CNN online recently pronounced the “Blue Wave,” that surge purported to sweep Democrats into all sorts of impending mid-term offices, was DOA. And they used polling numbers to “prove” their point.
But a few suddenly tight races doth not the death of a movement make. If there’s anything we learned from the 2016 presidential race it’s that polls can no longer be trusted. And Yes! Donald Trump is seeing somewhat of an approval rating resurgence, but you can always count on death, taxes and the President sticking his foot in his mouth at every turn.
Meanwhile our CNN analyst went out of his way to ignore a myriad of contradictory evidence.
He generally ignored the significance of the Virginia, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin special elections in which Democrats won in some very Republican districts. That Doug Jones squeaked by Roy Moore by a mere percentage point is immaterial. The fact that a Democrat prevailed in a deep red Alabama district is what can’t be ignored.
Put more simply, if those Blue Wave Democrats win by just one vote, it’s no less a victory.
Then there’s the traditional mid-term backlash in which the party in the White House always takes an electoral hit. Barack Obama’s 44 percent May 2012 approval rating led to a real 2014 Democratic drubbing. Considering Trump’s currently inflated 42 percent approval rating, what do you think is going to happen to all those 2018 mid-term Republicans who vote in lockstep with him?
It ain’t gonna be pretty!
CNN also missed a fascinating underlying trend that Forward Communication did not. For the first time in predominantly Republican Kane County, Illinois, history, 3,000 more Democrats voted in the Sheriff’s primary than Republicans. And despite a hotly contested GOP gubernatorial primary, the Democratic nominee received 1,200 more votes than the Republican incumbent.
As the Chicago Tribune noted, Kane County wasn’t nearly the only Illinois example of this fascinating phenomenon. This is a significant underlying shift that may well permanently alter the local political landscape.
It certainly bodes well for the Blue Wave.
But the CNN analyst’s, and any pundit who relies on polls for prognostication, real problem is they must rely on past behavior to make a prediction. It wouldn’t make much sense to poll people who don’t vote in mid-term elections, now would it?
That means the Blue Wave is impossible to quantify because if it materializes, by definition, it will consist of people who HAVE NEVER done something before. CNN’s biggest error is assuming the Wave will only consist of current voters.
History teaches us those coveted swing voters will lean more Democratic this cycle, but how can you assess how motivated young people, fired up Hispanic voters, and newly energized women will affect an election? The answer is, you can’t! An educated guess based on past behavior is the best anyone can do.
In fact, this was Forward Communication’s biggest challenge in managing a 2018 Kane Countywide candidate. How do you determine the appropriate voter universe when there’s been no real Democratic gubernatorial primary since 2002, there haven’t been many countywide Democratic primaries, and you expect a much more energized progressive voter base?
And campaign managers who put their electoral eggs in that voters-are-going-to-do-something-they’ve-never-done-before basket typically don’t fare too well.
Ah! But by applying historic election data in a unique way and targeting newly registered voters, Forward Communication managed to come up with the kind of reasonable voter universe that beat the previous Democratic nominee by 11 points.
Sorry! I’m sure you understand that we have to save those specific details for our clients.
The bottom line is, for all of the above reasons, CNN’s reports of the Blue Wave’s death are greatly exaggerated. That doesn’t mean Democratic candidates can simply sit back on the political beach and wait for the Wave to wash over them. Whatever long- and short-term trends will come into play in 2018, truly contested elections almost always come down to the candidate who generates the most voter impressions.
And with the right campaign manager, they can take advantage of the impeding Democratic surge.