The alleged “blue wave”

CNN has bad news for Democrats:

The generic congressional ballot has continued to tighten, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with the Democrats’ edge over Republicans within the poll’s margin of sampling error for the first time this cycle.

About six months out from Election Day, 47% of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate in their district, 44% back the Republican. Voters also are divided almost evenly over whether the country would be better off with the Democrats in control of Congress (31%) or with the GOP in charge (30%). A sizable 34% — including nearly half of independent voters (48%) — say it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress.

The Democrats’ advantage in the generic ballot dipped from 16 points in February to six points in March to just three points now. The party’s advantage has waned among enthusiastic voters as Republican enthusiasm has grown (in March, 36% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters said they were very enthusiastic about voting; that’s up to 44% in the new poll), but the Democrats still have a double-digit lead among those most excited to vote this fall (53% of those who are very enthusiastic about voting say they’d back the Democrat in their district vs. 41% who say they favor the GOP candidate). Those enthusiastic voters also say by a 10-point margin that the nation would be better off with Democrats in control of Congress than Republicans.

By 48% to 43%, registered voters say they would rather back a candidate who opposes Donald Trump than one who supports the President. That margin has narrowed from the 52% who opposed Trump to the 41% who supported him in January. …

The results come from the same poll this week that found nearly six in 10 saying that things in the country are going well amid improving approval ratings for the President’s handling of major issues, including the economy, immigration and foreign trade. Trump’s overall approval rating, however, held steady at 41%. …

On more traditional issue priorities, voters are now more apt to say the nation’s economy will be an important factor in their vote than they were in February (84% call it extremely or very important now, up from 79% in February), with immigration (from 72% important to 76% now) and taxes (from 67% important to 73% now) are also on the rise. At the same time, health care has dipped somewhat as a priority (from 83% important to 80%, with the most meaningful shift coming in the share who call it “extremely important,” which dipped from 53% in February to 46% now), along with sexual harassment (from 64% to 58%) and the Russia investigation (from 45% important in February to 40% now).

The latter is the one prediction I will make — voters’ evaluation of the economy as of November will determine which party’s candidates they vote for Nov. 6.

M. Joseph Sheppard adds:

The latest YouGov/Economist poll (May 6-8), one of a few that comprehensively breaks down support by ethnicity, has some frightening news for the Democratic Party.

While President Trump’s approval holds steady among registered voters at 41 percent, his support among blacks in this poll is striking. If it holds for 2020, it could be devastating for Democrats. Among African-Americans, 16 percent approve of Trump, 10 percent are not sure, and 75 percent disapprove.

While that sounds highly negative, these are high positives for a Republican politician among black Americans. Approval of 16 percent is 8 points higher than the 8 percent of black voter support Trump received on election day 2016, and 9 points higher than the black vote Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received in 2012. The “Not Sure” at 10 percent is staggering, and the 75 percent “disapprove” rating is consistent with the low 70 percent aggregate found in any YouGov poll among this demographic.

The same poll, with their rounding, reported in January that Trump approval was at 10 percent among black Americans, 15 percent were not sure, and 74 percent disapproved, so the numbers are not only steady but improving in Trump’s favor.

This result may actually be underreporting Trump’s black support, as this records “all voters,” which consistently has lower figures for Trump in all categories, as opposed to registered voters. YouGov/Economist gives Trump a 40 percent “All voters” approval rating four points lower than their registered voters findings (RealClearPolitics favors the registered voters results across the polling companies it reports).

Of course, one polling company’s report could be a fluke. Some firms use different methodology, and some don’t break down approval ratings by ethnicity, but the bigger picture is clear.

Marist’s March 19-21 approval for Trump among black Americans was 6 percent; 17 percent were unsure, and 77 percent disapproved. The Quinnipiac poll, which is consistently negative to Trump, on March 21 found black approval at 11 percent, “Don’t Know” at 4 percent, and disapproval at 84 percent. Taken in the aggregate, the three polls have Trump’s approval at 11 percent, at 12 percent for not sure or don’t know, and disapproval at 77 percent. Again, while the negatives are high, the positives are higher than is typical for Republicans, and if black Americans vote in accord with these approval ratings it would be easily enough to tip a tight election.

The threat to the Democratic Party is obvious based on these results and their upward trend for Trump. If Trump could win Pennsylvania despite a turnout for Hillary in Philadelphia that was only three points less than President Obama received in 2012 and “The best turnout without Obama on the ballot I’ve ever seen,” then any further bleeding of black support in that state could ensure Trump’s re-election, even if he lost Florida but kept his rust belt wins. If the current support level holds and turns into actual support (or anywhere near it), then Democrats are in profound trouble—possibly even for the midterms.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, Hillary underperformed Obama with blacks. Trump’s margin in Ohio was so high that any further slippage among blacks would lead to landslide territory. …

Given the 2016 results, that might be enough to ensure good numbers for Trump among African-Americans in his next bout at the polls, but there may be much worse news for Democrats. There are three key dates from the official black unemployment figures: in February 2010, the height of the financial crisis, black unemployment was 16.8 percent; in February 2016, it was 8.7 percent; and in February 2018 it was 6.9 percent. The last figure is the lowest since records were kept.

Certainly the lower trend began under the Obama administration, but the economy is far enough along in the Trump administration to ascribe the remarkable level of employment to Trump’s policies. This indisputable fact has led to this spin: “Yes, black unemployment is low, but blacks value more than just work opportunities.”

Due to economic considerations in 2016, and in the absence of overt racism from Trump’s administration, a chunk of black voters seems to have hesitatingly moved to Trump and his promise of jobs. Their “try it and see” or, as Trump put it, “What have you got to lose,” has been well rewarded so far.

If black support for Trump gets into double figures, the Democratic Party will have to look for different themes than Russia or Stormy Daniels and other such nonsense. Their failure to present an economic focus in 2016 contributed greatly to Hillary’s loss. To do so again, especially with black voters, could end in utter disaster.

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