WASHINGTON — Democrats had two advantages that fueled their midterm victories in November 2018 — an edge in enthusiasm and success with independent voters.
Six months later, just one of those advantages remains.
In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 75 percent of Republican registered voters say they have high interest in the 2020 presidential election — registering a "9" or "10" on a 10-point scale — versus 73 percent of Democratic voters who say the same thing.
That's quite a change from the 2018 cycle, when Democrats held a double-digit lead on this question until the last two months before the election, when the GOP closed the gap but still trailed the Dems in enthusiasm.
It's just one poll, but the numbers are a reminder that presidential elections are always different than midterm cycles.
And they should correct any Dem thinking that assumes — "Hey, we have Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the bag because we won there in 2018" — since GOP enthusiasm now is much higher.
Oh, one other thing: overall enthusiasm for 2020 is sky-high, with 69 percent of all voters expressing a high level of interest in the upcoming election.
That's just 3 points shy of the 72 percent who said the same thing in October 2016.
And we are still more than 500 days away from the 2020 general election.
So, yeah, turnout in 2020 is going to be through the roof.
Independents aren't with Democrats on impeachment
As for independents, President Trump still has a big problem with them.
His approval rating among indies is 38 percent (versus 46 percent overall); just 34 percent have a positive view of him (versus 39 percent overall); and only a combined 28 percent of them say they are enthusiastic or comfortable when it comes to his re-election (versus 41 percent overall).
But the danger for Democrats: Independents aren't with them on impeachment of Trump.
A plurality of indies — 45 percent — say Congress should NOT hold impeachment hearings, compared with 19 percent of them who believe there's enough evidence to begin impeachment proceedings NOW.
Thirty-four percent take the middle ground: Congress should continue investigating to see if there's enough evidence to hold impeachment hearings in the future.
Among all Americans, it's 48 percent oppose impeachment hearings, while a combined 49 percent want them now or possibly in the future if there's enough evidence.
As NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart puts it, "The American public has reached a hung jury - not innocent, not guilty and they haven't reached a consensus."
Trump's busy weekend on Twitter
Meanwhile, President Trump had a, well, interesting weekend on Twitter.
- He praised Vladimir Putin after his phone call with Russia's leader (who interfered in the 2016 presidential election): "Tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia."
- He praised Kim Jong-Un (despite North Korea's new missile test): "He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me."
- He said Robert Mueller shouldn't testify before Congress (contradicting his earlier statement that the decision should be up to AG William Barr).
- He accused Democrats of stealing two years of his presidency.
- He took issue with the disqualification at the Kentucky Derby.
- He howled at Twitter/Facebook banning James Woods and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Paul Watson from their platforms
- And he questioned why Twitter/Facebook hasn't banned the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC.
2020 Vision: Breaking down Bennet's appearance on "Meet"
Yesterday, one of us interviewed the latest entrant into the presidential race on "Meet the Press" — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Bennet on why he's needed in an already crowded field: "I think we need somebody who's going to level with the American people about why our system doesn't seem to work for them… I've had two tough elections in a swing state, out in the middle of the country, where I think we feel pretty ignored by what people on the coasts are saying. And third, I've got a record, in the Senate, of a lot of bipartisan results."
On whether Trump should be impeached: "I mean, to me, it seems fairly clear, from the evidence, that he has committed impeachable offenses. But we need to go through a process here and see if the American people can be convinced that that's actually the right outcome."
And on his vote NOT to filibuster Gorsuch: "The reason I said we shouldn't filibuster Gorsuch was very simple. Gorsuch was a trade of Scalia for Gorsuch. And we allowed Mitch McConnell to invoke -- not only allowed him, gave him every opportunity to use the nuclear option on Gorsuch, instead of waiting for it -- forcing him to wait, for Kavanaugh."
On the campaign trail today: Beto O'Rourke continues to stump in Iowa… Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro campaign in New Hampshire… Pete Buttigieg stays in South Carolina… Kirsten Gillibrand travels to Nevada… And Kamala Harris holds a teacher roundtable in Michigan.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 53 percent
That's the share of Americans who say the Electoral College should be abolished in favor of a national popular vote, according to new data released this morning from our NBC/WSJ poll.
But respondents' 2016 votes also have a lot to do with their answers.
An overwhelming 78 percent of Hillary Clinton voters support a national popular vote for president, while an equally overwhelming 74 percent of Trump voters want to keep the status quo in place.
Tweet of the day
The Lid: The more things change, the more they stay the same
Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at whether to expect any major changes in public opinion after a few dramatic weeks in the Russia probe.
ICYMI: New clips you shouldn't miss
The U.S. is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to send "a clear and unmistakable message" to Iran.
Cory Booker is out with a new plan to counter gun violence.
Donald Trump now says Robert Mueller should not testify to Congress.
Trump is tapping Mark Morgan to be the new head of ICE.
Forces in Israel and Gaza have agreed to a cease-fire after a violent weekend.
Other news that's out there…
Trump agenda: Dow to tumble?
It might be a rough day on Wall Street.
Michael Cohen is reporting to prison.
Mick Mulvaneysays he wants Trump's communications strategy to be more "proactive."
2020: Bernie wants to break up big ag
The New York Times writes about the parallels between the Biden and Clinton campaigns.
POLITICO looks at how the debate rules are shaping the Democratic primary race.
Pete Buttigieg and his husband attended Jimmy Carter's Sunday school class.
Bernie Sanders has a plan to break up big ag.