With Labor Day past, the homel stretch of the 2018 election season has officially begun. Over the next two months, people who’ve paid little attention to the news or politics will start to tune in. Candidates will begin their paid communication programs in earnest.
The political environment right now heavily favors Democrats. A Washington Post/ABC poll released yesterday shows the generic Congressional ballot favoring Democrats by 14%. The Real Clear Politics average gives Democrats a 9.5% advantage. Back in 2006, the last Blue Moon election in NC and the last Democratic wave, that average was 6.5%. It’s hard to see Democrats having a bad night on November 6.
That said, the political environment is volatile. Just a decade or so ago, the post-Labor Day political environment was pretty much set. In the age of social media, that’s no longer true. In 2014, the environment soured for Democrats in September and October with ISIS and Ebola. In 2016, the two month period before the election felt like a roll-a-coaster with Clinton up one day and Trump up the other.
While Democrats will likely have a good night, some factors could dampen it. First, if the Trump voters who showed up in 2016 come out again, they could give Republicans a better turnout than expected. Second, an unforeseen scandal could rack Democrats but so far, that’s been more the GOP’s problem. Third, they could get distracted by issues like Confederate monuments that matter a lot to the Democratic base but not so much to older Democrats and independent voters. Finally, the strong economy might mollify some voters, making the cycle more of a status quo election, than a change one.
For Republicans, they face challenges with the on-going scandals in both the White House and with Members of Congress. Also, the tax bill, the issue they wanted to run on, is not that popular and failed to put money in the pockets of the middle class. In their attempt to repeal Obamacare, Republicans have a lawsuit moving through the courts right now that could strip away insurance from people with pre-existing conditions. At a time when health care the top domestic issue on people’s minds, that’s a landmine that could explode at just the wrong time for the GOP.
Democrats will almost certainly see gains in November. What happens between now and November 6 will determine whether they are minor gains or major ones. In North Carolina, minor gains would be overcoming the veto-proof majority in one of the houses of the legislature. Major gains would be picking up a house or winning a GOP Congressional seat or two.