New Data: Afghanistan is Killing Democratic Polling Numbers

This is a monologue from my radio show. You can subscribe to my newsletter for premium content here.

A firefight broke out around the airport. Sky News and the BBC News are both saying it's been worse there now than at any moment in the last year. The situation continues to erode and this is all on Joe Biden. The British are furious with Joe Biden. He's been condemned by the British House of Commons. They have ruled him in contempt of the House. The British Prime Minister is openly criticizing Biden and the British Military is ignoring American allied force leaders saying they will do everything they can to rescue who they please. Biden has created an international crisis.

The striking thing about it is that this started last weekend. So we're more than a week into this and we're still having to talk about it as the big story because it is the big story. But now there is some sideline stories that are becoming big stories about to overshadow this. In fact, probably the biggest news of the day is an NBC News poll. We can all be skeptical of polling, but if the trends for all of the polls are going in the same direction, we should notice particularly the one that tends to skew Democrats more than all the others. So in the NBC News poll, and it skews Democrat more than the other polls, the question of who should control Congress is 47 Democrat, 46 Republican among all voters.

If you are a long-time listener of this program, you know this and you're smarter than your neighbors. If you're a new listener, you're about to be smarter than all your neighbors. Polling of all Americans tends to skew Democrat. Why? Americans overall tend to be more sympathetic to the Democratic Party. They tend to lean slightly left on fiscal and social issues. Registered voters do too, but not to the same degree. Now, the reason all Americans do is because younger people tend to be more liberal. They become more conservative as they get old. So registered voters tend to be older so it shifts to the GOP but still leans Democrat.

You have to get to a likely voter pool to get something that's a semblance as a reality, and even then it can be one or two points in the direction of the Democrats. Lately of course, all the polling has been screwed up. Everybody knows the polling is screwed up. It really is striking. So we need to have an NBC News poll of all voters, that is all registered voters that leans Democrat by 4 points with a 2.9% margin of error and the Democrats and Republicans are tied. That means a majority of Americans want the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives.

In fact, Harry Enten at CNN has this:

Republicans gained a seat in the Connecticut State Senate this week. They won a special election in a district that President Joe Biden won by more than 20 points in 2020. Any individual special election such as this one comes with its caveats. But the trend in special state elections this year is becoming noticeable. Republicans are doing better than they were the beginning of the year and it could foretell their party's successes in 2022. Across more than 30 special state legislative and federal elections during the Biden presidency, Republicans are doing four points better on average than former President Donald Trump did in the same districts last year.

Some of these races include multiple Democrat or Republican candidates running at the same time in what is known as a jungle election. If we focus only on non-jungle races, Republicans are outperforming the 2020 presidential baseline by three points. Either way you look at it, there's been a slight Republican overperformance compared to where things stood last year. Such a change is not too large. Remember, too, that Trump lost nationally by four points.

So a four-point swing towards Republicans suggests a neutral national environment, but this would likely be enough for Republicans to take back the U.S. House of Representatives, especially considering that they are in a good position for redistricting. What jumps out as the trend? When you look at the first 17 special elections this year, Republican overperformance over Trump was just a point. Examining the last 17 special elections, the overperformance has been 7 points. When you splice the data even further, Republicans have been outperforming the 2020 baseline by double digits since the beginning of July, before Afghanistan.

It shouldn't be too surprising if the Republican overperformance does hold. Back in 2009, there was a big movement away from Democrats in special elections towards the middle of the year. This foretold Republicans doing very well in the 2010 midterms. The one thing that is clear is that the special elections this year looked nothing like they did four years ago at this point. Back then, Democrats were outperforming Hillary Clinton by 14 points in the average state special elections and federal elections.

Here in Georgia where I am, there is a house district. It leans Republican barely, Trump barely won it. It's in a part of the State of Georgia, Cobb County, that is trending towards the Democrats. Kelly Loeffler, the former Senator here in Georgia who lost the runoff when Republicans didn't show up in January, formed an outside group to essentially do what Stacy Abrams does. Her group went into that district, poured in resources on targeting voters. The candidate did as well. The Republicans did as well. The candidate swept into office.

But it's not just here in Georgia. It's happening around the country. From Texas to New England, Republicans are winning special elections. Importantly, they're winning by high margins in swing districts, which is the special elections, you can't take any special election and interpret anything, but you can certainly take the pattern of special elections total and say something is happening that is not good for the Democrats. In fact, the polling is cratering for Joe Biden. In that NBC News poll that is hostile to the GOP generally, Joe Biden's popularity has cratered eight points in the last week.

For the first time in his presidency, Biden’s negatives are above his positives of the Real Clear Politics polling average, which is a more reliable indicator of the state of things than any individual poll.

This is from the New York Times. When the New York Times and Reid Epstein are reporting this, you know there's a problem for the Democrats.

From the New York Times:

Democrats fear that if the pandemic or the situation in Afghanistan continues to worsen, their party may lose the confidence of the moderate swing voters who lifted it to victory in 2020. With President Biden facing a political crisis that has shaken his standing in his party, Democrats across the country are increasingly worried about their ability to maintain power in Washington as his administration struggles to defend this chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and staunch resurgence of a pandemic that appeared to be waning weeks ago.

While Americans watched devastating screams of mayhem at the Kabul Airport and ascendant Taliban forces last week, the steady drumbeat of bipartisan criticism left many Democrats frustrated and dismayed at the White House, they viewed as having fumbled the end of the country's longest war on multiple fronts.

Now, I'm going to skip down to this nugget, this gem.

Interviews with more than 40 Democrats, lawmakers, strategists, and party officials show a White House at a pivot point. If the virus continues to worsen or the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates further, many of the president's allies fear he will lose the confidence of the moderate swing voters who lifted his party to victory in 2020. Already, Democrats in battleground districts have been sounding alarms that the party needs to become more aggressive with their messaging, particularly on the economy and efforts to combat the surging coronavirus.

There are plenty of other reasons for Democrats to be worried. Historically, the president's party loses seats in the midterm elections and the Republican advantage in redistricting has only increased those odds. For many establishment Democrats, the Taliban's rapid seizure of Afghanistan was the first time during Biden's administration they found themselves creating any daylight between and the president.

"I consider Afghanistan a boneheaded mistake, unforced error," said David Walters, a former Oklahoma governor, who is now a member of the Democratic National Committee's executive committee. "There's no real excuse. It was morally and politically a disaster and just bad policy."

Now, I skipped over something here. First of all, notice they say, if they don't change, they're going to be hurt with moderate, independent voters. They already are being hurt. But I skipped over something. I read it to you. I don't know how many of you caught it. I'm going to go back to the very first sentence and it subtly gives away the entire game of just how bad Joe Biden's problems are.

“With President Biden facing a political crisis that has shaken his standing in his party, Democrats across the country are increasingly worried about their ability to maintain power in Washington as his administration struggles to defend his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and staunch resurgent pandemic that appear to be waning only weeks ago.”

That's one whole sentence. The entire paragraph is one sentence. Let me go back to the first clause, “With President Biden facing a political crisis that has shaken his standing in his party.” This is a story not about Joe Biden and the public. This is a story about Joe Biden and his party. What have I been telling you? What was the reason Joe Biden became the nominee of the Democratic Party? They viewed him as the best person to beat Trump. Why? He was the only Democrat who could hold the Democratic Party together and bring in the independent suburban voters who hated Trump. He has now lost the independent voters who hated Donald Trump. They're gone. They do not like him anymore. They don't like inflation. They don't like the viral surge. They don't like what's happening to the economy. They are not happy with Joe Biden, period, end of story. They are not happy with Joe Biden.

Independent voters are turning rapidly back to the GOP. You've got Reuters/Ipsos has he down three, NBC News has him up two. Economist/YouGov has him tied. All of the polling has Joe Biden negative on Afghanistan and tied or negative on the economy. There's no way moving forward for Joe Biden right now.

Again, the New York Times’ lead story on this is about Joe Biden's standing in his party. If Joe Biden is not standing well inside his own party, there is no one there standing in the void. The Democratic Party craters. They break up. They play the blame game. Their hero, Andrew Cuomo is announcing his departure and will leave the scene. Leaving his dog behind apparently at the Governor's Mansion. There's no one in the Democratic Party right now who could unite them except Joe Biden. Now the Democrats themselves are turning on him. Good news for the GOP, and honestly, good news for the country if the Republicans get back in charge.