The Democrats’ ‘Generic Ballot’ Advantage Has All But Disappeared

Stewart Lawrence Stewart J. Lawrence is a Washington, D.C.-based public policy analyst who writes frequently on immigration and Latino affairs. He is also founder and managing director of Puentes & Associates, Inc., a bilingual survey research and communications firm.
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Republicans appear to have closed the gap with Democrats in the all-important “generic ballot” — a clear sign that the GOP is surging politically in the run-up to the November 2018 midterms.

Democrats continue to insist that a “Blue Wave” will sweep their party back into control of the House of Representatives and may even allow them to recapture the Senate as well.

But the generic ballot — the best single measure of the relative balance of support of the two parties with the electorate — strongly suggests otherwise.

In the last week alone, three major pollsters have found that the gap between the two parties is statistically negligible. YouGov found a Democratic advantage of just 2 points.  Reuters found a margin of 3 points.

And IBB/TIPP, considered by many to be the single most reliable pollster in the country, reported that the race is a dead heat.

These findings, which contrast sharply with the large double-digit lead Democrats enjoyed last December, and again in early July, put the lie to their party’s claims of growing Trump and GOP weakness.

In fact, Trump’s own polling numbers are continuing to inch upward, with major gains reported among Hispanics, Blacks, gays, millennials and of course, Republicans.  On the economy, the president enjoys widespread popular support that appears to be spilling over into support for many down ticket GOP candidates.

Trump is “5 for 5” with candidates he had endorsed, including most recently Troy Balderson, who won a close contest in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District this past week. Trump’s willingness to go to the mat for Balderson suggests that Democratic claims – and some GOP fears – that White House support would become an albatross for the party are largely unfounded.

Even some liberal analysts estimate that the Democrats would need a large single digit advantage in the generic ballot to prevail in November. Although first-term presidents usually experience a partisan reversal in Congress two years after taking office, Trump may be poised to reverse that historic trend.  

Steady job growth, increased labor force participation and a phenomenal 4.1% GDP growth rate in the last quarter – coupled with the trickle down benefits of a sweeping tax reform bill that Democrats boycotted — have left Trump’s critics stumbling to find a compelling mid-term election message to dislodge GOP candidates.

The Democrats need to flip 24 GOP seats to regain control of the House.  But a number of contests in southern California and even traditionally Blue Minnesota could be slipping from the Democrats’ grasp, the latest polls show.