Dems move from optimism to confidence about winning House

Democrats have moved from feeling hopeful to confident they will win back the House, with growing signs that the volatile political environment has shifted back their way in the final days before the midterm elections.

A combination of late district polls, fundraising numbers, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE’s falling approval rating and historical trends have all leaned in the Democrats’ favor, leading to a growing sense among party brass that the House is theirs for the taking next week.

“Up until today, I would've said, 'If the election were held today, we would win,’” House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico This week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Schumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill MORE (D-Calif.) said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night. “What now I'm saying is, ‘We will win.’”

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Pelosi’s bold prediction was not made flippantly, according to a source familiar with her thinking. Just last week, Pelosi was still expressing some caution about their prospects of taking the majority.

“Pelosi is a numbers person. She comes to this conclusion very carefully,” said the source. “There was concern about a large infusion of cash from Republicans, but we are keeping competitive.”

The House GOP’s campaign arm had to swoop in this week to protect Republican congressional candidate Katie Arrington (S.C.), whose general election race in a ruby red coastal district has flown largely under the radar this cycle.

Meanwhile, a top Democratic-aligned PAC canceled its remaining TV spending in endangered Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE’s (R-Va.) race — a sign of the left’s growing confidence in the Northern Virginia suburbs.

A number of other seats that would normally be seen as safer for Republicans are also in play, including Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingOcasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center Steve King jokes about China forcing Muslims to eat pork MORE’s district in Iowa, where the incumbent has drawn criticism from the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) over his controversial comments and association with far-right parties.

The shift in tone comes after the GOP had been feeling better about their own midterm prospects earlier this month.

The fierce nomination fight over Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report Kavanaugh remains guilty until proven innocent, according to Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh MORE for the Supreme Court — a process mired in headline-grabbing accusations that the nominee had sexually assaulted a teenager when they were both in high school — fired up the conservative base, lending Republicans a bump in the polls in early October.

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Trump also pounced on the emergence of a Central American migrant caravan inching its way toward the U.S. border to trumpet his “America First” agenda to his most faithful supporters.

But in the final stretch of the campaign, a wave of violence — including a deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and a bomb scare involving prominent Democrats — has dominated the news cycle and put Trump on the defensive as his critics blame the president’s fiery rhetoric for contributing to the ugly political environment.

And Trump’s promise this week to eliminate birthright citizenship by executive order has been widely condemned by GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, dividing the party just days before voters will head to the polls.

Trump on Wednesday inflamed those divisions further with a remarkable tweet attacking Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.), who had dismissed the president’s birthright citizenship plan a day earlier.

“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” Trump tweeted.

Republicans remain optimistic that they can grow their majority in the Senate, where Democrats are defending a number of seats in states Trump won in 2016. That could prove consolation to the president, who might be able to brush off the failure to keep the House majority on other factors while claiming credit for the Senate.

There are a number of reasons for Democrats to feel even better about the heated battle for the House.

A USC Dornsife–Los Angeles Times survey released earlier this week showed Democrats leading Republicans by a whopping 17 points on a generic ballot.

Trump’s approval rating, which had jumped after the Kavanaugh hearings, has since plunged 4 points, down to 40 percent, according to a Gallup poll conducted during the week ending Oct. 28.

While the GOP has been trumpeting a strong economy, the stock market, in recent weeks, has dropped almost 10 percent below its 2018 peak, all but erasing the year’s gains.

And Republican leaders have warned their candidates about a “green wave” of spending from Democrats, who have brought in eye-popping fundraising hauls amid the strong anti-Trump fervor on the left. In the third quarter, 110 Democratic challengers outraised their Republican opponents.

To combat the deluge of blue spending, the House GOP’s campaign arm has made a last-minute push to protect a number of Republican strongholds that were previously considered safe.

Arrington toppled Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordJoe Walsh: GOP is a 'cult' and Trump a 'would-be dictator' RNC spokeswoman on 2020 GOP primary cancellations: 'This is not abnormal' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-S.C.), an outspoken Trump critic, in a primary race this year. But Arrington, who has tightly embraced Trump, has failed to pull away from her Democratic opponent, prompting the NRCC to place its first TV buy in the district, which is rated as “lean Republican” by the Cook Political Report.

Meanwhile, a PAC linked to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg placed its first ad buy in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, where Rep. Steve RussellSteven (Steve) Dane RussellThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Oklahoma New Members 2019 MORE (R-Okla.) is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Kendra Horn. While it’s still a reach for Democrats, with Cook rating the race as “likely Republican,” the ambitious spending underscores the expanding battleground on the left.

Republicans are quick to dismiss the Democrats’ growing confidence, pointing to the economy and early balloting as a sign that they’re poised to defy the odds and retain House control next year.

“We’ve defied history already. We’ve won eight out of nine special elections. We actually have an economy where we have 4 percent economic growth. We have unemployment at 3.7 percent. We have the highest consumer confidence we’ve ever had,” Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversBill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in public housing passes House The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Republicans offer support for Steve King challenger MORE (Ohio), head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told "Fox News Sunday." “So I think people will reward us for what we’ve done.

“I feel like momentum is on our side in this last week.”

Even some top Democrats are warning that predictions of a slam-dunk victory are premature. They remember only too well that Democrats had forecast huge wins in 2016 — Pelosi had said the party would pick up at least 25 House seats — only to be shocked by single-digit gains and Trump’s victory.

“I am cautiously optimistic, but we are not taking anything for granted,” said Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineO'Rourke's debate moment reignites gun debate on Sunday shows Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Cicilline: O'Rourke's AR-15 comment 'doesn't help' MORE (R.I.), a co-chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC).

“The American people spoke loud and clear in 2016 that they were not happy with the direction Washington was headed. We heard them.”

Entering October, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), the chairman of the Democrats’ campaign arm, expressed confidence that the House would flip, citing the party’s booming fundraising efforts and the quality of Democratic candidates, many of them political newcomers compelled into politics by the mercurial president.

But he was also quick to acknowledge that the turbulent political environment would inevitably throw late-cycle curveballs at the Democrats — unforeseen events that Luján put at the top of his anxiety list.

“People talk about an October surprise. There will probably be October surprises,” Luján said during a Bloomberg roundtable in Washington. “I just don’t know what’s coming.”

Through it all, Democrats have ventured to discard the noise and keep their campaign message laser focused on a short list of poll-tested issues they think voters care most about: reducing health-care costs, boosting middle class wages and fighting corruption in Washington.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Democrats face key moment on impeachment drive Top House Democrat walks back remarks contradicting Judiciary on impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.), another co-chairman of the DPCC, named another reason he’s bullish the House will flip: Voters, he predicted, want tougher oversight of the scandal-plagued administration — oversight the Democrats have long accused Republicans of neglecting.

“I’m confident that the American people have concluded that divided government in this context is a better option because House Democrats will be able to be a check and balance on an out-of-control executive,” Jeffries told CNN.