Trump Is Heading In The Right Direction | Opinion

No one can be sure how the November election will turn out. Conventional wisdom still has it as a probable victory for the Democrats, short of a big blue wave perhaps, but nevertheless something that can be spun as a defeat for President Donald Trump.

The media war on Trump (and Trump's war on the media) has been in full flow since his inauguration. Certain folks in the White House press corps have been just as antagonistic toward the president and his spokespeople as he's been against them. And that's coloring the way people view the election, a trend Rasmussen Reports identified in a poll released last Thursday showing a near-majority of likely voters think the national media is "trying to help the Democrats" win congressional seats away from the GOP.

Of the 1,000 likely voters queried in late October, 45 percent said "when most reporters write about a congressional race, they are trying to help the Democratic candidate. Just 11 percent think they're trying to help the Republican instead. Only 35 percent think most reporters are just trying to report the news in an unbiased manner," Rasmussen reported.

We do know that the number of people voting early, a process that just began in a number of states, is up over what it was at the last midterm election. No one knows how these people are voting, but where partisan breakdowns of the voting are available, the Republicans are outpolling Democrats in six of seven key states, the lone exception being Nevada. That doesn't argue in favor of a GOP sweep but is one more metric arguing against the "big, blue wave."

Which issues are people voting on? Again, no one can be sure, but Rasmussen says it's Trump, illegal immigration, Obamacare, and the economy—issues that all do more for the Republicans than the Democrats. Of the 1,000 likely voters surveyed October 23 and 24, 30 percent said Trump was "the most important issue to their vote in the upcoming elections." The economy, which is surging, was in second place as the most important issue followed by "illegal immigration" and Obamacare.

None of that is definitive, and it's dangerous to make predictions from this alone, but all are issues that one might believe carry more weight among voters aligned with the president than those opposed to his initiatives. This may help explain why the polls are so tight in the 60 or so congressional seats where the outcome is uncertain. In those seats, the generic ballot is essentially tied, despite the Democrats having a lead nationally. This may be because the Republicans who back Trump and the Republicans who don't—but who back his policies (or at least approve of the outcomes)—may be coming together with the same intensity the anti-Trump coalition has behind it.

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an election rally in Murphysboro, Illinois on October 27, 2018. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

What's changed to bring this about? Some say it's "the Kavanaugh effect," a reference to the way Republican voters were energized by the rough treatment Democrats gave to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, but it's likely more than that. The best metric for predicting the outcome of an election remains the right direction, wrong track question, which, while not offering a ringing endorsement of continued GOP control of Congress, does offer more good news than bad.

"For the third week in a row," Rasmussen said in a survey released Monday, "43 percent of likely U.S. voters think the country is heading in the right direction. This finding has been running in the 40s for most weeks this year after being in the mid to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office."

Breaking those numbers down it appears more of the country (among likely voters anyway) are happier with Trump in charge of the country than they were with Obama. Having the former president out on the campaign trail claiming credit for the good economic numbers, as has been the case recently, may be hurting the Democrats in swing districts more than it has been helping them.

The most likely result come November? The nation remains closely divided, with Trump country going hard for the GOP, while the states and districts Clinton carried outperform their traditional midterm numbers in favor of Democrats.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff is has written extensively about politics, culture, and the media for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and various other publications. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@GMAIL.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​

Trump Is Heading In The Right Direction | Opinion | Opinion