Don’t look now but the 2018 midterm elections are just over a year away!
That may well be very unwelcome news to members of the House and Senate up for re-election next November, according to a new CNN national poll, which paints a very grim picture for incumbents – especially on the Republican side.
Asked whether “most members of Congress” deserve re-election, just 22% of Americans say they do while 68% think they don’t. Among registered voters, only 20% want most members re-elected while 70% would rather the majority of members not return to Congress.
What’s even more striking is how low those “yes, deserves re-election” numbers are among Republicans and self-identified conservatives who, presumably, should be pleased with the Republican majorities in Congress. In fact, the opposite is true. Just 3 in 10 Republicans say they want to see most members reelected while only 25% of conservatives say the same. (Just 1 in 5 Democrats want to see most members reelected – not surprising given the GOP Congressional majorities.)
It’s worth noting that when it comes to the question of whether their own member of Congress deserves to be re-elected, people are far more supportive, with 44% saying they think their guy or a gal deserves another term. (The difference between the responses to those two questions is consistent historically; people may totally hate Congress but they tend to feel much more warmly about their own member.)
Still, the 22% of people – and 20% of registered voters – who say they want most members of Congress not to be reelected is the lowest ever measured in CNN polling, dating all the way back to 1991.
That includes polling done in August 2010 (31% wanted most members re-elected) and October 2006 (42% wanted most members re-elected). In the former election, Republicans won 63 seats and control of the House. In the latter, Democrats picked up 30 seats and re-took the House majority.
Both of those elections were Midterms – like 2018 will be – and functioned as a punishment for the party who controlled the White House. And, in both cases, the president wasn’t terribly popular. In fact, according to Gallup calculations, the average seat loss for the president’s party in Midterm elections dating back to 1946 is 36 seats – when the president’s approval is under 50% nationally. Trump is currently at 39% in the latest Gallup tracking poll.
The problem for Republicans is even if the “toss the bums out” attitude is directed at elected officials more generally rather than at their party in particular, they still stand to suffer losses.
Republicans currently control 240 seats, to 194 for Democrats. (A single seat – in a strongly GOP Utah district will be decided in November.) Inside Elections, a non-partisan political handicapping site, lists 48 Republican held-seats in jeopardy as compared to just 14 Democratic seats. In addition, there are 23 Republicans who hold seats that Hillary Clinton carried over Donald Trump in 2016. (There are 12 Democrats who hold seats where Trump beat Clinton last November.)
Before Democrats begin eyeing the majority – and the committee chairmanships that come with it – though it’s worth noting that it’s (still) no easy road for the party to pick up the 24 seats it needs to retake control.
This, per the Cook Political Report’s House editor David Wasserman, is telling:
“Even if Democrats were to win every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats representing places that Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points — a pretty good midterm by historical standards — they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats.”
The reason for this? Republicans controlled the decennial congressional line-drawing process in lots and lots of states in 2010/2011. And they drew districts across the country that are just very hard for any Democrat to win.
What the new CNN polling suggests is that way out in the ocean, a wave is building. Some waves that form that far out disappear into nothing by the time they make shore. Some develop into decent swells but nothing to be concerned about. And some build into true monsters that overwhelm even the bulwarks built against them.
Which kind of wave will 2018 be?