According to new Morning Consult polls on 5/3, Democrats are in serious trouble in Senate races across the country. Republicans have serious leads in West Virginia, where incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin trails by 14 points; North Dakota, where incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp trails by 8; Indiana, where incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly trails by 5; Missouri, where incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill trails by 5; Montana, where incumbent Democrat Jon Tester trails by 5; Florida, where incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is locked in a near-deadlock with Rick Scott; and Pennsylvania and Ohio, where incumbent Democrats Bill Casey and Sherrod Brown are leading by less than two points each, plus Virginia, where Tim Kaine leads by just 3 on the generic ballot. In the best-case scenario for Republicans, then, they could win up to nine additional Senate seats.
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The polls are similarly shoddy in the House of Representatives for Democrats. The RealClearPolitics poll average for the generic ballot has Democrats up 6.7%, but the polls are all over the place: The Economist/YouGov has Democrats with a 3-point lead, Quinnipiac has Democrats with an 8-point lead, as does Monmouth.
The best available data, then, suggest that the Democrats are heavy favorites to take the House, but face a seriously uphill battle to take the Senate from Republicans. This is a rarity in modern politics; the last time a president’s party picked up seats in the Senate but lost seats in the House was Ronald Reagan in 1982 (the Republicans lost 26 House seats but picked up a Senate seat). In 1970, Richard Nixon’s Republicans dropped 12 House seats but picked up two Senate seats; in 1962, Kennedy’s Democrats lost four House seats but gained three Senate seats. Today, Republicans are expected to lose dozens of House seats but could simultaneously pick up a half-dozen Senate seats.
Given our wildly divisive politics, this isn’t particularly shocking. But it is a sign that our national divisions are serious and regional — that politics can’t easily be nationalized. And that means that Trump still has a path in 2020 to victory, if he can eke out wins in the same states he did in 2016.