Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair writes:
In the days after the Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a wave of optimism washed over Donald Trump’s West Wing. White House aides were buoyed by internal polling conducted by former Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio indicating that Republicans could conceivably hold both the Senate and the House in the forthcoming midterm elections....

But as next Tuesday’s voting approaches, the mood inside the West Wing has darkened. The arrest of Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc for allegedly sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to the president’s political enemies, in addition to a horrific mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by an avowed white nationalist, completely upended the dynamic.... Fabrizio has leveled with the president’s advisers that Democrats will take the House, the source briefed on the polling told me. Trump has responded to this worsening political environment with extreme frustration. “He was really upset the momentum had been killed by the pipe bombs,” one Republican close to the White House told me.
Will that be the narrative if Democrats win the House? That they were on track to lose, but a deus ex machina in the form of two high-profile right-wing terrorists in one week saved them from certain doom?

There's no evidence for this narrative, and yet I can easily imagine it spreading from the White House to the mainstream press. We'll be told that Democrats really shouldn't have won, but they took the House because they got a tragic but lucky break.

FiveThirtyEight has seen Democrats as strong favorites to retake the House throughout the campaign. The likely margin of victory narrows a bit around the beginning of October, in the midst of the Bret Kavanaugh fight (the vertical line more or less in the middle of the chart below is October 1) -- but it's a slight narrowing, and it ended shortly after Kavanaugh was confirmed. The "Democrat mob" talking point hasn't changed the race. Nor have the caravans.

The generic ballot margin hasn't narrowed for any length of time all fall. Trump's job approval has remained fairly steady since May, and has seen only a slight uptick recently. (The latter assessment are based on Real Clear Politics averages.)

Trump, as Sherman notes, is trying to recapture the news cycle "with hard-core anti-media and anti-immigration rhetoric." I hope he succeeds -- and I hope Democrats win the House anyway. I think both will happen, and if so, I really don't want to hear any gasbag pundits claiming that Democrats were on the verge of blowing it, but lone-nut criminals saved their bacon. But that's what I expect.

No comments: