Democrats lead Trump's Republicans by 15 points in Fox News poll

Next year's midterms could shake up Washington 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Thursday 26 October 2017 15:17 BST
Mr Trump and Mr McConnell have done little to hide their dislike for each other
Mr Trump and Mr McConnell have done little to hide their dislike for each other (Getty)

Democrats lead Republicans by as many as 15 points, according to a new poll, a finding that heaps fresh problems on a party struggling to push forward its legislative agenda.

Nine months after Donald Trump entered the White House and a year away from midterms polls that will decide who runs the House and Senate, the poll gave Democrats a 50-35 lead in a hypothetical match-up.

People were asked if the election for the two houses of Congress were today – a third of the Senate seats and all of those in the House are to be contested in 2018 – which party’s candidate they would vote for.

A year ago, the same question showed voters more or less split evenly, with 45 per cent saying they would vote for a Democrat, and 45 per cent saying they would vote Republican.

Experts warned that although the poll suggested a large lead for the Democrats, the actual vote was still another 12 months ago.

“Look, nobody knows which pollster is right, but I have to say this is by far the largest advantage Democrats have achieved in any survey,” said Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.

“Personally I doubt it’s that high. Right now I’d put it at upper single digits. That’s what a polling average would suggest. And that’s not enough for a Democratic takeover of the House - 15 per cent would be enough for a takeover.”

The Hill said that generic ballots, where the names of candidates are not mentioned, are considered an important bellwether for how a party's candidates will fare in an election. The results of the Fox News poll would suggest the Republicans have much to worry about as they prepare for next year's ballots.

Republicans are frustrated that at this stage in the political term they have virtually nothing to show to voters; indeed, the party’s most significant achievement may have been the confirmation of Supreme Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Jeff Flake: I don't think removing Trump from office is a justifiable remedy

Meanwhile, on issues such as healthcare and tax reform, Republicans have failed to make progress, even though they control not just the White House but both houses of congress.

Democrats think they have a real shot at winning back the House and Senate next year, though the second is probably a tougher challenge. Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats, 10 of them in states won by Mr Trump, while Republicans are defending only nine seats.

Yet, the Republicans plight has been made more difficult by the announcement from Mr Trump’s former top strategist, Steve Bannon, that he is to back an “insurgent” Republican candidate in each of the Senate seats being contested, other than that held by Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr Bannon says his challenge to the mainstream Republicans, headed by Senator Mitch McConnell, is designed to try and support Mr Trump and his populist agenda. But the impact will be to promote hardcore candidates, such as former judge Roy Moore, who may struggle to win over enough voters in the general election. That is certainly the hope of Democrats, desperate for a win after last year’s shock defeat to Mr Trump.

Several mainstream Republicans, including Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, have announced they are not going to run for re-election next year.

Earlier this week, in a speech on the Senate floor, Mr Flake blamed the President for defiling politics and posing a threat to democracy.

“Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘Tell it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified,” he said.

Dr Jeanne Zaino, political scientist at Iona College, said the poll gave an unusually large lead to the Democrats. Yet she said, because Republicans controlled both houses of congress and the White House, there was probably a wish among American voters to spread power around.

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