Just over a month away from critical elections across the country, the wide Democratic enthusiasm advantage that has mostly defined the 2018 campaign up to this point has disappeared, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
In July, there was a staggeringly high gap of 10 points between the number of Democrats and Republicans saying the November elections were “very important.” Now, that is down to 2 points, a statistical tie within the margin of error.
Democrats’ advantage on which party’s candidate they are more likely to support has also been cut in half since last month, yet Democrats appear to still retain a 6-point edge on that question. It was 12 points after a Marist poll conducted in mid-September.
This new shift in momentum comes amid the highly contentious partisan confirmation battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Several women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was in high school and college, which one accuser even claiming that Brett Kavanaugh was part of a gang rape cult. Kavanaugh struck back fiercely against such accusation. The FBI is conducting a supplemental investigation into the accusations that is expected to be wrapped up by the end of this week. This investigation also includes looking into smear tactics and false accusations by members of the left and the accusers themselves.
With Democrats already up fired up for this election, the Kavanaugh confirmation fight has apparently had the effect of rousing a dormant GOP base.
“The result of hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base was awakened,” noted Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, whom conducted the poll.
While Democrats and Republicans are now equally enthusiastic about the midterms, the story is very different for key Democratic base groups and independents. While 82 percent of Democrats say the midterms are very important, that’s true of just 60 percent of people under 30, 61 percent of Latinos and 65 percent of independents.
Democrats will need to acquire 23 seats to take back control of the House, but if those groups stay home in large numbers, it would dull potential Democratic gains. With 34 days to go until Election Day, it all points to another election dominated by party activists.
“If there aren’t 34 dramatic moments [between now and then], it will be ‘my base versus your base,’ ” Miringoff said. He also suggested that the Republican move to push Kavanaugh’s confirmation forward appears to be intended to fire up the GOP base in hopes of retaining control of Congress.
“The Republicans’ approach has been, and continues to be, all about the base,” Miringoff said. “This is their M.O., and that’s what we’re seeing. That works if turnout is not high.”
May the odd ever be in our favor, as this midterm election truly is the most important one of our lifetimes.