U.S. House Majority Leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy,R-CA, attends a press conference following the weekly House Republican Conference meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, October 7, 2015.
CNN  — 

It’s right to think of the coming midterms as a national election. After all, voters in all 50 states will be casting ballots. All 435 House seats will be on the ballot.

Right but also slightly misleading in that for 380 or so of those districts there is no real question which party will win. Thanks to a series of redistricting efforts over the past several decades, most congressional districts are drawn to elect one party’s candidate barring some sort of cataclysm.

The real race for the House is not decided then nationally but in those 50-60 seats where both parties a) have a reasonable chance of winning and b) are spending money to bring about that outcome.

Which brings me to new CNN polling on the 2022 midterms – and the generic ballot test, in particular.

Nationally, the generic ballot test– would you vote for a Democrat or a Republican for Congress if the election were held today – puts Democrats at 50% to Republicans’ 47% among likely voters.

That’s generally consistent with where other national generic ballot tests have placed the race. The 538 running average of the generic ballot puts Democrats at 46% to Republicans 45%.

But, CNN did something else with the generic ballot question too. They asked the same question of a subsample of people living in competitive congressional districts – the places where the House majority will be decided. And they found something very different happening there.

Among likely voters in competitive congressional districts, 48% said they would vote for the generic Republican candidate for House while 43% said they would opt for the generic Democratic candidate, a significantly different finding than in the electorate more broadly.

Now, remember what the generic ballot tells us. It’s best understood as a sort of weather vane, pointing in the direction that the political winds are blowing and, generally speaking, giving us a sense for how hard they are blowing too.

What the numbers above suggest to me is that while Democrats are faring well nationally in the battle for the House, that in the places where it really matters – where the two parties are battling it out for control – that Republicans are actually in far better position that that national topline number might suggest.

Those numbers also seem to make clear that, at least in the most competitive House races, the clear bump for Democrats over the summer – fueled by reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has faded somewhat and the historical trends, which favor the party out of the presidency in a midterm year, has begun to reassert themselves.

Put simply: If Republicans are able to maintain a generic ballot edge in those most competitive congressional districts, they should have no problem at all in picking up the five seats they need to retake the House majority next month.