Will the 2014 midterms be another wave election for Congress? Don’t bet on it, according to a review of NBC/Wall Street Journal polling.
Until last year, the past three election cycles all produced significant shifts in the House. In 2006, Democrats netted 30 seats to win control of the House. Their streak continued in 2008, when they added 23 seats. Ahead of those elections, Democrats had a double-digit lead in NBC’s generic ballot test. In 2006, voters said they preferred Democrats by a 10-point margin, and in 2008 they were ahead of the GOP by 14 points.
But when Republicans have any lead in the generic ballot, they win big. In 2010, Republicans may have only led by two points over Democrats, but that didn’t matter – they swept up 63 total seats in that historic wave election.
It’s still over a year away before next year’s midterms, but the numbers aren’t on Democrats’ side yet for the 17 seats they need to win back the House. In 2013 so far, Democrats are up just three points, and Republicans are still heavily favored to retain control.
Democrats couldn’t have picked a worse time in 2010 for massive losses, either. Republicans won control of the partisan redistricting processes in many states, helping solidify once-vulnerable seats in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. With a now-condensed playing field, until the next reapportionment, massive shifts look even more unlikely.
Our NBC polls have other nuggets that are both good and bad for each party. Why are Republicans optimistic heading into 2014, as they not only look to keep the House but pick up the six seats they need to win the Senate? Since 2010, they’ve seen an increase across the board in John McCain/Mitt Romney voters, core GOP voters, Tea Party supporters, white independent voters, and senior support. President Obama has also seen a steady slip in his own poll numbers, especially with core Democratic voters, ahead of 2014 – always an ominous sign in a second-term midterm election, when the president’s party has historically lost House seats.
For Democrats, their biggest net positive is from the gains they’ve made, and built on, with female voters. The Democrats’ edge with women voters has more than doubled since 2010, from six points to 15 points, with Democrats consistently hammering Republicans over social issues, alleging a “war on women.” In 2010, Democrats only held a slim 47%-41% advantage, but in 2013 they lead 51%-36%. Among white women, Democrats erased a seven point deficit during their 2010 losses and now have a one point edge. If the GOP slide continues – a key factor in Romney’s loss in 2012 – it’s a bad sign for Republicans.
Watch The Daily Rundown host Chuck Todd and our Thursday gaggle in the above clip, including former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers and Washington Post reporters David Nakamura and Reid Wilson discuss the polling and what it means for elections and partisanship.
NBC’s Mark Murray contributed to this report.