Here comes the big blue wave.
At least that’s how things appear as 2017 morphs into 2018. Democrats are poised and prepped for what appears to be a midterm election of their dreams.
They are energized. They are engaged. And they are mad.
“No question, it looks like a Democratic wave could be building in 2018,” pollster extraordinaire Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies told a Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce audience Thursday.
Newhouse, by the way, is a Republican who polled for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. As an added bonus, Newhouse is a Kansas City native who’s done extensive polling in Kansas and Missouri.
One big question is whether the wave washes ashore here. On that front, Democrats have less reason to be giddy. Republican Kris Kobach is the favorite to succeed Sam Brownback as Kansas governor, thanks to a crowded GOP primary field, a divided Democratic electorate and the entry of independent Greg Orman, whose candidacy threatens to attract more Democrats than Republicans.
In Missouri, the marquee race is Democrat Claire McCaskill’s bid to win a third U.S. Senate term. This time, she’ll probably face a top-line Republican: Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s far more polished than Todd Akin, the GOPer she dispatched in 2012.
Donald Trump won Missouri by 19 points, giving a new generation of Republicans fresh confidence. But Newhouse wasn’t counting out McCaskill yet.
“She is one tough out,” he said.
One Republican who appears increasingly vulnerable is Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder, who is constantly toggling between appeasing a rambunctious conservative base and appealing to more progressive voters in a 3rd District that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Newhouse hasn’t polled the district, but the early campaign starts by a trio of first-time Democrats speaks to a collective belief that Yoder is shaky.
Nationally, the problem for Republicans boils down to a single number: 37. That’s the lowly percentage of adults nationwide who approve of the job Trump is doing. That number, coming near the end of his first year in office, was by far the lowest year-one score for any president dating back to Eisenhower. Barack Obama, by the way, was at 57 percent at this time.
The undeniable historical trend is that presidents with low job approval ratings drag down their parties in midterm elections. Still, Republicans are sticking with Trump with 82 percent backing him, according to Dec. 4 Gallup numbers.
Recent polls show that voters are increasingly sliding toward the Democrats as the party they want to control Congress. Last week, 49 percent said they preferred that Democrats take over the House compared to 37 percent who favored continued GOP control.
Some other Newhouse nuggets:
▪ Don’t expect Trump to stop tweeting. That’s how he connects.
▪ The sexual harassment story will continue. We’ve only seen the “tip of the iceberg,” he predicted.
▪ Republicans actually caught a break when Roy Moore lost in Alabama. He would’ve weighed down the party next year.
▪ The tax package won’t substantially change GOP fortunes, although it will help with fundraising. “It’s more or less a wash.”
Finally, we’re a long, long way from November 2018. Then again, Trump isn’t showing any propensity to change. That means GOP fortunes may not either.