Friday, July 21, 2017

Señor Trumpanzee Just Can't Get No Respect-- Well-Oiled Machine Is Still Sputtering Badly


Crack in the base? Remember, Hillary beat Trump 65,853,516 (48.2%) to 62,984,825 (46.1%)-- so when the new poll from Reuters/Ipsos reported that one in 8 Trump voters are suffering to at least some degree of buyer's remorse, that's a very big deal. His razor thin margins in the midwest-- in the states that somehow gave him the electoral college win-- would immediately disappear. Reuters summed up the poll like this: about one in eight people who voted for Señor Trumpanzee last November "said they are not sure they would do so again after witnessing Trump's tumultuous first six months in office." Worse yet, "[T]he erosion of support within his winning coalition of older, disaffected, mostly white voters poses a potential challenge for the president. Trump, who won the White House with the slimmest of margins, needs every last supporter behind him to push his agenda through a divided Congress and potentially win a second term in 2020."
In the July survey, 12 percent of respondents said they would not vote for Trump "if the 2016 presidential election were held today"-- 7 percent said they “don’t know” what they would do, and the remaining 5 percent would either support one of the other 2016 presidential candidates or not vote.
This kind of sentiment-- widespread across the country-- is starting, finally, to embolden horrified Republican congressmembers to speak out about Trump and his abnormal regime. Many people woke up Friday and were astonished by the frankness in the Politico interview with conservative Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson. "[S]ome lawmakers," wrote Rachel Bade and Burgess Everett, "are even starting to blame Trump for his handling of the Russia probe, Twitter feuds and attacks on the media... [T]he crux of the problem is pretty clear six months into Trump’s presidency: Unified Republican control of government is a picture of complete disunity."
"I don't even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don't care. They're a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction," complained Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). "At first, it was 'Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He'll learn, he'll learn.' And you just don't see that happening."
Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, reporting for the NY Times yesterday, asserted that Republicans are ceasing to fear Trump and his bombastic bullying tactics. One top GOP staffer told me that many of the members have come to see Trump as "a bullshitter" who "says anything that pops into his infantile mind" and then forgets it a few hours later. Haberman and Thrush began their report by bringing up right-wing senatorial sociopath Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the lunatic that sophomore Congressman Randy Bryce will probably take out in 2022. Johnson, they wrote, "could not be charmed" by Trump's buffoonish antics. "He could not be outbargained. And he could not be scared into supporting the measure for the sake of a president whose inability to bend fellow Republicans toward his political will has become a liability for his young presidency. As the brash Mr. Johnson reminded one associate recently, while Mr. Trump may have stunned the political world in 2016 by winning Wisconsin in the election, Mr. Johnson got 76,000 more votes in the state."

In fact, across the country, nearly every Republican senator who ran in 2016 ran ahead of Trump. If anything, Trump was a drag on Republican statewide tickets. Here are 10 typical examples:
AZ- McCain- 1,359,267; Trump- 1,252,401
FL- Rubio- 4,835,191; Trump- 4,617,886
GA- Johnny Isakson- 2,135,806; Trump- 2,089,104
ID- Mike Crapo- 449,017; Trump- 409,055
IA- Chuck Grassley- 926,007; Trump- ‎800,983
KS- Jerry Moran- 732,376; Trump- 671,018
NC- Richard Burr- 2,395,376; Trump- 2,362,631
OH- Rob Portman- 3,118,567; Trump- 2,841,005
UT- Mike Lee- 760,241; Trump- 515,231
WI- Ron Johnson- 1,479,471; Trump- 1,405,284
And that doesn't even speak to Trump dragging down incumbents Mark Kirk (IL) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) to such an extent that each lost an absolutely crucial Senate seat.
IL- Mark Kirk- 2,184,692; Trump- 2,146,015
NH- Kelly Ayotte- 353,632; Trump- 345,790
Trump-love may help a lot with a certain crackpot fringe inside the GOP and among usual non-voters but Trump's name was poison in 2016 and is even more poisonous now.

Fear is perhaps the most powerful motivating force in politics, and fear of a powerful president is the surest lever to move a lawmaker from a “no” to a “yes” on a presidential priority. But over the past month, Mr. Trump scared no one into supporting the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He has proved simply too unpopular nationally-- polling at 36 to 40 percent approval this week-- too weak in many senators’ home states, too erratic and too disengaged from the details of governing to harness his party, as other new presidents have.

...The starkest demonstration of Mr. Trump’s weakness came on Monday when Mr. McConnell and his stunned team learned that Jerry Moran, a typically reliable and evenhanded conservative from Kansas, felt safe stiff-arming Mr. Trump on his top legislative priority, announcing that he opposed the bill.

“Right now, nobody’s afraid of Trump, and that’s a real problem,” said Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and once a top aide to Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

“But the truth is that he hasn’t really tried,” Mr. Jesmer added. “Where is he on local talk radio? Where is the trip to Kansas to say, ‘Hey, Jerry, we’re really close on this and could use your help’? It’s what he does well, getting out there and making the case. I don’t get why he hasn’t been more engaged.”

A Republican senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wanted to preserve his relationship with Mr. Trump, put it more bluntly. The president, he said, scares no one in the Senate, not even the pages.

“He has limited experience in government and politics, he lacks a deep and experienced team, and his poll numbers are disastrous,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, as senators from both parties grappled with the sudden collapse of Republican-only health care talks.

“It’s more or less impossible to sell a program when you have those conditions,” he added.

...[F]or all his public bluster, he despises private confrontation. He might actually be a little too nice, one top Republican Senate aide said with a laugh this week.

After Speaker Paul D. Ryan canceled the first scheduled vote for a repeal-and-replace bill, two top advisers urged Mr. Trump to show wayward House members that they would pay a price for challenging the president. But Mr. Trump ultimately stood by the leadership and declined to target anyone.

Mr. Trump expressed his pique to aides when Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, announced his opposition to the bill on the grounds that it preserved too many elements of the existing law. But when it came time to make the case personally, Mr. Trump opted for a putter over a cudgel.

[Note to DWT readers: Kentucky was one of the few states were Trump actually significantly outpolled a sitting Republican senator Rand Paul.]

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Paul to play golf-- to clear his head-- offering to play with him personally, if it meant getting him off TV bashing the Senate bill, according to three Republicans with knowledge of the exchange.

The president’s attempts to use force have backfired.

His team has talked with a possible Republican challenger to Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who has raised questions about the bill. So far, Mr. Flake has not changed his behavior.

When Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican who opposed the Senate’s first repeal-and-replace effort and who faces a tough re-election battle next year, a Trump-allied political action committee ran ads against him. But under pressure from Senate leadership, Mr. Trump himself expressed his desire to have the ads pulled from the airwaves, and they came down soon after.

And Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, who is far more popular in his state than Mr. Trump, never backed off his opposition to the health measure, even after a phone call from the president and a series of one-on-one meetings with senior administration officials at the National Governors Association meeting last weekend in Rhode Island.

Mr. Trump, to exert pressure, sat Mr. Heller next to him during an awkward opening at a White House meeting on Wednesday with Republican senators convened to rekindle interest in voting on a clean repeal of the health care law before the August recess.

The president began with a barbed joke, urging the senator to back his third push for a Senate repeal.

“You weren’t there. But you’re gonna be,” the president said. “You’re gonna be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re gonna appreciate what you hopefully will do. Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare.”

Other senators were visibly stunned by the lightly veiled threat.

Mr. Heller blushed, laughed and remained politely noncommital.



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