This Poll Has Good News for Senate Democrats
Despite having the worst poll numbers of any new president, Donald Trump seems to be holding his own -- barely -- among core supporters. But a new survey showing that Democratic senators in Trump-supporting states are doing better than the president augurs well for their re-election next year.
The poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group for the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, which supports Democratic Senate candidates, surveyed voters in the 10 states that Trump carried last year where Democratic incumbents face re-election in 2018.
In those states, which Trump won by an average of 14 percentage points, a generic Democrat runs 10 points ahead of a Republican, according to the pollster, Geoff Garin. On the so-called "feeling thermometer" measuring general favorability, Democrats also run almost 10 points ahead of Trump in these states.
"My takeaway from polling in these states now is that even in places where Trump did well, voters want to hedge their bets," Garin said. "This is a pretty good political environment even in deep red states."
Of the 33 Senate seats to be contested in 2018, 25 are held by Democrats. That means they have to do very well just to retain their 48-seat minority.
There are several caveats to the reliable Garin survey. For one thing, it measures only a collective average of voters in states with very different electoral landscapes -- the solidly Republican venues of West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana as well as the battlegrounds of Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And of course much can change in the 19 months remaining until next November's elections.
Nevertheless, it's an early sign that Democrats are ahead in these states and that Trump doesn't have much political clout. Moreover, voters seem inclined to favor candidates likely to check the president's power. When the survey offered a choice between a position of support for the president, such as favoring Democratic compromise, versus more adversarial postures, respondents chose the latter by a big margin. Even in the five deep red states this is true by a 52-to-34 percent margin.
Still, the vote scheduled for later this week on Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, illustrates that some red-state Democrats may be feeling squeezed. Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri oppose the nomination. Conservatives in their states have pounced, charging Tester with caving in to "liberal interest groups" and McCaskill to "Democratic bosses."
Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are supporting Gorsuch, and left-wing groups are calling for their heads, demanding that the party back challenges from like-minded progressives.
That won't happen. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has warned that there will be no general-election support for any insurgent who defeats a Democratic incumbent in a primary. But there may be diminished support from the Democrats' energized grass-roots base.
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