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A Warning Against Democratic Complacency from This Week’s Primaries and Opinion Polls

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For a party that is presumed to be heading for disaster in the midterms this November, the G.O.P. had a pretty good week. Its leadership in Congress, which is looking to head off a “blue wave,” received encouraging news on three different fronts: primary results, opinion polls, and fund-raising. On Friday, Charlie Cook, the editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, which is widely read in Washington, posted an analysis under the headline “Glimmers of Hope for the GOP.”

Before examining some of these glimmers, it is important to note that the basic equation hasn’t changed. Several factors that always play key roles in midterm elections—the President’s unpopularity, grassroots mobilization, and the historical tendency for ruling parties to suffer losses—still favor the Democratic Party, particularly in the House, where twenty-three Republicans are defending seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won. To gain control, the Democrats need to flip twenty-four seats.

But there is no room for complacency among Trump’s foes, particularly regarding the prospects in the Senate, where the electoral map strongly favors the G.O.P. Ten Democrats are facing reëlection races in states that Trump carried. The Democrats’ chances of picking up Republican seats are probably limited to four states: Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas.

In last year’s special election for one of Alabama’s Senate seats, the Republicans self-destructed by nominating an accused child molester, Roy Moore. In West Virginia on Tuesday, four out of five voters in the Republican Senate primary voted against Don Blankenship, the former mining C.E.O., who was sentenced to a year in jail after twenty-nine coal miners were killed at one of his mines. The winner was the state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, who will face the incumbent, Joe Manchin, a Democrat. In Indiana and Ohio, where there were two more important Senate primaries, candidates acceptable to the national Republican leadership also prevailed.

On the polling front, a new survey from CNN indicated that the Democrats’ lead in the generic congressional vote is now just three percentage points. A second survey, from Reuters/Ipsos, put the Democrats’ lead at just one point.

To be sure, these findings should be interpreted skeptically. A third survey, from The Economist/YouGov, put the Democrats’ lead at nine points, which represented an increase of six points compared to the previous survey from that pollster. Poll averages, which aggregate the results from all the recent polls, are generally more reliable. The


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