House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in deep trouble. She promised her fellow Democrats that, if they re-elected her as speaker, she’d deliver a “blue wave” in the 2018 midterm election.
According to new reports from both Democrats and Republican insiders, that wave looks like it’s slowed to a trickle… which means Pelosi is just weeks away from being fired from her leadership position.
In the closing stretch of the 2018 campaign, the question is no longer the size of the Democratic wave. It’s whether there will be a wave at all.
Top operatives in both political parties concede that Democrats’ narrow path to the Senate majority has disappeared, a casualty of surging Republican enthusiasm across GOP strongholds. At the same time, leading Democrats now fear the battle for the House majority will be decided by just a handful of seats.
“It’s always been an inside straight, and it still is,” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said of Democrats’ outlook in the Senate, where they need to pick up two seats while holding on to several others in Republican-leaning states to seize the majority. “If it had been a different year, with a different map, we might have had a terrific sweep. That would be a long shot.”
Pelosi has already been undersiege by Democrats in her own party. Now, it’s almost certain she’s going to face the firing squad on Nov. 7th.
Republican candidates locked in tight races from New York to Nevada find themselves in stronger-than-expected positions because of a bump in President Donald Trump’s popularity, the aftermath of a divisive Supreme Court fight, and the sudden focus on a caravan of illegal immigrants threatening to break through the U.S. border.
Excuses have already begun circulating among liberal leaders.
“It’s still much closer than people think, with a surprise or two in the wings,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, told The Associated Press.
The midterm elections will decide whether Republicans maintain control of Congress for the final two years of Trump’s first term. Even if Democrats lose the Senate and win the House, they could still block much of Trump’s agenda and use subpoena power to launch what Trump-backers call frivolous investigations. Some in the party’s far-left wing have also vowed to impeach the president, while others promise to roll back the Republican tax cuts and expand Obamacare.
Public and private polling, however, suggests the GOP is getting more excited as Nov. 6 approaches.
“Republican enthusiasm doesn’t quite equal the white-hot enthusiasm of Democratic voters, but the Kavanaugh hearings got it pretty close,” said GOP consultant Whit Ayres.
He also attributes the party’s strong position on an unusual Senate map. Democrats are defending 26 seats of the 35 seats in play, including 10 in states that Trump carried in 2016. Ayres calls it “maybe the most Republican-leaning map of our lifetimes.”
He expects the GOP to maintain the Senate majority, perhaps adding a seat or two to its current 51-49 edge. Others have begun to envision the GOP picking up as many as four or five new seats.
Sponsored: Is there a “Second Bible”? (shocking)
Democrats, meanwhile, have effectively protected their Senate candidates in states across the Midwest — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — that helped give Trump the presidency in 2016. They are increasingly pessimistic about picking up any seats, however.
The Tennessee Senate contest, in particular, has shifted sharply in Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s direction in recent weeks, while Democratic pickup opportunities in Arizona and Nevada are now considered toss-ups. In a measure of the deep uncertainty that has defined the Trump era, only one Democratic incumbent — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp — is seen as most in danger of losing.
After Heitkamp, Democrats facing the greatest risk of defeat are Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and perhaps Bill Nelson of Florida. Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke has shattered fundraising records and developed a national following, but polls have consistently given Republican Sen. Ted Cruz a significant lead against him.
In the race for the House, both sides acknowledge the prospect of a wipeout-style wave that Pelosi had promised is quickly shrinking.
Republican lawmakers are increasingly optimistic, in part because of Trump’s recent performance as the GOP’s campaigner in chief.
Republicans say the president, who normally shoots from the hip, has been surprisingly on-message during his campaign events. Trump is touting the strong economy and doubling down on the Kavanaugh fight to promote his efforts to fill courts with conservative jurists.
On a conference call last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., urged rank-and-file lawmakers to pony up extra cash and help for tough races. They see hopeful signs in Iowa, Florida and Kansas.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., emerged from the call saying it’s going to be a “dogfight” to the finish.
Fall asleep in minutes with this 2-second trick [sponsored]
A conservative super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, which is expected to spend $100 million before Election Day, highlighted the shifting landscape in a memo to donors.
“The polling momentum that began with the Supreme Court confirmation hearings has continued, and the environment has continued to improve,” wrote Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund. Still, he wrote, “20 races that will decide the majority remain a coin-flip.”
That kind of news is likely causing Pelosi a lot of sleepless nights.
The Associated Press contributed to this article