidate troubles, unprecedented infighting, Trump is a ongoing torrent of negative news, abortion restrictions realities getting worse and worse
  • Democratic candidates have a huge cash advantage heading into the home stretch

In May of 2021 NDN published a memo, Learning To Talk About Democracy, Patriotism and The GOP's Radicalization, that argued that Democrats needed to put the GOP's radicalization and embrace of MAGA at the very center of our politics.  In November we published a followup memo, Memo: 3 Reasons Why 2022 Won’t Be 2010, that posited the GOP's escalating embrace of MAGA would make it likely that 2022 would not be a traditional midterm and that Democrats could end up overperforming expectations. In May we predicted that the combination of a return of mass shootings, the ending of Roe, and the fallout from the Jan 6th Committee would reawaken the anti-MAGA majority and make this election much closer than many thought possible.  In mid-June, we released an election analysis which argued we were already looking at a competitive not a wave election - that there were signs of what we call the MAGA hangover (GOP underperformance) even before Roe ended.  Then Roe ended, and NDN has been at the national forefront of charting what is now clearly a new, bluer election.    

To dive even deeper into our 2022 election analysis check out our 25 minute data-filled presentation, “A New, Bluer Election.”  Our recent conversation with Tom Bonier about the surge of women registering, voting and requesting early mail ballots is very much worth your time.  We have also rolled out an updated version of "With Democrats Things Get Better," our in-depth look at how the two US parties have fared over the past 30 years. 

In recent weeks our election analysis has been cited in articles by John Harwood on the CNN site, Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, Peter Nicholas on the NBC News site, Susan Milligan in US News, Nicholas Riccardi in the AP, Eleanor Clift in The Daily Beast, John Skolnick in Salon, AB Stoddard in The Bulwark, Peter Weber in The Week, Dick Polman in his nationally syndicated column, Jim Puzzanghera in the Boston Globe, Kiran Stacey in the Financial Times, Caroline Vakil in The Hill, Byron York in The Washington Examiner, Kerry Eleveld in Daily Kos and Matt Lewis in The Daily Beast

front page Washington Post story on the 2022 election by Michael Scherer, Coby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey features this quote from Simon: “The question is, are there forces in the election more powerful than the disappointment in Biden?” asked Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. “The answer is yes, and that is opposition and fear for MAGA, which is the thing that has driven the last two elections.” Ron Brownstein gives our big argument serious consideration in a comprehensive CNN analysis.  Greg Sargent devotes a whole column to our analysis, "Meet the Lonely Democrat Who Thinks His Party Can Win."  This one is a particularly good read. 

Kristian Ramos has a new take in Salon that includes our work, and comes down where we come down - time for Dems to go on offense now.  I did a long sit down with Jonathan Alter for his Old Goats substack - was a deep and rich conversation about this election and the state of our politics today.  Check it out.  Nicole Narea does a great treatment of our concept of "The MAGA hangover" in a new Vox piece and the FT's Courtney Weaver cites us on the struggles of GOP candidates across the country.  Politico's Max Tani and Alex Thompson do a deep dive on our analysis in a fun new piece, "Meet The Most Optimistic Dem Online."  Susan Glasser gives our 2022 election take serious consideration in a new New Yorker essay, "Is There A Serious Case for A Non-Awful Election for Democrats This Fall?"  Jonathan Weisman features some of our insights in a New York Times article about Dem chances for taking the House.  EJ Dionne quotes us in a new Washington Post essay about Democratic optimism post the NY House specials.  Blake Hounshell features our analysis in a New York Times article, "Republicans in Disarray."

I've also hit the pod and radio circuit, discussing of our electoral thesis with Matt Lewis on his podcast, Ian Masters for his radio show/podcast, a new episode of That Trippi Show our good friend Joe Trippi, David Catanese's Too Close to CallHotMics with Maria Cardona and Alice Stewart and the Start Me Up pod with Kimberley Johnson.  On Thursday, August 4th I joined Mehdi Hasan's show on Peacock for a spirited discussion of the 2022 elections. 

The week of August 29th I returned to Matt Lewis' podcast for an episode he called "How Democrats Got Their Groove Back," and also had a long and really excellent discussion with former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, "How and Why the Democrats Can Hold The House This November."  Do watch, listen.  As an architect of the GOP's big midterm win in 2010 it is very interesting to hear him explain why he thinks this year is nothing like that red wave year.   In recent days I made a return to Joe Trippi's show, joined Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld on The Brief and had a terrific and comprehensive conversation with David Rothkopf on his Deep State Radio podcast. 

And we appreciate this shoutout from DNC Chair Jaime Harrison!

That we are in a new election now has begun to take hold in other influential national commentary. 538's Nate Silver, The NYTimes' Nate Cohn and The Cook Report have acknowledged there is a chance now this new, bluer landscape could end up keeping the House and Senate in Democratic hands.  A Sunday, August 28th Washington Post headline read: "Democrats see the once unthinkable: A narrow path to keeping the House."  Even those analysts who have Rs flipping the House, have it now by just a few seats - a disastrous outcome which will empower the many extremists in their ranks. 

As I discuss in the Greg Sargent column, another big piece of the strategic context for the 2022 election – the economy and inflation – has started to go through a profound and potentially electorally significant change.  Gas prices have dropped over a dollar in the last two months.   This means that the huge psychological and economic effects of rising prices will certainly ease in the coming months.  It gives Democrats an opening to get louder and broaden out the economic conversation to include their achievements – very strong recovery, big job gains, record new businesses formed, historically low uninsured/unemployment rates, infrastructure investments, historic climate bill, more affordable and better health care, etc.  And it will create more room for Democratic candidates to make the indictment of their opponents as too extreme, too MAGA.  Having inflation drop all the way down to zero in July and real wages turning positive again certainly helps!  This new essay by noted economist Rob Shapiro in the Washington Monthly does a good job at crunching the numbers and showing that most Americans are indeed better off today. 

As we’ve been saying opposition to MAGA has been the driving force of the last two elections (6.5 pt Dem wins in 2018/2020, Dems win the House, Senate, Presidency) and with mass shootings, the end of Roe, fanatical abortion restrictions, a radicalized Supreme Court, extremist/terrible candidates, an unfolding criminal conspiracy involving dozens of top Republican officials to overturn an election it is now likely to be the most powerful force in this election as well.  When the Republicans chose to run towards a politics the country had just rejected in record numbers twice, the GOP made the political physics of this election different from a traditional midterm.  It’s our view that as of today the Senate is likely to stay in Democratic hands; a pickup of a 1-2-3 Senate seats by Dems not impossible; and Democrats are likely to outperform expectations in the House now.  Will it be enough for Democrats to keep the House? It's pretty clear that Dems have a shot now, particularly with the fundraising advantages our candidates hold in key incumbent Senate and House races. 

Some new data from Politico/Morning Consult helps shine a bit more light on this dynamic. For the GOP to have a good midterm either many Dems will have to stay home or switch to the GOP.  Staying home is far less likely now.  This means the GOP needs to give these voters a reason to come to them.  And what do voters see when they look at the two parties in Congress:

Favorability Rating:

Dems in Congress 41-52 (-11) 

Rs in Congress 35-58 (-23)

Schumer    28%  McConnell   20%

Pelosi         33%  McCarthy    21%

And in this Morning Consult analysis they find Dem approval on a wide set of issues improving, with Dems now leading the GOP by 6 points, 45-39.  In the report Morning Consult writes: "the improvements represent good news for those working to hold control of the House and Senate, showing that at least some voters may be able to shake off their dim views of President Joe Biden when thinking about their votes in November."  The ugliness of MAGA, and how hard it would be for voters to embrace a politics they rejected twice, has been overly discounted by analysts this cycle. The GOP is a big unpopular and extremist mess and folks just don't want to go there. And this was before the relevations about Trump's stealing of America's secrets.  

A few more 2022 notes:

Dem candidates with big cash advantage in the home stretch - 2nd quarter fundraising data finds Democratic candidates with huge cash advantages over Republicans in Congressional races. Notably Dem House incumbents in competitive races have an 8:1 advantage over their opponents.  GOP candidate continue to struggle to raise money - a bit of a shocking development for a party that suppossedly had all the mo'. 

Hard to find a Republican at or above 50 - As I wrote in an earlier version of this analysis, it's just hard to find a public poll with a Republican in a potentially competitive race in a strong position.  As we saw in our May Hispanic polling, what you see almost everywhere you look - GA, IA, MI, NE, OH, PA, TX, WI - is GOP underperformance.  I call this the MAGA hangover.  Since Trump won the nomination in 2016 Republicans have not gotten higher than 47% of the national vote, and current data suggests that they are struggling to break above that this time too. A strong and durable anti-MAGA majority really may have emerged in America, one which could keep the Rs from power - as long as they remain MAGA - for years to come.  

In recent polling Abbott (TX), Rubio (FL), Gov. Reynolds and Grassley (IA) and Gov Stitt (OK) are all under 50, and Budd (NC), Johnson (WI), Oz (PA) and Vance (OH) are closer to 40 than 50 in GOP held Senate seats.  Even GA's incumbent Governor Kemp is now polling regularly under under 50. Democrats, on the other hand, are hitting 50 and above across the country in post Roe polling.  You can find Dems at 49/50 and above in the following races - Barnes (WI), Cortez Masto (NV), Fetterman (PA), Healy (MA), Hobbs (AZ), Hochul (NY), Kelly (AZ), Murray (WA), Pritzker (IL), Shapiro (PA), Sisolak (NV), Walz (MN) and Whitmer (MI).  If this was such a good GOP year why aren't we seeing better GOP numbers? Why are their candidates struggling to raise money?

We are finally starting to get some district specific House polling, and here too we find chronic GOP underperformance.  Consider these 7 GOP held seats from 538 polling data - everyone under 50, 2 candidates under 40, only two even leading.  All sorts of signs of GOP struggle, underperformance here:

        PA-10 Daniels (D) 44 Perry (R/INC) 41

        NE-2 Vargas (D) 46 Bacon (R/INC) 47

        CA-22 Salas (D) 43 Valadao (R/INC) 35

        TX-34 Gonzalez (D) 47 Flores (R/INC) 43 (yes that Rep. Flores)

        FL-27 Taddeo (D) 34 Salazar (R/INC) 39

        IA-3 Mathis (D) 44 Hinson (R/INC) 44

        NM-2 Vasquez (D) 45 Herrell (R/INC) 44

Want to put some emphasis on this point - there are currently no major races where Republicans are overperforming or in comfortable positions.  While on the Democratic side there are many competitive races where we are overperforming or in comfortable positions.  Any fair look at publicly available polling data of actual candidates this cycle will not find that there was ever any evidence of a red wave.  A lot of folks jumped the gun, and made assessments outside of what the data was telling us. 

4 Polls Have Dems Improving Their 2020 Numbers with Hispanics - In a new thread NDN lays out why we are skeptical of the Hispanics moving to the GOP narrative.  In this thread we review large sample size Hispanic polls taken this spring which show movement from 2020 towards the Democrats, not towards Republicans, in AZ, NV, PA and TX.  Yes, even Texas. 

Guns/Gay Marriage - The recent Congressional GOP embrace of gun safety and gay marriage is a sign that Republicans are not comfortable with where they are in the 2022 election, and had to make huge concessions to Democrats on issues that matter to them.  These are signs of weakness, not strength for the GOP. 

- Simon