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Matt Schlapp: Metrics that matter make the case for GOP victory in 2018

It is the summer before the midterm elections of 2018.  If you read the “enlightened” papers of record and listen to the so-called experts, the Trump-dominated GOP is heading to one of the biggest disasters in election history. At least 44 GOP House members have announced their retirement, and the Democrats need to pick up just 23 seats to call Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) their liberal speaker once again.

The coverage of election 2018 aside, we need to check hyperbole and our feelings at the door. I wince when Republicans say they feel good or bad about an election. Elections do come down to people and knowing how they feel is critical, but elections are also about cold hard facts, which cannot be altered by the latest sentiment.

{mosads}The D.C. game of cherry-picking polls can result in a slanted view. Reviewing all the polls, which Real Clear Politics does effectively, gives one the ability to be an armchair political operative. I talk regularly with different Trump administration advisors who have unique perspectives of what questions give a true read on 2018. Here’s the good news: GOP and Trump spinners are increasingly optimistic because all the numbers have improved over the last year.


Some have questioned recently if the GOP has become the Grand Trump Party. A politician like President Trump will indeed play a prominent role in the midterms; it is just how he rolls.

So, if you are a Republican candidate, you may want to track three numbers as we close in on November: Trump’s approval ratingthe generic ballot; and the proportion of Americans who say the country is on the “right track”. The good news for the GOP, no matter their view of the president, is that there is a positive trend on these questions.

As of the end of May, the president is enjoying approvals of 45 percent and record approvals from the GOP faithful. Bruce Mehlman recently pointed out that Trump’s numbers within his own party at the 500 day mark since World War II are only bested by George W. Bush post-9/11.

There is no doubt that no matter what the “fake” or liberal national news has done to prosecute the case for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president’s numbers continue to improve. “Fake” news is helping Trump as the American people understand that Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, cannot get fair treatment. It took the brashness of Trump to destroy the credibility of the left-wing national media that never give Republicans a fair shake, because they cannot properly gauge their own political bias.

The president’s approvals have improved over the course of the last year and especially over the last 6 months, but I believe his actual support surpasses this benchmark. This is because even the most ardent supporters of the Trump agenda sometimes wince at a presidential tweet or remark.  

To be clear, President Trump’s most enduring supporters are not sycophants, as they may love a particular policy but they also have moments when they want a break. In a world of reality politics, where the president dominates each news cycle like never before, I would ask the question differently. A better question would be support for the president’s policy agenda. That gives a truer view of Americans’ allegiance to Trumpism, and it would likely expand the president’s support as not all voters always “approve” of his tone or tactic.

Although the president will always have a big footprint in down-ballot races, the most interesting poll number that charts the mood of the country is the right track/wrong track ticker. In the 2000 presidential election the Bush campaign had to make the case for a party change even though the country was mostly content. But in recent years, Americans have become unsettled, uncomfortable, and suffering from a belief that America is slipping. This comes with a corresponding pessimism about the future of the Republic.   

The Real Clear Politics average on the direction of the country is nearly 40 percent “right track” (up from about 27 percent just two years ago under Obama). Trump’s political advisors will likely explain that presidents who are at 40 percent and above do not lose congressional majorities, especially in an age when the very idea of America is being undermined by enemies overseas and reactionaries in America.  

The most rudimentary poll number tracked by experts is the generic ballot, the number of Americans who would vote for a party if you take individual names off the ballot.  The generic ballot has steadily improved for the GOP, and currently sits at a deficit of 3 percent. Republicans are the political minority in America, and these early polls do not capture samples of midterm voters, so the actual numbers will be more favorable to Republican candidates.  

All in all, the polling should encourage the Trump coalition to invest and engage all efforts to keep Republican majorities in Congress. And it seems like the conventional wisdom of NYC, Hollywood and the swamp is fixing to be dead wrong for the second time in a row, thank God.  

The age of Trump continues to baffle the Beltway. Many political experts are advising investors that the House of Representatives will switch to the Democrats and that the Republicans generally, under the weight of Trump, will take a bath. No election will match the shock of 2016, but two years later the swamp creatures are making a similar mistake. They are not looking at the numbers that matter, and they are not talking to voters in states who will make the difference.  

Voters in those states believe America is leading again, and that the economy is offering improved prospects. The moderate Republicans representing purple House districts fled in fear of a Trump repudiation, when the reality is that most Americans are relieved. Voters who oppose some aspects of this presidency are experiencing greater economic opportunity.

2018 will be a bumpy ride and if Republicans can deal with turbulence it may turn out that the GOP will continue its 8-year run of Congressional victories.  So before you bet against the GOP congressional majorities, you may want to talk to real Americans in bowling alleys and diners who are upset about China, Wall Street and the state of the southern border.  After all, these Americans will decide who holds the gavel, and they are decidedly pleased that this Republican administration is focused on them.

Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. He was the White House political director to former President George W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter @mschlapp.

Tags 2018 election 2022 midterm elections Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign Nancy Pelosi Politics Republican Party Robert Mueller Stop Trump movement

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