Is the Senate Up for Grabs Yet?

President Donald Trump’s problems continue to mount, raising more questions about turnout and how independent voters and college-educated women will vote. But the Senate map remains daunting for Democrats, and the polarized nature of our politics continues to limit Democrats’ Senate prospects.

While handicappers generally label Nevada as a toss-up and the early polls are tight, the Democratic nominee, Rep. Jacky Rosen has an edge over incumbent Republican Dean Heller in a state that went narrowly for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In Arizona’s open seat contest, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has been the de facto Democratic Senate nominee for months, while Republicans have had a lively three-way primary. The frontrunner for the GOP nomination, Rep. Martha McSally, is a quality candidate, but her party is divided. Trump carried the state only narrowly two years ago, and his standing among the older, more affluent voters of metropolitan Phoenix certainly has not improved.

Sinema’s lead would narrow if Republican voters coalesce around McSally, but the Democrat has better overall positioning in the race and the edge in the race.

Republicans remain nervous about Tennessee, where the Democratic nominee, popular former Nashville Mayor and Gov. Phil Bredesen has a good reputation and appeal to independents and swing voters. Even Democrats are pleasantly surprised that Bredesen has been such a good candidate so far. But GOP nominee Marcia Blackburn is an aggressive campaigner, and the state’s strong Republican bent — Hillary Clinton drew only 35 percent of the vote — should eventually give her a boost. Bredesen probably has a slight edge now, but the state’s partisan landscape means he still has an uphill climb.

Finally, in Texas, some Democrats believe their challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, is now a serious threat to incumbent GOP SenTed Cruz. The Democrat’s fundraising has been stunning, and recent polls from Quinnipiac and NBC News/Marist show the Republican incumbent with only a single-digits lead. But Cruz is at 49 percent in both surveys, and all of the other poll numbers suggest it will be all but impossible for O’Rourke to pull off an upset. Republican don’t seem very worried at all.

So, Democrats find themselves in virtually the same place they did months ago — needing to re-elect all or almost all of their incumbents up for re-election in November.

That was a tall, tall order six months ago, and it is a tall, tall order today.

A few of the 10 states that went for Trump in 2016 and have Senate races this cycle are not worth much attention. Democratic incumbents are expected to retain their seats easily in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and Sherrod Brown looks to be comfortably ahead in Ohio.

While a recent Marquette poll put Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin and Republican challenger Leah Vukmir in a near dead heat, other polling (non-public) suggests that Baldwin has a double-digit lead over her opponent. Given the problems of GOP Gov. Scott Walker, it’s likely that Baldwin has a comfortable advantage in this Senate contest and that even if the race narrows, the Democrats should hold onto this seat.

In Montana, which Trump won by 20 points, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester continues to have a solid lead, and the GOP challenger, state Auditor Matt Rosendale, isn’t one of his party’s top challengers. Even Democrats figure that the contest will close as November approaches, but for now Tester looks like he has a clear advantage.

That leaves five states that will likely decide Senate control. Democrats need to hold all of them, or “only” four out of five, depending on how other races fall .

The Democrats’ best chance of the five is West Virginia, a state that went for Trump by 42 points and gave Hillary Clinton only 26.4 percent of the vote. Incumbent Joe Manchin III’s numbers are holding steady in recent polling, and he has a surprisingly comfortable lead over GOP challenger Patrick Morrisey, the state’s attorney general. Republican attacks are likely to erode some of Manchin’s strong personal numbers, and the ballot test should close, but the Democrat is a well-known and well-liked figure in the state, and he has so far succeeded in swimming against the state’s Republican tide. Morrisey is a mediocre candidate.

The Republicans’ best chance is in North Dakota, which Trump carried by 35 points two years ago. Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp is a strong campaigner, but the state’s profile — heavily rural, heavily Republican and heavily white — puts her in a hole against challenger Kevin Cramer, the state’s at-large GOP congressman.

Nathan Gonzales’ Inside Elections moved the race to tilting Republican in July, reflecting the challenges Heitkamp faces. This race certainly isn’t over, but the Democrat’s struggle looks uphill.

The three remaining races, Indiana, Missouri and Florida, are all toss-ups and close according to recent polling. Trump carried Indiana and Missouri by 19 points each, while Florida was a squeaker.

Of the three, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly may have the best prospects given voters’ views of his values and personal traits.

We should see some movement in all of these races after Labor Day, as the campaigns fully engage and the parties decide where to put their remaining dollars.

A blunder here or there could affect a race, and national news could impact who votes and what message they send in November. But at this point, Republicans have every reason to feel confident about the likelihood that they will keep the Senate in November. Only a substantial national Democratic wave would seem to threaten that outcome.

The column originally appeared in Roll Call on August 24, 2018.

Donald Trump’s Toughest Adversary? That Would Be Donald Trump

While President Trump complains about the national media, Democrats, Robert S. Mueller’s Russian “witch hunt” and the political establishment, none of those things is why the November House elections are a major headache for the Republican Party. Donald Trump’s biggest problem is Donald Trump.

Trump has turned what could have been a challenging midterm election environment into a potentially disastrous one. Through his tweets and statements, the president continues to make the 2018 midterm elections a referendum on his first two years in office.

Of course, that could be a good thing, since unemployment is down, economic growth is up and ISIS is in retreat.

But instead of running on those accomplishments, Trump prefers to stir the pot of grievance, drawing applause from his hard-core supporters for his attacks on individuals and institutions, and refusing to reach out to potential new supporters.

He goes after Republican officeholders, professional basketball stars, NFL players and members of Congress.

He whips up anger toward the media, undermines the FBI and criticizes America’s allies and NATO.

He imposes tariffs that hurt American agriculture.

That might not be a terrible strategy if Trump had won comfortably in 2016. But he lost the popular vote by more than 2 points and drew only 46.1 percent of the vote, so any leakage from his original coalition or increased turnout from anti-Trumpers could have a dramatic impact on the midterm’s results.

In fact, Republican self-identification seems to be slipping, while Democratic enthusiasm is up.

Typically, when a president is unpopular, candidates from the president’s party try to “localize” their races. They want voters to focus on the individual nominees — their records and qualifications — rather than on the performance of the president.

But that is difficult to accomplish when the president dominates the news and makes controversial comments daily.

Trump clearly loves rallies. As an entertainer, he enjoys (even craves) being the center of attention. He is energized by the applause and cheers. His success in swaying GOP primaries through his endorsements has also fed his ego, which in turn has increased his desire to do more events and to whip up his audiences with more and more outrageous assertions and charges.

Not surprisingly, the president recently promised that he will be on the stump almost continually for Republican nominees in the fall.

“I’ll go six or seven days a week when we’re 60 days out, and I will be campaigning for all of these great people that do have a difficult race, and we think we are going to bring them over the line,” he said during a recent interview with Sean Hannity.

That strategy may feed the president’s ego and reflect his view that he is his party’s best advocate, but it shows he misunderstands the midterm dynamic.

Trump’s national campaign blitz will no doubt generate effusive applause in Mississippi, rural West Virginia and northeastern Pennsylvania, but it is not helpful in suburban counties with college-educated voters, congressional districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 or even competitive Republican-leaning congressional districts.

It isn’t helpful for GOP Reps. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Jason Lewis of Minnesota or Rod Blum of Iowa.

Trump’s campaign plan guarantees the November midterms will be a referendum on the president — not the “local” contests so many Republican nominees in swing districts prefer.

That could help Republican Senate nominees in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia, but it increases the likelihood that the House will flip to the Democrats.

To be sure, given the president’s performance during his first two years in office, the Democrats were always going to make Trump the issue in the midterms. But by being so divisive and so active on the stump, the president has made it easier for the Democrats to nationalize the November elections and more difficult for those Republicans who are trying to swim against the midterm tide.

Because Trump thinks that everything is about him, he is simply incapable of receding into the background or allowing the midterms to be about anyone other than himself. And because he cannot acknowledge his own missteps and relies on caricatures and exaggeration to demonize his foes, he is incapable of reaching out to voters who are not already reliable members of the Trump base.

The combination of those flaws makes the president of the United States the biggest problem for the Republican Party this year. Donald Trump has met the enemy — and it is himself.

This column appeared originaly on August 7, 2018.

Polling Still Points to Rough November for Republicans

If you trust the July 9-11 Fox News poll and the July 15-18 NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey — and I have no reason not to — the GOP still looks headed for a difficult election and the likely loss of the House.

No, President Donald Trump’s voters are not fleeing him, and his personal poll numbers have not cratered even after his behavior at the NATO summit in Belgium and his Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin. So, maybe he really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. But that says something about Trump’s supporters, not the overall electorate.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the combination of national and state polling continues to show the party’s vulnerability as November approaches.

The most recent Fox News poll of registered voters found Trump’s job approval at 46 percent, while the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of registered voters put his approval at 45 percent. Both numbers are up a point or two but generally within the low- to mid-40s range where they have been for most of this year. Trump, of course, drew 46.1 percent of the popular vote in 2016.

Fox showed Democrats with an overall 8-point advantage on the congressional generic ballot, while NBC News/Wall Street Journal put their advantage at 6 points.

Both surveys are well within the midrange of recent national surveys and approaching the +10 to +12 range Democrats probably need to flip the House.

The president’s standing among independent voters is of particular concern to Republican strategists. (I wrote about why in a May 30 column.)

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey showed Trump’s job rating among independents at 36 percent approve/58 percent disapprove, while Fox News found it at 40 percent approve/48 percent disapprove.

In both surveys, the president’s standing among independents was worse than among all voters.

In the congressional generic ballot, Fox News found independents now preferring Democrats by 13 points, 32 percent to 19 percent, while the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey showed them backing a Democratic Congress by more than 20 points.

Two years ago

Both numbers stand in sharp contrast to the 2016 national House exit poll, which found independent voters went Republican by 6 points, 51 percent to 45 percent.

The most recent Fox News and NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys give us some other interesting numbers to chew on, especially in light of the 2016 national House exit poll.

That poll showed whites voted Republican by 22 points (60 percent to 38 percent) in 2016. But the most recent Fox News survey showed the GOP’s generic ballot advantage among white voters this year is down to single digits, 49 percent to 41 percent.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found whites preferring the GOP by a nearly identical 9 points, 50 percent to 41 percent.

Older voters could be crucial in November, since they tend to turn out in high numbers.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed voters 65 and older giving Trump a job rating of 44 percent approve/55 percent disapprove and preferring a Democratic Congress by 11 points (52 percent to 41 percent).

In contrast, the 2016 House exit poll found voters 65 and older backed the GOP by 8 points, 53 percent to 45 percent, in that election.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found key demographic groups — younger voters (ages 18-29), independents, suburban voters and white women — all looking very likely to perform the way they did in 2006, a Democratic wave year.

Keeping the base

To be sure, Trump remains strong among his core constituencies — white men, white men without a college degree, self-identified Republicans and rural voters, for example — but none of those groups are normally considered swing voters, though a strong turnout by those groups would obviously benefit the president.

A handful of state and district polls over the last month also showed surprising Democratic strength in the Senate races in West Virginia and Tennessee, California’s 48th District, North Carolina’s 9th District and even West Virginia’s 3rd District.

Clearly, the political landscape remains dangerous for the GOP, though Democrats can’t claim victory yet. This cake is not yet baked.

So far, there is no evidence of wholesale defections from Trump among those who voted for him in 2016.

The president has generally played to his base, and most true-blue Trump loyalists are so invested in him that they would not even consider voting Democratic in the fall.

But Trump has done nothing to improve his standing with voters who supported Hillary Clinton and progressive Democrats who couldn’t make themselves vote for her.

At the same time, the president’s policies on trade, his incomprehensible delay in blaming Putin for interfering in the 2016 election, his positions on guns and immigration, and his insensitive comments about race may eventually cost him some support among those who voted for him (even if they are not yet ready to bolt Trump now).

But Democrats don’t need the votes of Trump loyalists to ride a political wave into the House. They merely need to turn out Democrats and win independents by a substantial margin.

Any additional leakage of GOP voters to the Democrats in November — or a drop in Republican turnout for the midterms — would make the wave bigger.

Events could change the election’s trajectory, of course, and the president is likely to have a few ups and a few downs between now and November.

But it’s more likely that the daily dose of chaos from the White House that surely will continue to Election Day will produce more fatigue with the White House on the right and in the center than on the left, where enthusiasm remains high.

The column appeared originally in Roll Call on July 24, 2018.

The Wrong Fight at the Wrong Time for the GOP

You need to hand it to President Donald Trump, his entire administration and his party. It takes more than a little chutzpah to act in a way that seems callous to the concerns of children. First, it was gun control. Now it is immigration in general, and separating children from their parents in particular. If this is the way to winning the midterms, it’s hard to see how.

Republicans have talked for decades about crime, drugs, national security, traditional values, the dangers associated with big government and helping businesses produce economic growth.

GOP candidates are comfortable talking about those themes during campaigns, and the party’s voters have become accustomed to hearing those issues addressed.

Democrats, on the other hand, have talked more about quality-of-life issues, the environment, health care, gun control and helping the more disadvantaged and vulnerable in society, including the poor, the elderly, single mothers and children. Democratic voters expect their candidates to stress those topics and offer prescriptions.

At certain moments, Republican priorities have broader appeal, while at other times the Democratic message has been shown to be superior.

Not surprisingly, swing voters go back and forth between the two parties, depending on the issue mix and the country’s priorities, and enthusiasm within both parties ebbs and flows.

Fall focus

If this November’s elections are about the state of the economy, Republicans will do quite well. Most of the economic indicators are good, and while things could change over the next few months, they are not likely to deteriorate dramatically.

Republicans would likely keep the House and Senate if the midterms were only a referendum on the president’s handling of the economy.

But the economy isn’t dominating voters’ attention these days.

The June 1-4 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked registered voters about the “most important factor in deciding your vote” and found five issues bunched together in the double digits: health care; economy and jobs; guns; taxes and spending; and immigration.

In tough economic times (whether high unemployment or high inflation), the economy and jobs inevitably rank far ahead of other concerns because people think first about putting food on the table and paying the mortgage.

But today, when jobs are relatively plentiful and Americans feel upbeat about the economy, people have time to think about other issues and problems — such as health care, gun control and how people should be treated.

Now, after spending the last couple of years demonizing immigrants, fighting those who advocate more diversity, ripping up government regulations, cutting taxes for corporate America and doing little to respond to a series of school-related shootings, President Donald Trump doubled down on immigration, producing a “zero tolerance” policy that meant separating children from their parents, before backtracking on Wednesday with an executive order after the uproar penetrated even the Oval Office’s usual political calculus.

Core Trump voters — the kind of people who watch the Fox News prime-time lineup religiously and complain that members of the national media are the enemy — are certain to accept White House positions on the border and agree with congressional Republicans on guns.

But core Trump voters won’t decide control of the House in the midterms.

Quinnipiac’s widely noted June 14-17 national poll showed two out of three voters opposing the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when families illegally cross the border.

The numbers among independent voters (68 percent opposing separation), whites with a college degree (68 percent opposing) and white women (65 percent opposing) suggest the White House badly mishandled the issue, and it’s not hard to see why Trump started backpedaling.

Even more than one in three Republicans disapprove of the administration’s behavior.

Misjudging the mood

If reports are correct that Trump thought the “zero tolerance” policy would help him politically, he seems to have miscalculated badly. There is nothing wrong with a president seeking to energize his party’s base. But that is all that Trump ever does.

He never tries to broaden his appeal. The controversy over separating children from their parents, like the White House’s response to school shootings, helps push quality of life to the fore of this election cycle, taking voters’ attention away from the economy.

Trump and his party look cruel and cold-hearted, costing the Republicans female voters, suburbanites, independents and voters with a college degree — and that’s before Democrats spend millions of dollars painting the picture of a president and a political party indifferent to school shootings and insensitive to the plight of children.

Combined with likely improved turnout among liberals and possibly even minorities and younger voters (who often don’t bother to vote in midterms), the movement among swing voters and soft Republicans seems like a recipe for a remarkably good Democratic election.

Trump would be much better off talking about his role in creating jobs and starting a dialogue with North Korea.

But the president, who appears tone-deaf when it comes to quality-of-life issues such as guns, health care and the environment, simply prefers spending his time fighting with America’s friends, imposing tariffs, pushing his immigration agenda and attacking the FBI and Robert Mueller.

And regardless of any presidential or congressional action, the damage to the GOP has already been done.

History suggests Republicans will pay an electoral price in the fall.

Note: This column appeared originally in Roll Call on June 21, 2018

The GOP Civil War Continues Without Even a Pause

While many dissected Corey Stewart’s recent Virginia Republican Senate primary victory and South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford’s defeat in his bid for renomination, an even more interesting runoff race is underway in the Palmetto State.

The June 12 Republican primary in Trey Gowdy’s open 4th District seat produced a runoff pitting first-place finisher Lee Bright, a former state senator, against William Timmons, a first-term state senator.

When I saw Bright’s name, I laughed. You see, I still remember my interview with him when he was running to deny GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham renomination.

Here is what I wrote about Bright after that interview: “Bright, whose professional career started with selling televisions at Circuit City, has experienced a series of business setbacks. In fact, I’m not entirely clear how he makes a living, though he said something about truck brokerage and credit card processing. He seems affable, but he lacks gravitas.

“The state senator describes himself as a member of the tea party and he endorsed first Michele Bachmann, then Ron Paul in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He readily acknowledges that he rarely supports bills brought up for a vote on the floor of the South Carolina Senate.”

Bright came off then as an unadulterated bomb-thrower who cared more about attacking those in his party and making trouble than about passing legislation, and he doesn’t appear to have changed his stripes.

In a statement in March announcing his candidacy for Gowdy’s open seat, Bright said, “South Carolina voters are sick and tired of radical Leftists and establishment Republicans constantly eroding our rights.”

Bright, 48, put together an interesting record in the Legislature. He supported efforts to create a separate state currency and to nullify federal laws. He supported a bill to force transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their sex assigned at birth, and he was one of three South Carolina senators voting in 2015 against removing the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds.

According to Jamie Self of The State newspaper, Bright also “pushed an unsuccessful proposal to allow the carrying of firearms without training or a permit” and “filibustered a landmark abortion ban that passed — despite opposing abortion himself — because it included exceptions for rape and incest.”

Just a quick reminder here: Bright finished first in the primary, garnering about a quarter of the vote in a field of 13 Republican hopefuls.

Bright’s opponent in the June 26 runoff, William Timmons, is a young (34) first-term state senator. Post and Courier reporter Jamie Lovegrove wrote that Timmons “stems from a dynasty of wealthy, politically active Greenville Republicans.” Timmons has raised more than $1 million, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money that he put into his primary campaign.

Timmons doesn’t have a long record, so it’s hard to see exactly how he fits into the party. But insiders see Timmons as a business-friendly conservative from a prominent, well-connected family. In other words, unlike Bright, Timmons is no bomb-thrower.

During the primary, the Club for Growth ran a radio ad attacking Timmons and third-place finisher state Rep. Dan Hamilton for allegedly not being sufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump.

In some ways, the contrast between the two Republicans in the runoff could not be clearer.

Timmons has an undergraduate degree from George Washington University in the nation’s capital and a law degree (and a master’s degree in international studies) from the University of South Carolina. Bright graduated from Dorman High School.

Timmons has been endorsed by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Bright has been endorsed by Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

Finally, Timmons knocked off longtime state Sen. Mike Fair in the 2016 GOP runoff at the same time that Bright was losing his bid for a third term to attorney Scott Talley, who was endorsed by then-governor Nikki Haley and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Local observers believe the Bright-Timmons contest will be another fight between insiders and outsiders.

“This is a mainstream Republican — call it the establishment, if you’d like — versus a guy who is as extreme as [Virginia Republican Senate nominee] Corey Stewart,” said longtime South Carolina Republican consultant Chip Felkel, who expects the local business community to make “a very focused effort to support Timmons in the June 26 runoff.”

However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has no plans to get involved in the runoff, especially since during a debate of GOP hopefuls, none of the candidates said he would seek the group’s endorsement.

The South Carolina 4th District runoff is another test of how far the GOP has moved from the political center and how strong the Freedom Caucus will be in the next Congress. It merits your attention.

Note: This column originally appeared in Roll Call on June 15, 2018.

The House Blue Wave Is Alive and Well

For the last couple of months, I’ve heard from many quarters that the “blue wave” has dissipated. Meh.

Advocates of that view usually point to the RealClearPolitics generic ballot average or Donald Trump’s job approval ratings, which suggest the president’s popularity has risen and the Democratic House advantage fallen.

An April 16 Washington Post article was headlined “Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking.”

The National Review went much further in a May 22 piece, hyping a laughable Reuters poll that found the GOP with an advantage in the generic ballot.

“The dramatic shift is bad news for Democrats, who were a full ten points on the generic ballot as recently as the end of April. If the trend holds, their hopes of regaining control of Congress atop a blue wave in November could be dashed,” the writer observed.

Vox had a bevy of journalists, academics and analysts warning in a June 7 story that the blue wave was in trouble.

Less surprising is that the day after the June 5 primaries, the Republican National Committee sent out an email cherry-picking media tweets and comments (even from media organizations not friendly to Trump) that suggested the California results demonstrated Democratic enthusiasm was exaggerated and the Democratic wave didn’t exist.

Keeping the edge

In fact, there is an abundance of evidence that Democratic House prospects are as good as they have been for months and the House is still very likely to flip.

Often, a healthy dose of common sense is more useful than a single misleading public opinion survey. Less than two months ago, I wrote “It seems very unlikely that there has been a fundamental shift in sentiment (in the generic ballot) among registered voters,” and “If I were you, I’d wait for the next round of generic ballot tests from the major pollsters before getting too excited about the most recent [Washington Post-ABC News] generic ballot result,” which showed a dramatically narrower 4-point Democratic advantage.

Two months earlier, on Feb. 12, my column — “The Generic is Falling! The Generic is Falling!” — had expressed skepticism that things had changed much and estimated that “the generic ballot probably now sits in the mid-single digits, in the 5- to 8-point range,” which I thought put the fall campaign on a trajectory toward Democratic control of the House.

Well, the newest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has the Democrats with a 10-point advantage in the generic ballot, Fox News has it at 9 points and Quinnipiac at 7 points — all very reasonable numbers and all generally consistent with my view that Democrats have a clear and consistent advantage in the generic somewhere in the mid- to upper-single digits.

Poll truths

Skeptics of this assessment might point to the president’s job approval in the NBC/Journal survey, asking how the survey’s generic ballot favoring Democrats could inch up from an advantage of 7 points to 10 points while Trump’s job approval increased to 44 percent (from 39 percent in April).

The answer is easy.

First, the NBC/Journal’s generic ballot has been remarkably stable for months. The percentage of respondents who want a Democratic-controlled Congress has fluctuated between 47 percent and 50 percent in multiple surveys since April 2017.

So, the survey’s generic ballot hasn’t really “moved” at all. That makes sense, given how starkly the partisan battle lines have been drawn for months.

Key Democratic and swing groups — including younger voters, college-educated whites and suburban voters — continue to look energized and prepared to deliver a message to the White House.

Just as important, the NBC/Journal poll found many voters from key voting groups would be more likely to support a candidate for Congress who opposes Trump and much of his agenda.

Second, Trump has gotten good news recently, both on the economy and from North Korea, and that could easily explain his improved job approval numbers. But even this assessment must be tentative.

The Trump approval numbers have bounced around for the past six months in NBC/Journal polling — 44 percent in June, 39 percent in April, 43 percent in March and 39 percent in January — so it is hard to know exactly where the public is now on the president’s performance.

The Trump Factor

But even if voters are giving Trump some credit for the economy and North Korea, they could still prefer a Democratic Congress next year.

After all, there has also been plenty of troubling news from the White House, including Trump’s disturbing attack on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his tweets about the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, the administration’s trade and tariffs policies, and the president’s divisive comments on cultural issues and immigration, to name just a few.

Most voters critical of Trump and his agenda will find plenty of reasons to continue to dislike him and to promise to vote Democratic in the fall.

Of course, given the president’s unpredictability, his likely campaign messaging between now and November, and all of the unknowns, it’s still too early to be certain where the public will be on control of Congress at election time.

But the fundamentals remain very much with the Democrats, as they have been for more than a year.

Midterms are almost always about the president. Twenty-three Republicans sit in districts carried by Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump’s job approval ratings are mediocre at best.

Democrats are angry and energized, as demonstrated by high-profile recent elections in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, as well as from many local races around the country.

GOP House retirements mean fewer incumbents who would be best prepared to swim against the tide.

And, voters see the midterms as an opportunity to “check” Trump. That’s a formula for substantial Democratic House gains and control of the chamber next year. The burden is still on Republicans and the White House to change the midterms’ dynamics.

This column originally appeared in Roll Call on June 13, 2018.