Can Democrats flip the House?

Can Democrats flip the House?
© Camille Fine

According to multiple indications, Democrats are heavily favored nationwide in the 2018 midterm elections. Two public polls in November, one by Quinnipiac and the other by Marist, show that Democrats have a generic congressional ballot advantage of 13 points to 15 points, respectively. Further, by the end of last month, Real Clear Politics had the Democrats leading by nearly 9 points. Democrats may very well ride a wave to retake the House in 2018. However, many critical steps must be taken before they will be able to achieve this type of success.

In particular, the successful Democratic sweep in the Virginia statewide elections in early November is not wholly indicative of how Democrats might do, even in similar left-leaning states, in the midterm elections with few open seats in traditional swing districts. For example, Ralph Northam ran a unique campaign built on centrism and gun safety that was entirely separate from the platforms which national Democratic leaders like Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Restless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Pence-linked group launches 0K ad campaign in West Virginia praising Manchin Senators huddle on path forward for SALT deduction in spending bill MORE promote.

Although it is my view that the Democratic Party must advance a similar, if not identical, centrist platform in order to win back Congress in 2018, the Democrats do not appear as of now to have any concentrated national strategy to take back control in government. Democrats must look to politicians like Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanDemocrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout Ohio Republicans swing for fences in redistricting proposals Ohio redistricting commission gives up on US House map MORE, the Democratic representative for the 13th district of Ohio, who could possibly become the next leader of the Democratic Party.

In an interview this summer with NPR, Tim Ryan said that what the Democratic Party really needs is an “an economic message” and “figuring out how to rebrand ourselves at the national level.” His worry, which should be the worry of the entire Democratic Party, is that “no one’s connecting with our party right now” and “a lot of times we’re screaming about Russia and Trump all the time. But at the end of the day, being an anti-Trump party is not enough to get us home.”

I could not agree more. The only consistent nationwide strategy that Democrats have, which is one that I have consistently advocated against, is this firm and unwavering resistance to anything Donald Trump does. This is particularly problematic now with the major tax bill that Republicans passed this week, which is a significant legislative achievement. There had been little, if any cooperation from the Democrats on this front, and the party’s current congressional leadership refused to even sit down with President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE to discuss the 2018 budget.

However, Democrats still have an opportunity to seize on this period of unmatched disorder in the Trump administration and within the Republican Party. Just days ago, the Trump administration was dealt a major blow to its credibility when former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador. Flynn has now stated that he is fully cooperating with Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.

The impact of Flynn pleading guilty did not just shock the White House, but also caused the financial market to go on the defensive, which resulted in a considerable adjustment Friday morning. For political issues to affect capital markets in this way, it is clear that the disorder and risk in Washington is notably severe.

Given the recent developments just this week, ranging from growing concerns over North Korea’s nuclear missile capabilities to uncertainty over tax reform and Flynn’s guilty plea, the Democrats evidently have a window of opportunity to build momentum in order to win back the House in 2018. However, the strategy that Democrats should employ in order to do so cannot be one that is solely based upon resistance to Trump.

If Democrats are going to take back the House, they must adjust their priorities. Above all, Democrats must make it clear to the American people that the party supports free market solutions to grow the economy. The Democrats never articulated any effective alternative to the Republican tax plan. Beyond stiff regulations and daily attacks on the president, the American electorate has little to go off of besides a waning interest in Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE’s defeat.

Regardless of the large generic lead that Democrats hold in the national congressional polling, there are still significant electoral obstacles that the party will have to consider and overcome in order to take back control of the government. Further, if the Democrats have any hope of taking back the House in 2018, it is essential that they capitalize on this moment of the disarray within the Republican Party and on the electorate’s general disillusionment towards Donald Trump, but do so by putting forth a clear economic message and a prepared willingness to work across the aisle.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”