If the election were held today, Democrats would not only lose control of the House, but suffer massive losses in their ranks.
That’s the conclusion that should be drawn from new ABC News/Washington Post polling that shows a generic Republican candidate leading a generic Democratic one by a 49% to 42% margin among registered voters nationally. (That gap expands to 13 points when you limit the sample to registered voters who say they are “certain” to vote.)
That’s known as the generic ballot test. For decades, it’s been a reliable weathervane as to which way – and how hard – the partisan winds are blowing.
And what the ABC/Post poll makes clear is that the wind is blowing against the Democrats – and hard.
How bad is it for Democrats? Consider where the generic ballot stood in ABC/Post polling taken just before other recent midterm elections:
2018: D+7 on generic ballot (Democrats won a net of 40 House seats)
2014: D+3 (Democrats lost a net of 13 seats)
2010: D+5 (Democrats lost a net of 64 seats)
2006: D+13 (Democrats won a net of 31 seats)
What’s clear is that when the Democratic edge is five points or less on the generic ballot, the party has experienced major seat losses in midterm elections.
Now consider what the House playing field might look like with a Republican edge of seven points on the generic ballot. (Among independent voters, largely considered the swing votes in elections, Republicans have a 14-point edge on the generic ballot in the latest ABC/Post poll.)
Like I said: Catastrophic.
Now, the counter-argument goes like this:
1) It’s February 2022, not November 2022.
2) Redistricting across the country has severely constricted the number of competitive seats between the two parties.
3) After Republicans gained a net of 12 House seats in 2020, there is less low-hanging fruit out there.
All true! And it still might not matter.
The Point: Political waves tend to wash away members of Congress who looked safe and sound just a few months earlier. And if the generic ballot stays anywhere close to where it is today, Democrats could be facing a historically large wave.