With Republicans dominating the White House, Congress and, imminently, the Supreme Court, Democrats and progressives are looking to the 2018 congressional races as their first opportunity to reclaim some power in the federal government. Exactly how likely it is that Democrats will be able to retake the House is a hotly debated question. However, new predictions from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics “Crystal Ball” indicates that there is a path forward for Democrats, especially if Donald Trump’s popularity continues to plummet.
From the Center: “Historically, the president’s party loses ground in a midterm: That’s what happened in 36 of the 39 midterms since the Civil War. American political history is dotted with elections where the president’s party suffered big losses because of a bad economy (1930, 1938, 1958, and 2010 are all examples), unpopular wars (1950, 1966, and 2006), scandal (1974), or other factors.”
“If a wave is developing, we may be able to track it through President Trump’s approval rating (particularly if it falls into the 30s) and/or the House generic ballot. Watch to see if the latter metric, which measures national opinions on how voters intend to vote in their local House race, starts to show a significant Democratic lead approaching double digits in polling averages. Those are the kinds of numbers it’s probably going to take for Democrats to crack the GOP’s House majority, which is protected both by the power of incumbency and by favorable district lines in many key states.”
However, as we learned in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats cannot assume that Donald Trump’s unpopularity will be enough to usher in Democratic victories. While Democrats should absolutely criticize Trump and House Republicans when merited, they must put at least as much effort into producing strong candidates and compelling messages to voters. They cannot just be the party of “no” if they hope to succeed in 2018 and beyond.