Political prognosticators these days are like weather forecasters. They sit around and sift through data, then make their declarations for what lies ahead.
Accurately? Well, sometimes.
That said, let’s zoom in on what the smart political people are saying. Out there on the horizon, they tell us, they see signs of a wave — and maybe even a tsunami.
That wave favors the Democrats, but will it be enough to push Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to a re-election victory? Or one of the now six — count ’em, six — Democratic potential challengers seeking to knock off Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder in Kansas?
Or return a Democrat to the governor’s mansion in Kansas?
Here’s why Democrats are feeling good:
▪ History. This is a midterm election, which is almost always bad news for the president’s party. Here’s a stat to impress your friends, courtesy of the “Inside Elections” tipsheet: Of the last 20 midterm elections, the president’s party lost House seats in 18.
▪ In those 18 elections, the president’s party lost an average of 33 seats. Democrats need 24 to retake the House.
▪ These days, if you ask voters which party would get their vote for Congress, Democrats hold a 52-38 percent edge over Republicans, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.
▪ President Donald Trump’s poll numbers. This week, Gallup found that just 39 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing compared to 55 percent who disapproved.
When presidents are above 50 percent in job approval, they lose an average of 14 House seats in midterms, says Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones. But when presidents are below that benchmark, they suffered average losses of 36 seats.
There’s another factor out there that should give Republicans pause. The political website fivethirtyeight.com has found that when you consider special state legislative elections across the country, Democrats are consistently outperforming their GOP rivals. For Democrats, that over-the-norm performance averages 14 percent.
Two of those wins were in red-state Oklahoma, where a retired Democratic school teacher picked off an east Tulsa County House seat that had been in Republican hands since the early 1990s.
Democrats have lost a series of high-profile special congressional elections, including one in Wichita. But even there, they’ve outperformed — there’s that word again — past outcomes.
That’s why the long-range forecast for Democrats is so bullish. “All the signs indicate a wave election,” said the well-regarded David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report.
“Democrats,” he said, “are fired up more than Republicans in the Obama era. The party upset with the way things are going is more likely to be engaged.”
So what does all this mean for McCaskill and Yoder? McCaskill needs all the booster fuel she can get. Trump carried Missouri by 19 points, and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley is gearing up to challenge her. He’s her biggest nightmare.
Yoder faces his own challenge in a district that Hillary Clinton carried. That so many Democrats are vying for the right to take him on is its own indication of just how fired up the party is.
I’d bet on a Yoder win before I would McCaskill. A Democratic governor in Kansas? That would be the biggest upset of them all. And the fact that it’s a realistic possibility speaks to the growing Democratic wave.