Juan Williams: Gaming out the midterms

Juan Williams: Gaming out the midterms
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I write. You decide.

How do Republicans think they will do in the November midterm elections?

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE is predicting a “giant Red Wave” for his party.

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Last week, Trump promised to hold rallies and fundraisers nationwide as Election Day draws closer. He is bragging about the power of his endorsements in GOP primaries and going “8 for 9 in Special Elections. Red Wave!”

Now for a different Republican view of the upcoming election we go to Stephen Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist. He predicts Trump’s GOP would lose up to 40 House seats if the election were held right now.

Bannon is launching a new political group, Citizens of the American Republic, and told the Associated Press the midterms are “all about turnout and what I call base-plus.”

Democrats have turned out in big numbers for special elections to express their distaste for Trump. That leads Bannon to forecast trouble for the GOP.

A Pew poll last week supported Bannon’s thinking with a finding that “voters who back Democratic candidates for Congress are reporting higher levels of political activity than GOP voters.”

But wait. There is another GOP perspective from President Reagan’s top political advisor Ed Rollins, who is now co-chair of Donald Trump Great America PAC.

He sided with the president last week. “There’s no blue wave out there,” Rollins said on Fox Business Network. Rollins predicted Republicans would hold the Senate and the House.

There is some daylight between Trump and Rollins on the November outcome. Rollins does not see a “red wave.” He thinks Republicans could lose seats in the House even as they win enough seats to hold the majority.

Rollins’ more limited enthusiasm about GOP prospects in the elections is in line with predictions from Anthony Salvanto, the top pollster for CBS News.

“Right now I think this election looks like a toss-up,” Salvanto told the New York Post last week. “We see a Democrat pickup in the House of Representatives in the 20-odd seat range, but Republicans could certainly hold on to the House.”

Salvanto lines up with Bannon in saying election turnout is the key. He thinks Republican voters will maintain their tradition of showing up for the midterms in bigger numbers than Democrats.

“Even though Republicans have not fared well in special elections so far this cycle, it does look like they will be turning out for the midterms,” Salvanto explained. “So far we do not see a large number of Republicans saying they will flip and vote for a Democrat.”

The Democrats “have to bring new voters in” to win the House majority, Salvanto asserted.

At the moment, the Real Clear Politics polling average has Democrats holding a 6.8-point lead over Republicans when voters are asked which party they prefer to control Congress.

But what if a higher than normal number of Democrats go to the polls, as Bannon suggests?

A Fox News poll last week concluded “Democrats are in a strong position for the midterms,” largely because “more 2016 Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report MORE voters are ‘extremely’ interested in the midterms than Trump voters [51 vs. 37 percent] and more certain they will vote [76 vs. 67 percent].”

In counties where Trump and Clinton finished within 10 percentage points of each other, the Fox poll found Democrats leading 45 to 39 percent.

“The Democratic edge in battleground counties is telling,” said Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who does Fox News' polling with Democrat Chris Anderson. “These are where the competitive districts are that they need to flip to put Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOn The Money: Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump emergency declaration | Banks made billion in extra profits thanks to GOP tax law | IRS analyst charged with leaking Cohen's financial records Coast Guard lieutenant accused of planning domestic terrorism denied bail Inviting Kim Jong Un to Washington MORE back in the Speakers’ chair.”

Part of the battleground county problem for Republicans is the GOP has 43 seats in which the incumbent decided to leave. The loss of the advantage of incumbency has led Cook Political Report to increase the number of GOP-held seats in danger of shifting to Democrats from 20 at the start of the year to nearly double that number today, at 37.

In addition, last week’s conviction of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWhite House braces for Mueller report Hillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Manafort to be sentenced for bank, tax fraud in Virginia on March 8 MORE, and guilty plea from his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, along with the constant stories of corruption in his administration make it difficult for Republican candidates to talk about traditional conservative issues instead of being asked about Trump’s troubles.

Democrats will need to win 23 seats to claim the House majority. On average, the party in the White House loses 32 seats in the incumbent’s first midterm elections.

And with 71 days left before the elections, most independent pollsters give Democrats a strong edge.

FiveThirtyEight.com still forecasts a 5 in 7 chance that Democrats win control of the House. The indictments of Reps. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (R-Calif.) and Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Fighting AIDS domestically and globally means pushing more evidence-based services MORE (R-N.Y.) on corruption charges in the past two weeks have made their districts more competitive.

So, there is your range of Republican opinion on the midterms.

The only certain prediction for the fall races is that Trump will take full credit for a “red wave” if the GOP manages to hold on to their majority by a single seat.

You can take that to the bank.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.