Ever since last Friday’s Access Hollywood bombshell, Speaker Paul Ryan has treated Trump’s campaign as a sinking ship and has sounded an alarm to donors to shift resources towards saving the majority. Meanwhile, we have been inundated with questions about whether the majority is now in play. We’ve long been skeptical, but purposefully waited a few days to gather as much fresh data as possible before offering our view.
A week later, Donald Trump’s behavior towards women continues to consume the news. But there’s little evidence of a wholesale shift in the House landscape. The prospect that GOP voters staying home clearly increases the party’s downside risk, but neither side’s polling suggests the “bottom dropping out” for congressional Republicans.
Democrats need a 30 seat gain to retake the House, but that’s very difficult to do when there are only37 competitive races — including six already held by Democrats. Today, even if they won all 6 seats in Lean Democratic and all 18 seats in Toss Up, they would still need to win 11 of 13 races in Lean Republican to win the majority. By the time the Mark Foley scandal broke in late September 2006, the hill for Democrats was much less steep.
To help keep the House in perspective amid the madness, consider a few things:
1. Trump hasn’t dragged Republicans all that far down – Trump was already on a downward slope after the first debate, and new polls show the tape has increased Clinton’s lead to anywhere from 7 points (Fox News) to 9 points (NBC/Wall Street Journal) to 11 points (Atlantic/PRRI). Democrats’ advantage on the generic generic congressional ballot has widened too, but not by as much as Trump has fallen since mid-September.
Both the Fox News and NBC/Wall Street Journal polls peg Democrats’ generic advantage at 48 percent to 42 percent, up a few points from last month. But as Amy Walter pointed out, Democrats’ lead on the this question in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was 15 points at this point in 2006 and 13 points in 2008. Given the redistricting that’s taken place since, a 6 point national lead isn’t enough to give Democrats the majority.