While many elections have been decided based on things like the economy, war, and taxes, the result of the 2018 midterms will be decided by one question: will voters come out to rebuke President Donald Trump?
Historically, midterm elections have been bad for sitting presidents. In 2010, Democrats got slaughtered in the midterms just two years after President Barack Obama overwhelmingly defeated Sen. John McCain. In 2006, Republicans lost both chambers of Congress for the first time in over a decade under President George W. Bush. In 1994, Democrats lost both chambers of Congress to Republicans in a massive wave after two years of President Bill Clinton.
But while all three of the most recent presidents suffered huge defeats in the midterms, not one of them had an approval rating anywhere near as abysmal as Trump’s.
According to recent polls, Trump’s approval rating is consistently well under 40 percent while around 55 to 60 percent of Americans say the disapprove of the job he’s doing.
Trump’s 20-point disapproval gap is far worse than Obama’s, which was about even at this point, Clinton’s minus-six, and even Bush’s minus-16 in 2006.
According to CNN, voters have specifically come out to vote against the sitting president rather than an individual Senator or Congressman. In 2010, 84 percent of voters who disapproved of Obama voted Republican. In 2006, 82 percent of voters who disapproved of Bush voted Democrat.
In fact, in 2006, Democrats won 19 of 20 Senate races in states where Bush’s approval rating was under 45 percent. Similarly, Republicans won 13 out of 15 states where Obama’s approval rating was under 47 percent in 2010.
Trump’s approval rating has already been a source of headaches for Republican candidates even in deep-red states like Alabama, where Republican Roy Moore became the first Republican to lose the state in 25 years.
Trump won the state with 62 percent of the vote in 2016, but according to exit polls in last month’s election, just 48 percent of voters said they approved of the job Trump is doing.
Democrats still face a number of challenges, particularly the trend of lower turnout among minority and young voters in midterm elections, districts that have been gerrymandered by Republican legislatures, and the fact that Democrats are defending twice as many Senate seats in 2018 as Republicans. But as Alabama showed, Democratic voters are motivated to turn out, even in states that are traditionally Republican-led and have strict voter ID laws that depress turnout.
According to a CNN poll, 84 percent of voters who approve of Trump intend to vote for the GOP. Likewise, 83 percent of voters who disapprove of Trump intend to vote for Democrats. That may seem even, until you look at how many more people there are that disapprove. The CNN poll, for example, found that just 36 percent approve while 59 percent disapprove. That’s a massive gap.
“One thing that is true in all 50 states is Democrats don’t need to be afraid of Donald Trump,” veteran pollster Geoff Garin told CNN. “And that goes for the reddest of red states where Democrats are defending Senate seats. It is safe to say in every part of the country voters want to elect people who will be independent of Trump and who will stand up to him when necessary.”