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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

 

Some Republicans have been buoyed by a recent polling swing in their party’s favor, hoping that a string of improving numbers bode well for their chances at maintaining federal control in the 2018 election. Fox News host Laura Ingraham even recently praised a quite modest uptick in President Donald Trump’s poll numbers despite the fact that they are still objectively bad.

But a new round of polls has given Democrats a major advantage once again in any predictions for the midterms, and it’s causing some conservative pundits to reevaluate their optimism. RealClearPolitics now reports that Democrats are ahead 7.6 percent in the so-called generic ballot, which a House majority back within reach of the minority party.

So what does it all mean? Not as much as observers would like you to think.

The conservative site Hot Air ran the headline: “Huh: Democrats’ Lead On Generic Ballot Suddenly Doubles, Now Up To Nearly Eight Points Again.”

But there’s not really much of a surprise here. We know polling fluctuates — it would be more of a surprise if the generic ballot stayed exactly the same over a long period of time. There may be a clear cause of the latest shift: Trump’s attacks on the rule of law, the new tariffs, the North Korea confusion — you name it. But that’s always going to be hard to discern a single cause for a significant swing, except in really decisive circumstances — an “Access Hollywood tape” or a “James Comey letter,” for example.

Which is just to say that the apparent shift in favor of Republicans may have occurred for reasons just as nebulous as the apparent shift back toward Democrats. And between now and November, any number of mysterious changes — or decisive ones — may occur, completely undermining our current expectations.

But as best we can tell, the possibility of the much-discussed “blue wave” remains — as does a continuation of the status quo. Barring a major unforeseen event, a “red wave” is even conceivable, though to be sure, quite unlikely.

“It is entirely possible that events might occur between now and November that could shift the momentum to the Republicans or, alternatively, lead to the Democrats taking control of Congress,” says USC law professor Franita Tolson told Vox in a recent story. “Any predictions that are made about the blue wave crashing, based on polling about the economy conducted five months before the elections, are premature.”

 

Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.

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