With the generic ballot getting tighter and Republican candidates increasingly pulling ahead in some races, the liberal media’s prediction (really more of a promise) of a “blue wave” seemed to be in jeopardy. But during Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC, moderator Chuck Todd was holding out hope for the wave as he kicked off the panel discussion with reams of favorable numbers from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll recently released.
“Presidential job approval connected to seats lost in the first midterm, we go back, here's President Trump sitting at 47 percent. That seems to be an improvement for him. What would 47 percent job rating mean in the past when it comes to a midterm result,” Todd prefaced. His goal was to point out that President Trump could still lose control of the House.
According to their polling data, Obama had a similar approval rating in 2010 and lost the House to the Tea Party. “Bill Clinton in 1994 in this same period of time in October had a 48 percent approval rating and lost 54 seats,” he added. “So, Peggy Noonan, should Republicans feel better or worse this morning when they look at the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll?”
Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist, suggested that “the good news for Republicans” was that the liberal media were not hyping the “blue wave” like they were. “[W]e were talking about a blue wave that we knew was coming and who is going to be very significant. We're not quite talking that way anymore,” she said.
But that admission aside, Noonan wasn’t sure the Republicans were in the clear. She noted that despite “peace and prosperity or economic growth”, Trump was “struggling to get to 50 percent which in the approval polls, which if you can't, is a drag on all of your people.”
A short time later, Todd turned to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson with another set of poll results on the issues that he suggested spelled doom for the GOP in November. Todd wrote off the issues where Republicans led Democrats and wanted his guest to “look at this advantage for Democrats among those who care about health care which is, with the economy, one of the top two issues and it's a 47 percent advantage for Democrats.”
Robinson wasn’t sure about the future of the “blue wave” but his analysis was that the Democrats really needed to get their base out to vote and the same for Republicans.
To suggest NBC News was doing their due diligence with their latest poll, Todd touted how they looked for people who didn’t like either party to see how they broke, like those who didn’t like Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“Look at this number here in October, among those that are negative on both, it is suddenly an open break here towards the Democrats, 59-17,” Todd touted to Noonan noting the gap had grown very large in just a month. “That is what we saw with Donald Trump [in 2016]…”
The problem with that number? The margin of error. According to the on-screen graphic, the margin of error for that poll was a massive 9.5 percent. For comparison, pollsters were usually fine with an MOE between two and three points (of course, the lower the better). Anything above that is taken with a grain of salt up to about five. 9.5 doesn’t just mean the number is somewhere in there, it’s indicative of a huge problem with the sample. Typically it means a low amount of responses.
In a shocking turn, NBC journalist and anchor Katy Tur threw water on the hopes of a blue wave. “I do think there is an argument to be made for people telling pollsters one thing but believing another thing,” Tur explained.
“And I hate to be Debbie downer for Democrats”, she said before catching her blunder. “Or for Republican or for anyone or for the standard messaging, I should say.” According to Tur, Democrats should worry because “this feels a lot like 2016.” She warned that all of their confident talk could be overstated and there could be a groundswell for Trump and Republicans.
The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:
Meet the Press
October 21, 2018
10:55:41 a.m. Eastern ridiculous
CHUCK TODD: Let put this sort of -- put it a little bit of historical context here. Presidential job approval connected to seats lost in the first midterm, we go back, here's President Trump sitting at 47 percent. That seems to be an improvement for him. What would 47 percent job rating mean in the past when it comes to a midterm result? President Obama had exactly that. A 47 percent job approval rating in 2010. His party lost 63 seats. Bill Clinton in 1994 in this same period of time in October had a 48 percent approval rating and lost 54 seats. So, Peggy Noonan, should Republicans feel better or worse this morning when they look at the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll?
PEGGY NOONAN: I think they should feel as confused as everybody else. The good news for Republicans is only six months ago, I think, we were talking about a blue wave that we knew was coming and who is going to be very significant. We're not quite talking that way anymore. It looks kind of more interesting and complicated and state by state. The continuing mystery that is not a mystery is how a president and an administration can have what is essentially peace and prosperity or economic growth and no new wars and still be struggling to get to 50 percent which in the approval polls, which if you can't, is a drag on all of your people. It just is the central fact I think of the coming election.
KATY TUR: That is if you accept standard political gravity and I don't think you can do that with Donald Trump. I do think there is an argument to be made for people telling pollsters one thing but believing another thing.
TUR: And I think people should be wary of this going forward. I mean, it just feels a lot like – And I hate to be Debbie downer for Democrats – or for Republican or for anyone or for the standard messaging, I should say. But this feels a lot like 2016. It feels a lot like how everyone was talking in 2016. The Democrats going to win, it's going to be a landslide, Donald Trump is going to pull down Republicans, there's no way they're ever going to win. When you go out and talk to people on the road, they talk about health care a lot, but they're not necessarily talking about, when you talk to a variety of people, how much they hate Donald Trump.
TODD: Let me put up the issue numbers. These are the gaps on the generic ballot among those who say the economy is number one. Republicans have a 28 point advantage in the generic ballot. Among those that say immigration is their top issue, they have a 19 percent advantage. Those on the Republican side. But look at this advantage for Democrats among those who care about health care which is, with the economy, one of the top two issues and it's a 47 percent advantage for Democrats.
EUGENE ROBINSON: And that's what -- that's why Democrats are going to keep talking about health care and pre-existing conditions. You're going to hear that phrase until it's ringing in your ears. There still could be a blue wave or might not be any wave at all. The only thing that feels like 2016, to me, is the squishiness. And the big uncertainty is for Democrats to do really, really well, Democratic voters have to do something they don't usually do, which is vote in midterms and so people who don't usually vote in midterms have to come out. For Republicans to hold on, they actually have to do the same thing, even though Republicans do vote in midterms. The Trump base is not made of – the hardcore base is not the regular voters. He brought out people who don't often or usually vote, regularly vote and they have to come out in the midterm.
TODD: You know Peggy, I want to point out one other thing. One of the missing pieces of analysis in 2016 that we didn't surface in time that I think would have helped us understand the election better, which was where people were leaning that didn't like both Clinton and Trump and he won those both voters.
Well, I wanted to put this graphic up. These are people that don't like either political party now. In September the split between who did they want to be in control of Congress among people were negative on both parties was advantage Democrats, but narrowly 43 - 38. Look at this number here in October, among those that are negative on both, it is suddenly an open break here towards the Democrats, 59-17. That is what we saw with Donald Trump, Peggy. It was narrow in September, October came, and the ones that were negative on both broke heavily towards Donald Trump. What does that tell you?
NOONAN: Now it's breaking heavily towards the Democrats in general, towards that kind of thing. I don't know exactly what it means. My sense in this campaign – in a way to bop off something you said Katy, is that there are a lot of different local issues coming up that have something to do with the overall trend.