Can Democrats dominate this fall?
Democrats appear better positioned to win big in the 2020 election than ever. The lead of Joe Biden over Donald Trump and falling job approval of the president point to the potential for a landslide White House victory for the Democrats, as well as competitive races for Congress.
Biden now maintains a national lead of nine points over Trump, according to the Real Clear Politics average, while the job approval of the president has fallen six points to its lowest level in almost two years. The declining polling position and waning job approval of Trump are having a negative impact on Republican candidates in races down the ballot.
If Trump loses badly in November, which is entirely possible at this point, then we can expect his defeat to cascade down to Republican candidates with competitive House and Senate races. Given that Democrats have also framed the election as a referendum on Trump, his poor position presents an opportunity for Democrats to not only defeat him, but also to maintain control of the House and possibly take back the Senate.
In several Senate races, Democratic challengers are favored to beat the Republican incumbents, signaling an opportunity to flip Republican seats. Only one Democratic seat, Alabama, is a likely pickup for the Republicans, while there are around five seats that Democrats have a chance to win in Maine, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, and North Carolina.
This is especially the case in Arizona, where coronavirus cases have been skyrocketing and the hospitals have almost reached full capacity. Trump is trailing Biden by seven points in the state, according to a recent New York Times survey, despite Trump winning Arizona by four points in 2016. In the Senate race, incumbent Republican Martha McSally has fallen behind her Democratic challenger Mark Kelly by about seven points.
In North Carolina, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and lieutenant colonel with the United States Army Reserve, leads the Republican incumbent Thom Tillis by nearly ten points, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. In Montana, former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock leads incumbent Republican Senator Steve Daines by four points, according to a survey by University of Montana.
Moreover, Democrats also have a significant edge in the House. They hold a national generic ballot lead of eight points, as 50 percent of voters said they would support the Democratic candidate in their district, while only 42 percent of voters said they would support the Republican candidate, according to a recent survey by Monmouth University.
Given their advantage, if the election were held today, it seems likely that Democrats would win the White House and the Senate, while maintaining control of the House. But we are still months away from the election, and it is entirely possible that the circumstances could change in the coming days. To be sure, both parties have risk factors. Democrats may move even further to the left or be positioned that way by this fall.
It is apparent, given recent results of primary elections, that the party has moved further to the left. If this is reflected in the mainstream policies of Democrats, it could result in their advantage shrinking. This is particularly true if the party starts to embrace progressive policies that are unpopular with most voters, such as defunding the police. Democrats have to find a way to unite progressives and moderates around a message of unity and an inclusive agenda that can bring the country together.
For Republicans, it is clear that the president is putting the party in danger of a substantive loss in November. But if Trump can develop a message of unity and make this election a choice between him and Biden rather than a referendum on his performance in the White House, the race could get much closer. Indeed, Biden leads by only six points in key swing states, despite Trump having an absolutely horrible recent streak.
It is entirely clear that Trump faces an uphill battle to win a second term, and Democrats appear poised to win big if they stay away from moving further to the left. Finally, a substantial victory for Biden would severely hurt Republican candidates in races down the ballot and may result in a considerable across the board Republican defeat this fall.
Douglas Schoen is a consultant who served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His latest book is “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”
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