I consider the generic congressional ballot something of a black art, but everyone else obsesses over it so I suppose I might as well too. Here’s the latest from the Washington Post/ABC poll:
In this poll, Democrats are ahead by 14 points. That’s not bad. I typically remove three or four points from the Democratic number just because I think people are more likely to claim they want a Democratic Congress even when they don’t. That gets me to around 49-41, an 8-point difference. Then I subtract a net five points from the difference because that’s the margin Democrats need these days just to break even on Election Day. So that gets us to 46-44, and by chance that happens to fit my gut feel at the moment. It’s a bit of a pessimistic read, and the funny thing is that I’m less pessimistic about Democrats screwing things up than I usually am. Still, if you asked me for my take on Democrats controlling the House in 2019, I’d say it’s pretty close to even right now.
But then again, there’s also this:
There’s no time series for this question, so I don’t know how it compares to past polls. What’s more, the generic ballot (“How are you going to vote?”) is generally more predictive than a fuzzy question like this one (“How do you want everybody else to vote?”). Still 30 points is a lot. This question is worded as a referendum on Donald Trump, and that may be the tailwind that pushes the generic ballot in a blue direction. Put these two poll questions together, and I’m less pessimistic: I’m now willing to believe that Dems might win 54 percent of the popular vote and something like 230 seats. As it happens, that’s almost precisely what 538 is projecting right now. So things are looking pretty good for Dems, and if Trump keeps getting loopier between now and November, Dems might even pull off an epic wave. Maybe.