Why Trump’s Poll Numbers Should Worry The GOP

Last week, Fivethirtyeight partnered with Survey Monkey to look at a very particular group of Trump voters, unenthusiastic Trump voters.  Surveying 7,000 adults who supported Trump, these voters comprised 15 percent of respondents and it is not a stretch to say they helped swing the election his way.

Per the survey, their are significant policy and demographic differences between this group and enthusiastic Trump supporters.  While unenthusiastic Trump supporters were strongly white and middle aged, 37 percent had college degrees compared to 25 percent of enthusiastic Trump backers.

More importantly for the GOP’s political health in the age of Trump, only 75 percent identify as Republican or Republican leaning compared to 91 percent of the other cohort.  The better news for the GOP is despite Trump’s early setbacks 74 percent of the group still approve of Trump.

What should worry Republicans about this group the most though is they have different policy priorities than the President.  It is important to keep in mind that Trump ran the most unorthodox GOP campaign for the Presidency in a generation.  As a result, some of the positions the President took run against traditional conservative views.

This could prove to be a problem going forward with unenthusiastic Trump voters.  For example, unenthusiastic Trump supporters rated healthcare as their highest policy priority while enthusiastic Trump supporters rated it fourth, well behind immigration and terrorism.  Both groups rated the economy as the highest priority by varying margins.

This has already played out in the policy arena.  When Trump and Congressional Republicans were trying to pass the AHCA they found little support among traditional conservative and moderate lawmakers (reflecting their constituencies).  This shows up in the survey among the two groups.  Unenthusiastic Trump supporters only approved of the President’s handling of the issue with 54 percent.  By contrast, 88 percent Trump’s strongest backers approved of his handling of the issue.

Trump might be maintaining the allegiance of his unenthusiastic backers by continuing to spend time focusing on traditional conservative causes like the Supreme Court.  Fully 86 percent of these voters approved of his pick of Neil Gorusch for the High Court.  Ominously for Democrats attempting to scandalize Trump to death, three-fourths of reluctant voters think the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a distraction.

Again though, Republicans under Trump might struggle to hold these voters loyalties.  On his budget, 80 percent of enthusiastic Trump supporters approve.  But among the unenthusiastic group,  barely half do.  Trump’s budget significantly hikes defense spending and it is possible fiscal conservatives are objecting to this hike.

Combined with differing policy perspectives warning bells should be ringing in Republicans heads.  Trump ran as a law and order candidate promising an unorthodox set of policy positions.  This means some of Trump”s policy priorities (largely based on class and geographic appeal) might fall flat with this crucial group.

It may be starting to show.  The survey found 15 percent of reluctant Trump supporters plan to vote for the Democratic candidate for their district in 2018 though the caveat is a generic candidate can be whatever a voter wants.

Still, this explains why Republicans are so closely watching the results of GA-6.  The district is ripe with the kind of unenthusiastic voters the party needs to hold the district.  Unlike Montana or KS-4, the enthusiastic Trump vote in rural areas does not exist in GA-6.  As Kansas showed, Republicans are falling further in metro areas (see Witchita County returns) making their need to hold unenthusiastic Trump supporters more important than ever.

Now, here comes the caveat to the survey’s findings.  It is one poll and the results in GA-6 showed a majority of voters still backed Republicans.  Approval polls showing Trump in the low 40’s still have him well above water with his own party and Democrats might be overplaying their hand with pure opposition to everything he does.

Still, Trump’s approval ratings are not good to put it mildly.  The most endangered Republicans are the members sitting in districts full of the more educated, affluent Republicans that felt Trump was the less of two evils.  If Trump’s lagging poll numbers and this survey are any indication, Republicans should be pulling out all the stops to protect these members and their majority.

What’s Behind Teresa May’s Surprise June Election Announcement

In 2015, Conservatives (the Tories) roared to a majority in Parliament.  Labor, led by the feckless Jeremy Corbyn, finished well below its final polling average.  During the campaign. then Prime Minister David Cameron in a bid to appease UKIP supporters, promised a vote on leaving the European Union (Brexit).  Ultimately Cameron acquiesced and the country is reeling from the consequences.

Despite Cameron abiding by his promise he stepped down in late last year after Brexit.  He had backed staying in the EU and many loyal, Conservative supporters did not trust him as a result.  His replacement, Theresa May, also initially backed staying in the EU but has 100 percent backed the will of the voters.

May has not had an easy initial go of it.  She only maintains a nominal majority of 10 seats (330 out of 650) and her efforts to implement Brexit have been stymied by the Courts and members of her own party.  Unlike UKIP, Conservatives have long been divided on the issue of the EU which is why they have shed voters in local elections to UKIP.

This is probably why May was even considering holding a snap election at all.  Two recent polls released this weekend, showing the Tories with massive 21 point leads, probably pushed her the rest of the way.  If these polls hold all the way up to June 8th, the Tories stand to gain a 100 to 200 seat majority in Parliament (their biggest ever).

The unpopularity of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also has to be playing a big part.  According to the polls almost or 50 percent of voters see Teresa May as the right leader for Prime Minister.  But Corbyn is third behind the “Don’t Knows.”  His party is divided between his far left acolytes and a more centrist Parliamentary contingent of which 90 percent do not recognize him as the leader of their party.

It is possible after this election Labour becomes the third largest party in Parliament after shedding seats in Scottland to the SNP and dozens of seats to the Tories and Liberal Democrats (the last pro-EU party in the UK proper) in June.  Corbyn’s relentless drive to make his party adopt his left-wing cultural and fiscal policies has made Labour blue-collar seats ripe for the plucking.

Further benefiting the Tories is UKIP is disorganized.  May’s full throated endorsement and pursuit of Brexit has made the independent, nationalist UKIP lose its appeal to many Tory voters.  Further, without Brexit to campaign on the party is now left to reorganize and decide what issues it wants to campaign on moving forward.

Ultimately though, while all these factors might have influenced May to hold an election, the biggest factor might be that May feels she needs an election under her belt to guide the party.  Specifically, an election victory of sufficient magnitude would give her a mandate to govern the UK.  Further, the June election will coincide with elections in France and Germany and a Tory victory could give her the leverage she needs to negotiate with these countries leaders and get a better deal for her nation.

It is also possible May be deciding it is smart to hold an election when the economy is doing well.  Brexit could have destabilizing effects and her party would probably be blamed.  Before that happens, it would be foolish not to bolster her party’s majority and her power.

The political and international context of this election aside, it is interesting this election will feature two firsts for the nation in a generation.  May, 60, and Corbyn, 67, are septuagenarians.  This is the first time in over 60 years the UK is faced with a choice between two septuagenarian major party leaders.  The nation has had a generation of young leaders from Tony Blair to David Cameron guiding its sails since the 90’s and the political battles fought have largely been over a matter of degrees.

There is no matter of degrees between Corbyn and May.  Corbyn is a left-wing ideologue fighting for trillions in new spending and an eternal rebel in his party.  May, is the eptiome of a small “C” conservative Englander and is fighting to streamline government.  When voters go to the polls in June they may never have faced such a stark choice.

 

 

 

What Happened In Kansas-4?

The narrative coming into Kansas’s special election for Republicans was they were fighting to hold a ruby red Trump district.  Due to their poor performance in the district it is safe to say Democrats have the momentum and narrative on their siding heading into GA-6 next week.

So what happened in Kansas last night?  Well, in a district that voted for Trump by 27 percent in November, Ron Estes managed to underperform Donald Trump by just a tad less than 20 percent.  Estes managed to run one of the most uninspired campaigns in recent memory and had to fall back on the redness of the district.  I guess you could call this foolish or just running out the clock (ask Hillary how well that always works out).

Until last week the district looked like a lock for the GOP.  That was until local GOP officials looked at early voting numbers and called in the big guns (Pence, Trump and Cruz).  They had reason to be worried.

The early voting numbers were astonishingly in Thompson’s favor.  Out of 15,000 ballots cast he took 61 percent of the vote.  In urban precincts in Sedgewick, the heart of the district, he overperformed Clinton in every district in the city (quite a feat).  But the one thing Thompson could not do was overcome the red tide in the rural areas.  Outside of Sedgewick, Thompson did not win a single county (though winning Sedgewick is a feat by itself).

Obviously, Democrats have reason to gloat.  They singlehandedly turned an R+27 district into a R+5 district in a night.  They also might have hit on a theme in future special elections of allowing their candidates to not be tied to DC Democrats (good luck with that in GA-8).

But, there are several reasons to urge caution here.  First, special elections are low turnout affairs.  In 2016, 274,500 voters showed up to vote for President while turnout barely eclipsed 100,000 this go-round.  Low turnout affairs even in heavily GOP districts tend to hurt the majority party more than the minority party (Republicans being more likely to turn out or not be damned).

Second, Ron Estes ran a horrible campaign in which he basically disappeared and hoped the redness of the district could carry him through.  It did.  But not by much.  Third, national Democrats did not play in this race probably out of fear it would connect Thompson to DC.  This helped Thompson but it also means if the party wants to win in red territory they won’t be able to give many resources to the individual candidates running.

Finally, it is said all elections are local and this one proved to be no exception.  Governor Sam Brownback is extremely unpopular and local Democrats tried to make the race more about Brownback than Trump.  It probably succeeded to a degree.

Moving forward, Democrats don’t have the luxury of running against a unpopular GOP Governor in Georgia, Montana or Pennsylvania.  In Georgia, it won’t be hard for Republicans to tie Ossof to Pelosi and in Montana the GOP has a former statewide candidate on the ballot.  Further, Trump is still popular statewide in Montana and GA-6 according to recently surveys.

If Republicans are smart they will take away from this contest they cannot take anything for granted.  That said, they also should not freak out.  All the circumstances of this special election were unique to this election.  In regular turnout elections, Estes is probably set to win by 20 points more (a return to the electoral norm).  Democrats made this race interesting but it far from guarantees them success moving forward.

Calm Down, KS-4 Is Not In Play

While the special election in former Congressman, now HHS Secretary Tom Price’s old district gets all the attention an election getting far less attention is set to occur in KS-4 next Tuesday.  The ruby-red seat, vacated by Mike Pompeo, is not expected to change hands.

But, recently unexpected spending from the NRCC on the contest has caused some interest to stir.  The Daily Kos notes the GOP is spending $100,000 in the safe seat.  They tout the moderate bonafides of their nominee, James Thompson, and how America and the district is turning against Trump.

Of course, this is the Daily Kos and that is the point.  Thompson has no shot at winning the seat.  His own poll shows it.  The GOP is likely trying to run up the score here in preparation for a bad day in GA-6 (at least for the primary).

The NRCC has no reason to worry about dumping $100K in the race precisely because they are sitting on a record haul.  Considering what is being spent in GA-6, $100K is not really that big a deal.

But, this is the liberal blogosphere, and they tend not to deal in reality.  Accordingly, “Reporter Elena Schneider explains that local Republicans “are fretting that Estes’ margin is closer than expected. One unnamed GOP consultant even says, Kansas should not be in play, but Kansas is in play.”

That is seriously debatable.  Thompson’s own poll shows him far behind and worse he has had a fight with the local party to even get $20K in support.  If Kansas Democrats are feeling little excitement about their candidate what are the odds he really has strong, grassroots support?

But, if you are the progressive heart of the party and think you have a shot you probably do not  have a good sense of local voters opinions.  It is true that Democratic early voting has outpaced the GOP’s but this district is so red it would take a lot for a real upset to occur.

Indeed, it may be the candidates that matter more in this race.  Ron Estes, the GOP candidate for the seat, has kept a much lower profile than Thompson.  He has felt little need to hustle or raise the dough that Thompson is.  In other words, Estes knows he can only lose by doing something stupid.  Republicans might not show up to vote but they won’t back Thompson unless they are given a reason to do so.  Estes is not giving them that reason.

So, for Democrats, the best they can hope to do is have a strong showing here.  But, a victory is highly, highly unlikely.  You can quote me on that.

 

 

The Cultural Chasm Hurts Democrats With Trump Supporters

Focus groups, a dime a dozen are often used as self-fulfilling prophecies, with practitioners cherry picking facts and the data to fit their preconceived notions.  Still, it is useful to pay attention to them from time to time.  One recent study, from Democratic pollster Stanley Greenburg, stands out.

Greenburg, an icon in partisan polling circles, interviewed 35 Independent and Democratic voters from Macomb County, Michigan.  All supported Trump.  All these voters are considered swing voters and all showed consistent loyalty to Trump throughout the focus group even as Greenburg concluded his report by saying Democrats could win over these voters by pivoting leftward on economic issues.

The report should be required reading for Democrats seeking a path out of the political wilderness.  For while the Democrats majority-minority, college educated,white female and upper suburbanite base is frothing at the mouth in anger at Trump, the party’s former backers are not. Yes, Democrats could make small gains with Trump supporters in the Midwest if they become more populist.  But, the cultural disconnect between the party and Trump voters is so wide it is hard to see Democrats making the necessary compromises to win over this disaffected constituency and maintain their hold on their current support.

Now, despite Greenburg’s partisan leanings he does know what he is doing.  He was the original pioneer of the idea of “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980’s when he conducted several studies on the county’s voters.  For while these voters have always had Democratic leanings they have never been solid Democrats.  Consider Obama won Michigan by 10 points in 2012 but he only won the county by four points.  Still, this made Greenburg wonder whether the county’s blue collar roots still mattered.  That was until last year when Trump won the county by a commanding 12 points and commanded a 50,000+ vote advantage that helped him carry the state.

Among some of the study’s most notable findings were 1) Trump’s base is extremely loyal, 2) culture matters, 3) Obamacare is still unpopular and 4) few of these voters are receptive to supporting Democrats.  Let’s take each of these in turn.

1. Trump’s base is loyal: Not a single voter in the survey said they regretted voting for Trump.  This, despite the President languishing with 40 percent approval ratings.  Additionally, these voters liked his “bluntness,” “outspokenness,” and “honesty.”  They further accepted Trump’s version of the news and facts and their reactions to videos of his press conferences and interviews reinforced the point, Greenburg wrote.

In the GOP’s quest to implement its agenda on America this loyalty matters.  For example, the NY Times had a story out Sunday questioning whether the party could hold the blue-collar Midwest and repeal Obamacare.  Except, many of these voters dislike the law (more on this in a second) and they trust the President.  They see the benefits of healthcare as a result of Trump, not the former President, and they believe Trump will look out for their interests.  Even if it means challenging Republican leaders in Congress.

2. It’s the culture, stupid: Greenburg believes the party can make gains with these voters on economics but read between the lines and it is clear even Greenburg believes this has limited pull with these voters.  While these voters align with Democrats on several major issues (including entitlements and healthcare) on cultural issues they are miles apart.  These Trump voters cited concerns about terrorism, immigration and lack of integration, worsening race relations and more.  Such talk dominated the focus group, even among those who once backed Obama.

3. Obamacare’s newfound national popularity did not show in the focus group: Democrats are crowing about Obamacare’s newfound popularity, even among Trump/Obama supporters.  One problem, it did not show in the focus group.  Indeed, many participants in the survey shared horror stories about their health insurance as a consequence of Obamacare, citing personal examples of how the law was a hardship for them.

Citing the group, Greenburg writes, “early every per­son in our group was struggling with how to afford their plans, co-pays, and med­ic­a­tions.”  No concrete alternatives were discussed but they did show they had faith in Trump to fix the healthcare system and look out for their best interests.

4. The biggie, no one expressed receptivity to supporting Democrats: If Democrats want to regain control of Congress they are going to have to make gains in the Midwest and the focus group’s responses highlight the party’s struggle.  Despite agreeing with general liberal policy preferences the group did not show much receptivity to supporting Democratic candidates.

Greenburg notes about two-thirds of the focus group supported a generic, populist Democrat more than a moderate, business friendly candidate who supports globalization.  That’s great and all, but generic candidates do not win elected office.  Actual candidates do.  Greenburg puts a pitch in for progressive icons like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who fit the populist profile.  But, the focus group did not seem enthusiastic about either.  Worse, the group showed little support for any other progressive icon on the horizon (including Joe Biden).

The study was commissioned by a progressive think-tank so it is little wonder Greenburg sprinkles in analysis with optimistic takeaways and pronouncements.  Except, these voters gave no indication they were giving up on Trump anytime soon.

The study should stand as yet another warning for the party.  Despite becoming more diverse and multi-cultural, the party has limited its electoral reach.  By putting the blame of worsening race relations, a stagnant economy, wage inequality, intolerance, bigotry and more squarely on the shoulders of blue-collar whites they have bled their cultural connection to these voters.

Democrats for years have had warnings this was coming.  All the way back in 1992, Bill Clinton recognized his party was out of step with these voters and took on the worse excesses of his party in a bid to redefine what a Democrat was.  He was extremely successful, winning back Macomb County for his party in 1996.  In subsequent elections, his party did not follow suit.  Al Gore won the county narrowly in 2000 and George Bush took it in 2004 (thanks to John Kerry’s inept campaign).  While the county backed Obama in 2008 and 2012, it did so only because Obama ran as a populist in the region, seeking to defend the average Joe from a Republican (Mitt Romney) that would ship their job overseas.

These voters were never really loyal to the Democratic Party even as they backed Obama.  They backed Congressional Republicans up and down the ballot that year, in the prior midterm  and the midterm after.  Since Clinton, Democrats have been losing their appeal to these voters.  Now, any cultural connection the party has with these voters is gone.  That’s great news for Trump and Republicans.  It is bad, bad news for a reeling Democratic Party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millennials Aren’t Saving The Democratic Party

Still smarting over a humbling defeat in 2016 and a daunting Congressional map in 2018 the party is looking forward to 2020.  Specifically, because of President Trump’s persistent weakness with Millennials and their potent growth they are poised to offer the party a pathway forward to power.

Writing in the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein lays out the basic Democratic premise.  By 2020, the share of the electorate represented by Millennials is expected to eclipse Boomers.  They continue to oppose Trump at higher rates than other generations of voters and Democrats hope Trump makes the GOP irreversibly racist in their eyes.

But, this analysis (Democrats, not Brownstein’s), is overly simplistic at best and devoid of data at worst. Consider, that in 2000 Bush and Gore split the youth vote.  A mere four years later Kerry won them by nine and Obama carried them by a massive 36 and 30 point margins.  Trump lost Millennials by a small margin than Romney.  Not necessarily an indication of an increasingly liberal bloc.

Of course, not all Millennials are the same.  Trump did not need to do better with all Millennials.  Just certain Millennials.  For comparison, Romney and Obama actually ran close to even among college educated white Millennials.  But among blue-collar Millennials Romney won by 10.  Now flip the script and Hillary ran circles around Trump with white, college educated Millennials.  But Trump won blue-collar Millennials in the right states by massive margins.

Take a look at some of Brownstein’s analysis.  “Exit polls found Trump reduced the GOP deficit among those younger voters compared with Romney in 2012 in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and he actually carried voters under 30 in Iowa. In all of those states except Michigan, Clinton’s vote share among those younger than 30 fell by double digits compared with Obama’s, while Trump improved by 7 to 9 percentage points over Romney. Trump also significantly improved over Romney among young people in New Hampshire and Maine, two mostly white states. Even in the coastal and Sunbelt states where Trump’s vote share among young people was either stagnant or slightly below Romney’s, Clinton’s numbers usually lagged Obama’s, sometimes significantly, as more Millennials drifted away to the third-party options.”

Further complicating Democratic hopes, the share of college educated Millennials in many of the swing states heading into the 2020 election are unlikely to change by a significant percentage.  Sure, Democrats might find somebody better able to appeal to them but odds are good that will turn off their college educated base.  Everything in politics involves a trade-off.

Just look at how the baby boomer vote has shifted over the years.  In 2000, Bush and Gore deadlocked.  But in every election since they have become increasingly Republican.  Unlike Millennials, Boomers also vote far above their actual demographic numbers.  Millennials, not to much.

Democrats would counter Millennials might even turn Georgia or Arizona, perhaps Texas, in four years.  But if they could not pull it this year when every dirty secret about Trump was aired, what are the chances it will happen in 2020?  If nothing else, no higher.

In 2016, Clinton put a massive amount of importance on their votes.  She had reason according to the polls.  Again, according to Brownstein, “In one survey for the liberal groups Project New America and NextGen Climate, which looked solely at Millennials across 11 battleground states, three-fourths of them described him as a racist; roughly an equal number said he was biased against women; and almost 70 percent said they would be “ashamed” for the country if he won.” Yet, on Election Day, Clinton only won 55 percent of their votes.

A common theory batted around about this is that these voters were drawn third party candidates because of James Comey.  But the only exit poll to ask third party supporters who they would vote for if it was Trump or Clinton found a massive 55 percent would not even show up.

Further presenting problems for Democrats in the run-up to the midterms is Millennials have horrible turnout in midterms.  In 2010 and 2014 turnout dropped precipitously from the prior Presidential elections.

It is also unclear how late generation Millennials and the up and coming Social Media generation will shape the path of the youth vote.  John Sides notes that generations of voters tend to lean more towards the opposite party than the one of the President they grew up under. Worse, while the youngest voters are the most diverse they also seem to behave the most conservatively on fiscal issues.

Predicting long-term is a horrible business in politics.  But, we do know Millennial turnout is likely to drop next year.  Even if it it increases massively in 2020 the Presidential map will likely be fought on turf more favorable to the GOP than not.  Whether Millennials can, and will, help Democrats beyond that is the question.

My word of advice for the party.  Don’t put all your eggs in that basket.  Just ask how that turned out for Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

 

What the Delaware State Senate Special Election Tells Us?

Tonight, Delaware hosted a special election in state senate district 10, a Democratic leaning district that looks competitive.  At least on paper.  The district narrowly elected a Democrat in 2014 by a slim 2 percent but voted for Hillary Clinton by 13 percent.  Donald Trump only received 41 percent of the vote last November.

Delaware is a solidly Democratic state at every level.  The state legislature is Democratic and all statewide elected officials (federal and Constitutional) are Democrats.  Democrats have controlled the state senate for 40 years running.  That said, due to GOP gains in the state senate last year and a new Democratic Governor ceding his seat the senate was split 10-10 until tonight.

Democrats and progressives put a lot of effort into the race.  The GOP?  Not so much.  Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley came into the district to campaign as did Joe Biden.  Nobody showed up for Republicans.  Democrats outspent Republicans 4-1 in the district.  The result was an 18 point win for the blue team.  Now the party can continue to safely tax Delaware into oblivion.

What does this tell us?  Nothing.  Literally.  Democrats and progressives reading the tea leaves are sure to call it a great victory and a repudiation of GOP politics.  But, the fact of the matter is the playing field was never level.  Democrats knew they had to win the race and did.  But the district is far from an honest testing ground of whether voters truly are repudiating the man in the White House, and by extension his party, or not.

The question going forward is how much will be read into this election?  Democrats have demonstrated success in blue leaning legislative special elections since November but they have yet to show they have made inroads in GOP territory.  The special election for Tom Price’s suburban Atlanta based district will tell us far more.