Here Are 5 Reasons Republicans Will Survive the 2018 Midterms — Despite Trump's No Good, Very Bad Poll Numbers

GOP voters consistently cast their ballots, and they're still in the trenches for Donald Trump

Wikimedia Commons

With the 2018 midterms only eight weeks away, the last thing President Donald Trump and other Republicans want to see are bad poll numbers—and in recent days, there have been plenty of them. Republicans were hoping that an ABC News/Washington Post poll released just before Labor Day Weekend (when political campaigns official enter the home stretch) was an outlier; that poll showed Trump’s approval rating to be only 36%. But post-Labor Day polls have shown the president’s approval to be 37% (the Kaiser Family Foundation), 36% (IBD/TIPP) or 39% (YouGov). And the bad news keeps coming: a poll released by CNN on September 10 found Trump’s approval to be 36%, while a Quinnipiac University poll showed him at 38% approval. 

Given how terrible Trump’s overall poll numbers are, Democrats should, ideally, enjoy a massive landslide on Tuesday, November 6. But the GOP has tremendous discipline as a party—much more so, unfortunately, than Democrats. And Republicans are great at driving voter turnout even when the odds seem to be against them.

Here are five reasons why the midterms might not be as bad for Republicans as they should be.

1. Trump Is Still Popular With His Hard-Right Base

The Quinnipiac poll released on September 10 speaks volumes about Trump’s hard-right base. While that poll showed that Trump’s approval with the general population is only 38%, it also showed that the president still enjoys 84% approval among Republicans. Poll after poll is showing that although Trump is wildly unpopular among the overall population, he continues to be quite popular with his hardcore base—and whether Republicans maintain the House of Representatives and the Senate, lose the House but keep the Senate or lose both the House and the Senate will come down to one thing above all else: turnout. If the 84% of Republicans who still approve of Trump show up on Election Day in big numbers while a lot of Trump’s critics stay home, Republicans might maintain their majority in the House and Senate despite Trump’s generally embarrassing poll numbers. Election results on November 6 will come down to one thing above all else: turnout.

2. The Republican Base Votes Consistently

Back in 1972, when President Richard Nixon sought a second term and George McGovern received the Democratic presidential nomination, liberals and progressives were hoping that an energized youth vote would bring about a massive blue wave. But that energized youth vote didn’t materialize for Democrats: Nixon was reelected with 520 electoral votes compared to a paltry 17 for McGovern. And 46 years later, Republicans still have a major advantage when it comes to turnout. The hardcore GOP base—older, whiter, fiscally and socially conservative—votes consistently and is more likely to show up for midterm elections. As a rule, Republicans are much better than Democrats when it comes to driving turnout. So if the GOP can get the 84% of Republicans who still approve of Trump (according to Quinnipiac) to the polls on November 6, they can lessen the damage.

3. Republican Voters Are Gullible and Obedient

One need only compare the comments sections of liberal/progressive and right-wing websites to see how radically different the two are. One sees a lot more solidarity on right-wing websites: Republican voters are obedient, conformist and gullible and fall in line easily, while liberals and progressives have a lot less solidarity. For all the talk of “political correctness” that comes from the right, there is a lot more conformity among Republicans—whereas liberals and progressives have much better critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, liberals and progressives also sound like they are at one another’s throats much of the time, which doesn’t serve the anti-Trump resistance well. 

4. Some Progressives Let the Perfect Become the Enemy of the Good

Savvy liberals and progressives have what could be described as a pragmatic strategy: they will support hardcore progressives as often as possible, but also support some centrists when they realize that it makes sense to do so. One doesn’t automatically rule out the other. While the Democratic Party needs a lot more hardcore progressive candidates and Bernie Sanders allies like John Fetterman (Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the Democratic congressional nominee in Queens and the Bronx), that doesn’t automatically mean that every candidate in every district has to be that progressive. A strategy that works well for Ocasio-Cortez in New York City isn’t necessarily the strategy that should be used in campaigns in Texas, where Democratic senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is—amazingly—only slightly behind incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in recent polls. Yet some progressives, instead of being happy that O’Rourke actually stands a chance of pulling off a narrow victory, will complain that he isn’t left-wing enough and insist that he’s no different from Cruz (which, of course, is ludicrous). 

5. Democrats Are Great at Dropping the Ball

The Republican Party is toxic on so many levels, but it is also determined, aggressive and incredibly focused—so focused, in fact, that in the 2016 presidential race, Trump managed to win the electoral vote in three states that Democrats usually win: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (although Democratic Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote by three million). Never underestimate the ability of the Democratic Party to drop the ball, even when Democrats should have the political advantage.  

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.