We’ve been talking for months about the persistent gap between the two key numbers for the midterms: President Biden’s job approval and the performance of Democrats in the generic congressional ballot.
In late July, for example, Biden’s average approval hit a truly dismal 35.4 percent in our average of polls, while Democrats were riding at 43 percent on the question of which party voters generally preferred to control Congress. A delta of this size looked like a political impossibility because of the (very unhealthy) degree to which American politics is personified in our presidents. In our idolatrous politics, presidents and, now, former presidents are the golden calves.
Presidential approval and the generic ballot are the most reliable predictors of midterm performance, and the two are closely correlated. At this point in most midterm cycles, an unpopular president and his unpopular party are underwater with voters and heading for a very predictable thumping. But that wasn’t holding … until now.
Biden’s droopy numbers were mostly a result of disaffection among Democrats. But after a series of moves designed to suck up to his base, particularly framing the midterms as part of his ongoing micturating contest with Donald Trump, Biden has brought a bunch of Democrats home. But these were mostly not persuadable voters. We know that because Biden’s job approval is up more than 7 points since late July while Democrats generically have improved by less than half as much.