At first glance, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi don’t seem to have much in common. The San Francisco liberal and the New York populist seem about as different as you can get. One is the pinnacle of political correctness while the other has made a career of flouting societal norms. They do have at least one thing in common, however. New polling that isn’t exactly shocking shows that neither of the two party leaders is popular and that substantial portions of the electorate may show up to vote against them.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found both good news and bad for Republicans. The upside is that six in ten registered voters are satisfied with the economy and most give credit to President Trump, whose approval is up to 44 percent.
The bad news for the GOP is that 48 percent say that they are more likely to support candidates who would be a check to President Trump while only 23 percent say they are less likely to back anti-Trump candidates. Fifty percent wanted a Democrat-controlled Congress versus 40 percent who preferred the GOP. The poll also found an enthusiasm gap with Democrats showing a higher interest in the upcoming midterm elections by 16 points.
Democrats should not take much comfort from the poll’s findings, however. In numbers similar to those of President Trump, 45 percent say that they would be less likely to support a House candidate who supports Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Only 21 percent would be more likely to back congressional candidates who would vote for Pelosi.
The poll also found that Americans are split on the issue of impeachment, but pluralities believe that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and support the Mueller investigation. The top issue for voters was health care at 22 percent, followed closely by jobs and the economy at 19 percent. Guns was a distant third at 13 percent.
As with 2016, the election is shaping up to be an unpopularity contest. The question for many voters will be which party’s leaders they dislike the least.
One advantage that Democratic candidates may have is that it is easier to distance themselves from Ms. Pelosi than it is for Republicans to disavow Mr. Trump. In May, Pelosi said she didn’t care if Democrats opposed her.
“I think if they have to do that to win an election ... I'm all for winning,” she said at a Politico event.
Some Democrats are doing just that. In Pennsylvania’s special election in its 18th district, Conor Lamb won after vowing to oppose Pelosi as speaker. At least four other Democrats have also lined up against Pelosi.
On the other hand, Donald Trump takes politics personally and tends to attack Republicans whose support for him is less than enthusiastic. In many districts, support for Donald Trump, who still has 87 percent approval among Republicans, has become a litmus test for Republican candidates. In Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby, a Trump critic, was forced into a runoff with a former Democrat.
There are many variables at play for the upcoming elections. The economy is good, but the trade war may change that in the coming months. President Trump is personally unpopular, but many of his policies are preferred over those of the Democrats. In the wake of the failure to reform Obamacare, health care looms as the primary concern of many voters.
With both parties unpopular, the outcome of the election is likely to hinge on local issues and the news cycle in the weeks leading up to the midterms. Democratic challengers may have an important advantage in their ability to run as outsiders who oppose both Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump.