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 TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown 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 Clinton2016 pollsters erred by not weighing education on state level, says political analyst Could President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Dem group targets Trump in M voter registration campaign: 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 PelosiDisclosures suggest rebates and insurers responsible for rising out-of-pocket drug costs Democrats keeping GOP from motivating voters with Trump impeachment threat, analyst says Celebrities, lawmakers wear black to support Kavanaugh’s accuser 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 ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report 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 HunterIndicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency Indicted GOP lawmaker to stay on ballot in New York this fall: report MORE (R-Calif.) and Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Indicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls 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.