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Democrats' midterm fate probably isn't tied to Nancy Pelosi

Republicans are trying to turn the midterms on their head. Instead of the ...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 1:28 PM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 1:28 PM

Republicans are trying to turn the midterms on their head. Instead of the expected referendum on a still relatively unpopular Republican president, Republicans are hoping to bring Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi to the forefront.

It's not a bad idea: Pelosi's favorable rating runs about 20 percentage points behind her unfavorable rating. But will the strategy work?

It's possible, but midterm elections over the last 25 years suggest that Republicans are facing an uphill battle.

Consider the final pre-election polling in each midterm since 1994. When you look at the net favorability rating (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) of the House leader of the party in opposition to the president, there's been basically no correlation with how the House midterms turned out. When you look at the difference in the net favorability of the House leader of the party in control of the White House and the net favorability of the House leader of the opposition party, there's been basically no correlation with how the House midterms turned out.

This is despite the party in charge of the White House running against a number of unpopular House leaders of the opposition in previous elections. Democrats tried to run against Newt Gingrich in 1994 and 1998. They did the same in 2010 and 2014 against John Boehner. Their record is at best mixed, as the president's popularity has been the most important factor.

  • 1994: Gingrich sported a net favorability of -8 percentage points in a CNN survey conducted in late October. That made him far less popular than Democratic House leader (and Speaker) Tom Foley, whose favorable rating was above his unfavorable rating in two surveys conducted earlier in the month. Gingrich's popularity was about on par with that of Democratic President Bill Clinton. In the end, Republicans picked up 54 House seats and control of the chamber.

  • 1998: Newt Gingrich was even less popular than in 1994. His net favorability rating was -24 percentage points in the exit poll that year, and his party became one of the few opposition parties to lose House seats in a midterm election. But while it is easy to assign House Republican problems to Gingrich's unpopularity, remember that Clinton's net approval rating at the time was about +35 percentage points -- about the highest for any president going into a midterm election since World War II.

2010: Boehner was not a popular man. His net favorability rating in CNN and ABC News/Washington Post polls over the final week of the election averaged -7 percentage points. That made him about as popular as Democratic President Barack Obama. Did it matter that Boehner wasn't super popular? No. Republicans won 63 seats and control of the House. Now, perhaps Republicans were helped additionally by the unpopularity of then-Speaker Pelosi, whose net favorability rating was south of -20 percentage points, which was a significant decline from her positive ratings before the 2006 midterm, when Democrats took control of the House. But again, the common theme is that the president's popularity is driving the results.

  • 2014: Like Gingrich before him, Boehner was more unpopular after a few years as speaker. An October 2014 survey conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications put Boehner's net favorability at -24 percentage points. That was about equal to Pelosi's rating of -25 percentage points. It was far below the quite unpopular Obama's net approval rating of -16 percentage points in the same survey. In the end, it was Obama's net approval rating that mattered most. Democrats lost over a dozen seats.

Now, 2018 may turn out to be different from these previous elections. A sample size of six is quite small, and Pelosi's net favorability rating remains low. But one additional factor to consider is that it's not like House Speaker Paul Ryan is all that popular, either. In a CNN survey taken late last year, Pelosi and he had very similar net favorability ratings.

Of course, at the end of the day, the most important number to watch heading into the midterms is Trump's approval rating. His net approval rating in the last CNN poll, for example, was -15 percentage points. Republicans better hope that it continues to rise -- because if it doesn't it could be a long night.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
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