OFF TO THE RACES

Democrats Take Heart: The GOP Is Sinking

Despite their special-selection losses, they’re viewed more favorably than Republicans and much better than President Trump.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during a weekly news conference on June 9.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
Charlie Cook
July 6, 2017, 8 p.m.


After last month’s losses in the Geor­gia 6th Dis­trict and South Car­o­lina 5th Dis­trict races, a nar­rat­ive took hold on why the Demo­crat­ic Party had whiffed in all four com­pet­it­ive spe­cial elec­tions this year—it had no mes­sage, it had no lead­er­ship, and its most vis­ible rep­res­ent­at­ive, House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, had be­come a li­ab­il­ity. Bot­tom line: Demo­crats were doomed to a poor show­ing in the 2018 midterms. “Our brand is worse than Trump,” Demo­crat­ic Rep. Tim Ry­an of Ohio pro­nounced to The New York Times.

It seemed to mat­ter little that Demo­crats nev­er had much of a chance in the Kan­sas, Montana, and South Car­o­lina con­tests. Only pres­sure (or sham­ing) from the party’s lib­er­al net­roots pushed the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee to com­pete in these long-shot dis­tricts in the first place.

While the Demo­crat­ic brand is cer­tainly not ster­ling these days, polls con­sist­ently show that the party is viewed more fa­vor­ably than Re­pub­lic­ans and stra­to­spher­ic­ally bet­ter than Pres­id­ent Trump.

The ma­jor polls don’t test at­ti­tudes to­ward the parties of­ten dur­ing the off-elec­tion years, but an April poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journ­al found that 31 per­cent had a pos­it­ive view of the Re­pub­lic­an Party, 47 per­cent had a neg­at­ive view, and 21 per­cent were neut­ral, for a net of minus-16 points.

The poll showed 34 per­cent hold­ing pos­it­ive views of Demo­crats, with 39 per­cent neg­at­ive and 26 per­cent neut­ral, for a net of minus-5 points.

When NBC News and the Journ­al in­ter­viewed 765 re­gistered voters June 17 to 20 and asked which party they pre­ferred to con­trol Con­gress after the next elec­tion, 50 per­cent favored Demo­crats, the highest share either party has re­ceived in nine years, while 42 per­cent pre­ferred Re­pub­lic­ans.

So it’s pretty clear that while the im­age of Demo­crats is not ex­actly spec­tac­u­lar, the party is far bet­ter off than Re­pub­lic­ans. The Demo­crat­ic ad­vant­age is even more pro­nounced when the party’s stand­ing is com­pared to that of Trump, who had a minus-15 job ap­prov­al rat­ing in May and June NBC/WSJ polls.

What many people mean when they talk about the Demo­crats’ lead­er­ship is the party’s most prom­in­ent mem­bers on Cap­it­ol Hill, where the top three Demo­crats in the House are sep­tua­gen­ari­ans and where the new Sen­ate lead­er, Chuck Schu­mer, is 66 and something less than a house­hold name. Most of the trash talk­ing is dir­ec­ted at Pelosi, 77, who has been the top Demo­crat in the House since 2003, when she took over for Dick Geph­ardt.

Ad track­ing from Kantar Me­dia’s Cam­paign Me­dia Ana­lys­is Group shows that Pelosi was the tar­get for 4,653 GOP tele­vi­sion spots dur­ing the Geor­gia spe­cial elec­tion, prompt­ing many ana­lysts to blame her for Jon Os­soff’s loss and one Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ant to say that she was “the gift that keeps on giv­ing.” I think Os­soff’s age (30), thin re­sume, and res­id­ence out­side the dis­trict were big­ger prob­lems. But be­cause he was es­sen­tially a cipher, it was easi­er to at­tack Pelosi, whose low stand­ing among Re­pub­lic­ans drew many to the polls.

Would House Demo­crats be­ne­fit from a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers? Of course, but it’s not at all clear who they might be and an in­tra­mur­al fight would likely be a dis­trac­tion for the party. And who could raise even half the money that Pelosi does each cycle? I am an in­de­pend­ent and a dyed-in-the-wool mod­er­ate, so I am closer philo­soph­ic­ally to Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er. But he couldn’t be­gin to raise as much money, and cer­tainly none of the young­er mem­bers could. My hunch is that Pelosi feels an ob­lig­a­tion to stick around and raise money to help her party win back its ma­jor­ity, and once that hap­pens, she would be more than de­lighted to head back to San Fran­cisco.

It would surely be bet­ter for Demo­crats if they were united be­hind a single lead­er and had a uni­fied mes­sage. The real­ity, however, is that no party has a clear lead­er or mes­sage in its first year out of the White House. The Demo­crats’ rais­on d’être is to op­pose Pres­id­ent Trump and the Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­it­ies in the House and Sen­ate. When minor­ity parties have suc­ceeded in midterm elec­tions, it has been be­cause voters were not happy with the people and party in power and de­cided to go with the al­tern­at­ive. This is the way Amer­ic­an polit­ics works. It might well be all that House Demo­crats need next year.

What We're Following See More »
NEW FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT
24 Individuals Report Health Affects from Attacks in Cuba
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
HUSBAND “AN UNBELIEVABLE HERO”
Listen: Soldier’s Widow Shares Video of Her Call with Trump
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Natasha De Alencar, widow of Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, shared a video her daughter took of a phone call she received from President Trump following the death of her husband. "Trump opened by saying how sorry he is about the 'whole situation,' before adding that De Alencar’s husband was 'an unbelievable hero.' ... Later in the call, Trump invited De Alencar to the White House, telling her, 'If you’re around Washington, you come over and see me in the Oval Office.'"

Source:
MANY ARE PUZZLED
Robert Mugabe Appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The new head of the World Health Organization has named Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador for the agency, a move that has startled public health experts...A number of organizations that attended the" Montevideo conference where the appointment was announced "said in a statement after the announcement that they could not recognize Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador."

Source:
TRUMP’S ATTORNEY WAS SET TO TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY
Senate Intel Postpones Testimony by Cohen
10 hours ago
THE LATEST
AMENDMENT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED CONSIDERATION
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login