We're now within four weeks of Election Day. Here are four plot lines to ponder as we head closer to the first referendum on the Trump Era.
Enthusiasm Gap. CNN came out with a poll just the other which, if it holds up less than a month from now, is devastating for Republicans: Democrats held a 51%-41% edge on the generic ballot, the party's biggest advantage since the midterm election of 12 years ago.
Accordinmg to Real Clear Politics, the Democratic advantage in the 2018 generic congressional vote is a more manageable 6.9% -- about a point higher than what the latest Economist/YouGov poll shows, but still probably enough to swing control of the House.
The numbers will continue to dance around, but a concept has begun to take root: enthusiasm. For example, there's this poll showing that Republicans have basically pulled even with Democrats on the question of the November election being "very important". In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, the National Republican Congressional Committee (it manages GOP House races) has seen a spike in donations.
Then again, is enthusiasm overrated? At this point in the 2016 election, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Hillary Clinton with more enthusiastic voters than Donald Trump, whose voting base was generally less enthusiastic than Mitt Romney's was four years previously.
The last time I checked, Trump was President of the United States and Mrs. Clinton the mayor of Bitterville.
Swift And Severe?Are you a "Swiftie"? Not to be confused with a "Swift Boater", but a follower of pop chanteuse Taylor Swift.
And, if so, has she changed your mind about voting?
Ms. Swift, whom in past elections has been apolitical, has changed her tune and now wants her fans to "get out and vote". Given that she has a fondness for Tennessee Democrats, it would appear that one party is to her preference.
The question, then, is what constitutes "Swifties"? If it's teens who flocks to stadiums and arenas to see Swift perform, as Mike Huckabee believes, then there's little reason to fear real electoral impact.
As you'll see in this map, the hub of Swift Nation is "rural areas in the West and Midwest". Is that her entrĂ©e to red-state Senate races? If Democrats choose to play this game, the map also shows the boy band BTS playing well in Wisconsin and Selena Gomez popular in both Southern California and South Texas.
She may or may not have an eye for candidates, but Taylor Alison Swift definitely has a head for business. Last year, she filed nine separate trademarks for the term "Swifties", setting the stage for the singer to widen her brand into all sorts of new endeavors (streaming, recording gaming).
Wisconsin Beta Test. Getting ahead of ourselves, imagine a 2020 election in which President Trump again carries Wisconsin even if, unlike 2016, his Democratic opponent doesn't sleep on the state.
Who would deserve credit?
Try Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
A fresh Marquette Law School Poll has Walker with a single-point lead over Democrat Tony Evers. The key state: independents. Evers had a 20-point advantage as recently as mid-September; that lead's now down to just five points.
Why is Walker worth watching? Because a win in 2018 could pave the way for Trump in 2020, just as Walker's successful reelection in 2014 made Trump's 2016 run easier into terms of readily identifiable, easily motivated Republicans.
Walker actually has run three previous times this decade (gubernatorial wins in 2010 and 2014, plus a recall vote in 2012). All the campaigning has made the state's GOP a turnout machine.
One issue Walker is heavily relying upon: his opponent wanting to reduce the state's prison population, which this Walker ad claims will spring "felons who've committed rape, assault, robbery and even kidnapping" (a charge Evers denies).
A Democrat soft on crime? It worked for George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Hurricane Politics. As I write this, Hurricane Michael is laying waste to southwestern Georgia, having left a path of destruction across the Florida Panhandle.
Politics may seem trivial at a time when people literally are fighting for survival, but this story does have a political angle: the storm's effect on Florida's marquee matchup between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and his challenger, incumbent Gov. Rick Scott.
You might recall hurricane politics slamming into the 2012 presidential contest, when Superstorm Sandy rolled up the East Coast with the election in high gear (in the week leading up to Election Day, both President Obama and Mitt Romney put their campaigns on hold).
Scott's assured Floridians that Hurricane Michael "is not about politics". Then again, disaster preparation and relief are where state executives sink or swim.
As Michael closed in on Florida, Nelson tried to stop by the state's Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee only to be denied entrance to center's briefing room.
Meanwhile, the senator has differences with Scott Administration election officials over extending voter registration deadlines (a similar issue arose in 2016 with Hurricane Matthew, when a federal judge issued an order extending the deadline).
On the day before Michael reached shore, Florida Democrats were in a federal court, asking that the 2018 registration be pushed beyond next Tuesday.
Which goes to show: the storm has passed, but the Sunshine State will experience all kinds of partisan turbulence for another month.