Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Under The Radar A Disastrous Poll for Dem's (A Wave Is Not a'Comin')

The Cook Report's Amy Walter produced a breathless article "A Wave Is a Comin' setting out how current polling shows the strong possibility of the Dem's retaking the House in the 2018 mid-terms

"This week, we’ve seen two polls — one by Quinnipiac and one by Marist — that show Democrats with a congressional ballot advantage of +13 to +15 is that kind of margin even big enough to net 24 seats to surf into the majority? The short answer: they need to see a generic ballot advantage of +8 or more, which roughly translates to getting at least 54 percent or more of the national House vote in 2018."
Walters then advises that on top of the Dem's polling advantage;

 "Getting a tax bill across the finish line isn’t going to be enough to change the mood of the country. A good economy is helpful to the GOP as it can cut down on some of the headwinds coming at them right now. But, it’s not clear to me that it’s enough to fundamentally alter the way voters see Congress, the GOP and the President.  But, there is precedent for Democrats winning the House vote by double digits in mid-term years."
The precedent is of course the fact that in the absolute majority of cases the mid-terms go against the party that has won the presidency prior to the mid-terms.

"Opposition parties, by contrast, find the odds forever in their favor. In the last 20 midterm elections, the president’s party has picked up seats only twice: in 2002, when Republicans gained eight right after 9/11, and in 1998, when Democrats gained five thanks to House Republicans’ obsession with impeachment."
All that being said however gaining seats and winning a majority are two different things altogether;

"In the last 60 years, control of the U.S. House of Representatives has changed hands just three times, always in midterm elections"
Another rule of punditry, perhaps one of the few to survive the disastrous prediction of 2015/6 is "a week in politics is a long time." 
Walters herself was not immune to this history of punditry failure by her own admission that she got the 2006 mid-terms and Trump wrong (she was not alone, her boss Charlie Cook consistently underestimated Trump "his ceiling is 19%)
Just after her Cook Report analysis this poll (page 8) appeared

2018 Generic Congressional Vote   NPR/PBS/Marist     Democrats 43, Republicans 40     Democrats +3

How does that relate to the possibility of Nancy Pelosi receiving the Speakers gavel from Paul Ryan? Not very well according to Nate Silver's view, written when the Democrat's had a 7 point Congressional vote lead  in June, of what is required for the handover.

The true margin of error for generic ballot polls is about +/- 5 percentage points, even for those done at the end of the campaign. So that 7-point advantage we see for the Democrats could indicate a national House win of only 2 points, which would fall far short of what the Democrats need to regain control of the chamber. (Or Democrats could win by as many as 12 points.)
 In the end, a final generic-ballot average showing the Democrats up 7 points would suggest that they’d be about a 50-50 proposition to take back the House."
Both Walter and Silver equivocate, as would be expected after the disastrous punditry before Trump's election, advising, rightly, that events can markedly change the picture as we get closer to the elections.

However, taking Silver's advice of a +/- 5 percentage point margin of error, the NPR/PBSMarist poll shows the GOP could actually increase their control of the House. 
But the historical reality leans to a swing against the Republicans. Even so it would have to be at the absolute top of the polls margin in favor of the Dem's  (+8) and even then the chances of a turnover are 50/50.
Walters concluded; "But, do not ignore what’s right in front of us. A wave is building."

Perhaps so, but the wave may be in the opposite direction to what Walters/Cook perceive. So many have made the mistake of underestimating Trump and the tsunami of 2016 may yet have some further surge power.

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