Media’s blame-Trump narrative ignores midterm realities

Media’s blame-Trump narrative ignores midterm realities
© Greg Nash

If there's one thing our political media are exceptionally accomplished at doing, it’s tying a bow of overarching narratives and singular takeaways on big events. 

This skill will be on display late Tuesday night, and probably the rest of the week, after the midterm results pour in. Rest assured, some Fourth Estate members, particularly those on cable news, are already practicing their diatribes that are sure to go viral. Get ready for the spin on how a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is an absolute, definitive rebuke of what they will refer to as the racist, facist, unhinged, megalomaniacal, authoritarian presidency of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Avenatti denies domestic violence allegations: 'I have never struck a woman' Trump names handbag designer as ambassador to South Africa MORE

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Take this totally unbiased New York Times headline for example: "A Nation in Turmoil Prepares to Deliver a Verdict on Trump.”

But ask yourself this: What happens if Republicans not only hold but add to their majority in the Senate? 

What happens if Democrats take back only enough seats to claim a slim majority? Would that still reflect the national mood toward the president?

A Democratic majority in the House and Republican majority in the Senate won’t be the nice, neat narrative many in our media will embrace.

Remember this before listening Tuesday night as the chattering class draws “definitive” conclusions around voter sentiment: A president’s party has lost an average of 29 seats in midterm elections dating back to 1918. Democrats on Tuesday need just 23 seats to take control. History is on their side. 

A loss around this number — 29 — for House Republicans doesn’t necessarily mean voters are rejecting Trump in droves. He’s underwater in every poll outside of Rasmussen (51 approve, 47 disapprove), so of course, that’s part of the equation. But maybe something called precedent matters here as well.

Americans like their checks and balances. It’s why every two-term president in more than a half-century has lost considerable seats in the House in each of their two midterms — except for George W. Bush in 2002 in a post-9/11 world, when the country was still rallying around the flag. 

President Obama is the best example of why we shouldn’t read too much into the House flipping into Democratic hands. In 2010, his party lost 63 seats in a red wave that made then-Rep. John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader MORE (R-Ohio) Speaker of the House, in what Obama called a "shellacking." But, two years later, Obama easily won reelection despite not having a strong economy on which to run.

Pollster Nate Silver gives Republicans an 83 percent chance of holding the Senate. He gives Democrats an even better chance, 87 percent, of taking back the House. 

Split decisions in the House and Senate are essentially like ties — or, as the old saying goes, are like kissing your sister. 

Keep that in mind, when someone CNN, MSNBC or Fox News argues that the House result is America’s total rejection of all things Trump.

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill and host of "What America's Thinking."