According to new Morning Consult polls, Democrats are in serious trouble in Senate races across the country. Republicans have serious leads in West Virginia, where incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin trails by 14 points; North Dakota, where incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp trails by 8; Indiana, where incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly trails by 5; Missouri, where incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill trails by 5; Montana, where incumbent Democrat Jon Tester trails by 5; Florida, where incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is locked in a near-deadlock with Rick Scott; and Pennsylvania and Ohio, where incumbent Democrats Bill Casey and Sherrod Brown are leading by less than two points each, plus Virginia, where Tim Kaine leads by just 3 on the generic ballot. In the best-case scenario for Republicans, then, they could win up to nine additional Senate seats.
The polls are similarly shoddy in the House of Representatives for Democrats. The RealClearPolitics poll average for the generic ballot has Democrats up 6.7%, but the polls are all over the place: The Economist/YouGov has Democrats with a 3-point lead, Quinnipiac has Democrats with an 8-point lead, as does Monmouth.
The best available data, then, suggest that the Democrats are heavy favorites to take the House, but face a seriously uphill battle to take the Senate from Republicans. This is a rarity in modern politics; the last time a president’s party picked up seats in the Senate but lost seats in the House was Ronald Reagan in 1982 (the Republicans lost 26 House seats but picked up a Senate seat). In 1970, Richard Nixon’s Republicans dropped 12 House seats but picked up two Senate seats; in 1962, Kennedy’s Democrats lost four House seats but gained three Senate seats. Today, Republicans are expected to lose dozens of House seats but could simultaneously pick up a half-dozen Senate seats.
Given our wildly divisive politics, this isn’t particularly shocking. But it is a sign that our national divisions are serious and regional — that politics can’t easily be nationalized. And that means that Trump still has a path in 2020 to victory, if he can eke out wins in the same states he did in 2016.