- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2018

Republican campaigns across the country are reeling from internal polling that increasingly shows a blue wave is building for the midterm elections, and they fear President Trump’s performance on the stump is not helping.

“We are all in deep depression right now,” said a prominent Republican Party pollster who did not want to be identified speaking critically about the president.

In races that will decide whether Republicans retain majorities in the House and the Senate, polling data confirm that Democratic voters are more enthusiastic than Republicans and that independents are leaning away from the Republican Party.

“It is not just me, but everybody is getting back bad numbers. The pendulum is definitely swinging against us,” said the Republican pollster. “It could be turned around, but right now the Democrats are ready to send the president a message.”

The trend emerged in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which found that 52 percent of registered voters want Democrats to take control of Congress, compared with 40 percent who want Republicans in the majority.

The Democrats’ 12-point advantage is up from 8 points in August, and it is the largest voter preference for a Democrat-run Congress in the poll since Mr. Trump took office.

One bright spot in the data for Republicans was a narrowing of the enthusiasm gap, with 61 percent of Republican voters saying they have high interest in the election, nearly matching the 65 percent of Democrats. Democrats previously had double-digit leads in voter enthusiasm.

Mr. Trump embarked this month on the most aggressive midterm campaign schedule in recent presidential history. He hopes to jolt his supporters out of a complacency that often afflicts the president’s party in midterm elections and almost always results in the party losing House and Senate seats.

The president’s party lost seats in all but two midterm elections since the Civil War. The opposing party averages a pickup of 32 House seats and two Senate seats.

Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to take over the House and two seats to take over the Senate.

Mr. Trump continues to excite his base at huge “Make America Great Again” rallies, but his message has not moved the needle in crucial races.

His stump speech is dominated by a recitation of Trump administration accomplishments. Part of the problem for Republicans is a disconnect between Mr. Trump and voters about the nature of those accomplishments.

“We have the best economy in our history,” the president said at a rally last week in Nevada. It is a standard line in his stump speech.

Despite a low unemployment rate, rising household income and soaring stock markets, Americans either don’t agree that the boom has reached historic proportions or don’t give Mr. Trump and fellow Republicans credit for it.

Likely voters gave Mr. Trump one of his highest approval ratings for his handling of the economy in a Fox News poll published this week, with 52 percent approval and 42 percent disapproval.

Yet 54 percent of likely voters in the same poll said they were not satisfied with the direction of the country.

In another measure, 42 percent of likely voters said they were getting ahead financially. But a larger share — 45 percent — said they were just able to pay most bills, and 11 percent said they were falling behind, according to the poll.

Last month, a Rasmussen Reports survey found that more Americans — 47 percent — were giving Mr. Trump credit for the economic upswing. But nearly as many — 42 percent — gave the credit to his predecessor, Barack Obama.

On the stump, Mr. Trump boasts about progress toward North Korean denuclearization and his prowess on the world stage.

“America is winning again, winning like never before, and America is being respected again because we are finally putting America first,” he said at a campaign rally Friday in Springfield, Missouri.

A recent CNN poll found that 36 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s handling of foreign affairs, while 56 percent disapprove.

His rating on foreign affairs has been relatively consistent since he took office in January 2017 and never registered above 40 percent.

Mr. Trump touts the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, including beginning construction of a wall on the southwestern border that was a top campaign promise in 2016.

He is also in negative territory on the immigration issue. Among likely midterm voters, 42 percent approve of Mr. Trump’s handling of immigration and 54 percent disapprove, accordion to the Fox News poll.

Mr. Trump isn’t sweating the polls — at least not in public.

In Missouri, he mused about his unexpected win in 2016 when most in the news media were betting he would lose in a landslide, including in Republican strongholds such as Georgia and Texas.

“You know why? Because they’re phony polls. They have phony polls,” said Mr. Trump.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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