Democratic congressional aides have never felt more confident about their party’s chances in this year’s election.
That assessment is based on answers they’ve provided every month since October, when CQ Roll Call began its Capitol Insiders Survey, which polls staffers by email.
While the nation’s Democratic primary voters struggled over whether to choose Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, it was never a close call for the aides.
They have said consistently that Clinton was the best choice and expressed little worry about Sanders’ persistence.
“I don’t think he’s hurting her,” says Brendan Daly, a former spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “He’s very sincere and his people are as well. I believe he’ll bring his people along. It’s part of the process.”
That process started when Sanders endorsed Clinton on July 12, bringing to an end a tough primary fight.
The Democratic staffers’ sense of common purpose contrasts sharply with the divisions among Republican aides.
When CQ Roll Call asked in June who they’d vote for, only 42 percent said Donald Trump. Most said they’d vote for a third-party candidate or stay home. A handful said they’d vote for Clinton.
GOP angst over Trump is playing into Democrats’ confidence, which extends beyond the presidential race.
As it became clearer that the mogul would be the GOP’s nominee this spring, more and more Democrats said they believed their party would retake the Senate and make significant gains in the House.
Indeed, in the June survey, 9 in 10 Democratic aides were bullish about their chances of winning the Senate majority, where they need to pick up four seats if Clinton wins or five seats otherwise. In the House, where they need 30 seats to retake the majority, 8 in 10 predicted a Democratic wave.
The national polls gauging Clinton vs. Trump show a much tighter contest this November, revealing a schism, perhaps, between the Democratic establishment in Washington and voters.
Trust the aides, says Steve Elmendorf, a Washington lobbyist who was once House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt’s chief of staff. “I think Hill staffers are smarter than the average pollster. The polls are a snapshot in time.”
Could the aides be too complacent? Some Republicans are holding out hope that they are.
“As much evidence as there is that Hillary is going to be the next president, and win comfortably, anyone who takes it for granted is not paying attention to anything,” says Sam Geduldig, a former aide to Republican Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio who’s skeptical that Clinton has as easy a path as his Democratic colleagues predict.