The Topline: As Tsongas bows out, does the GOP have a shot in the Third?

Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas announced yesterday she will not run again for the seat she has held since 2007. Past election results show her seat in the Third Congressional District may be less safe for Democrats than it first appears. Though Tsongas cruised to reelection in her own recent matchups, Charlie Baker won the district by 9 points in his 2014 election, one of several Republicans to fare well there recently. With voters in Tsongas’ district showing they are open to voting Republican, her retirement adds another layer of potential intrigue to the 2018 elections here in Massachusetts. Even apart from Baker’s success, results in other recent statewide elections suggest the open seat in the Third could be the most attractive target for the GOP in a field of longshots. Gabriel Gomez won the Third narrowly during the 2013 special election that sent Ed Markey to the Senate. Markey won it in 2014, but squeaked by with less than a 2 point margin, making it his third worst district. Even Elizabeth Warren lost it narrowly to Scott Brown in 2012, a year with presidential turnout. Both Baker and Warren will be on the ballot again next year, so their influence may shape the race in terms of turnout and the key issues of the campaign.

The Cook Political Report has declined to move the seat from its “safe D” column, underscoring the challenge facing a would-be Republican candidate. Tsongas won reelection in 2016 by 38 points, outperforming Hillary Clinton’s healthy 23-point margin there. Midterm elections tend to favor the party out of power, and Democrats have held strong leads in generic Congressional ballots going into 2018.

The Tsongas announcement has lit the political hot stove, or turned on the air conditioner, if that’s the more seasonally appropriate metaphor. Which state legislators would be willing to risk their current seats to run for a seat in a legislative body with a 16 percent approval rating? Who would trade the lack of friction in the private sector for gridlock in Washington? Nobody knows for sure, but the Beacon Hill rumor mill is churning out names faster than we can write them down.

With Tsongas leaving, there is a chance that Massachusetts’ female representation in Congress could dip even lower. Currently, it stands at an all-time high of three members (Tsongas, Warren, and Katherine Clark in the Fifth). Democrats may feel pressure to nominate a woman to carry on where Tsongas left off.


We agree with the Cook political report that early odds are the Third will remain in Democratic hands, continuing their streak of 110 Massachusetts Congressional elections since 1996 (Senate excluded). But recent elections suggest the right candidate, seizing on the right issues, could make it an interesting race.

The Crosstabs

A new poll out today is stirring controversy. Two researchers writing for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog found that half of Republican voters would support President Trump postponing the 2020 election over concerns about voter fraud. A similar percentage think Trump won the popular vote. (He did not.)

Monkey Cage has a good reputation for wonky social science research, but critics have noted that preceding questions about voter fraud may have “primed” respondents to answer the way their did.

A CNN poll shows 62 percent of Americans consider North Korea a very serious threat, a jump of 16 points since March.

A CBS poll finds 61 percent are uneasy about Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea’s nuclear program.

Overall, Trump’s approval numbers continue to sag. FiveThirtyEight’s poll tracker has his most recent rates at 37 percent approval, 57 percent disapproval.


FiveThirtyEight is now tracking the generic ballot for the 2018 Congressional elections, applying the same weights and adjustments they use in their Trump approval tracking.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows white voters without college degrees, a key demographic in Trump’s election, disapprove of the job he is doing, (50 percent to 43 percent approve). As his poll numbers have dipped, Trump tweets have slammed polls even harder than usual.

Survey Monkey took this a step further and asked why people answered the way they did, then broke the open-ended comments down by party and education level.

The American people support allowing transgender soldiers to serve (68 percent, versus 27 percent oppose), including 55 percent among military families.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll taken immediately after the resignation of Anthony Scaramucci finds 52 percent of Americans think the number of senior officials who have lost or left their jobs is unusually high.

Pew finds that Democrats and Republicans are split on the watchdog role of the media, a dramatic change from last year. In 2016, there was little partisan split, with three-quarters of Democrats and Republicans approving of the media playing such a role. Now, only 42 percent of Republicans approve, compared to 89 percent of Democrats.

Gallup has similar findings on a broader scale, noting that public opinion on a number of issues - not just the traditional hot buttons of immigration, gun control, and climate change - is becoming more and more polarized.

Pew finds Americans pretty evenly split as to whether life in America is better for people like them now compared to 50 years ago. But Republicans are feeling more optimistic since last year, and Democrats less so.

In a separate survey, Pew finds American Muslims proud to be Americans and believing in the American dream, but increasingly concerned about discrimination and the President’s view towards them.

- - - - - - - - Nerd Alert - - - - - - - - -

The opposite of a pollster is a carwasher, per a nifty and hilarious tool from TheUpshot. Apparently we pollsters don’t need “trunk strength.” Time to deadlift some crosstabs. Or curl them. Or whatever you do to increase “trunk strength.” OK, yeah, that’s why we’re pollsters and not car washers. On the other hand, doing face-to-face interviews is a great way to boost your step count.