Friday, August 18, 2017

How Much "Trump" Is The Right Amount Of "Trump" For Congressional Candidates To Use?


by Nancy Ohanian

Yesterday, in relation to an unrelated post I was discussing with him, L.A. area Congressman Ted Lieu happened to mention that "The American middle class helped to create the greatest economy the world has ever known. However, misguided policies-- mostly driven by Republicans obsessed with tax cuts for the wealthy-- have hollowed out opportunity for Americans to enter the middle class and live out their fair share of the American dream. Hard-working Americans deserve an economy defined by strong wages, good benefits and retirement security-- we have governed this country from the right and from the center, now we need to try an innovative progressive approach." As part of a process of reform, the House Democrats elected Ted DCCC Vice Chair for the West Coast. He's being very proactive with all the candidates who seek his advice and I'm sure they're getting this kind of meta-messaging from him and his staff, meta-messaging that will serve them well if they weave it into their campaigns' approach to the 2018 midterm contest in their districts.

That said, ALG Research noted yesterday that "Trump entered office with a historically low approval rating, one that is made even more notable when taking into account the low rate of unemployment, a booming stock market, high consumer confidence, and the fact that the United States is not currently engaged in a drastically unpopular war. As outrage over the President's response to the violence in Charlottesville this past weekend has become the subject of a vast public outcry, it's important to remember just how unpopular Trump was even before the events of the last two weeks... Three recent polls from CNN, Quinnipiac, and Gallup all found that the President's job approval rating had dropped to record lows of 38%, 33%, and 34% respectively... reflective of a slow and steady decline in Trump's job approval rating, as well as a slow yet steady increase in his disapproval rating."
Most shocking about these recent polls however, is the proportion of people who have very firmly made up their minds and say they disapprove "strongly" of Trump's job performance. In the CNN poll, out of the 56% of respondents who said they disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as president, 47% said they "strongly" disapprove and only 9% said they "somewhat" disapproved. The Quinnipiac poll showed a similar split amongst respondents. Out of the 61% who said they disapproved of how Trump is handling his job, 55% said they "strongly" disapproved, with just 6% saying they "somewhat" disapproved.

These numbers show that Trump's job approval rating is not a soft number that will be easily influenced by White House attempts to win Americans back over, but rather is indicative of strongly held opinions amongst Americans that are unlikely to change without a significant shift in strategy. While it's not impossible for Trump to win over Americans who currently strongly disapprove of his job performance, it is unlikely, and leaves the White House a very narrow path to attempt to rebuild public perception of Trump's job performance thus far.

Trump's approval ratings amongst Americans who aren't affiliated with a political party or identify as Independents, many of whom are frequently recognized as swing voters, are also declining. In the recent Gallup poll Trump's approval amongst Independents sank to a record low of 29%. The Quinnipiac poll also found job approval amongst Independents was low, with just 34% of Independents approving of Trump's handling of his job so far.

The recent Quinnipiac poll also showed that a half of white Americans without a college degree hold a negative view of Trump's job performance so far. 50% said they disapproved of Trump's handling of his job as President, while 43% said they approved. Largely hailed as one of the groups that propelled Trump to victory, this could present big problems for Trump and his coalition moving forward into the midterms. While job approval and vote share are distinctly different measures, they are also intrinsically linked and a drop to just 43% approval from a group that voted for the President by a margin of 67% to 28% certainly signals that the President's base is not as strong as it once was.

Democrats Have a Path to Retaking the House of Representatives

Trump's job approval also holds important implications as both parties prepare to fight for Congressional majorities in 2018. The chart below from NBC News shows the number of House seats gained or lost in midterm elections side-by-side with September approval ratings from those elections.

With the midterm elections over a year away and Trump's approval under 40% in all of these recent polls, we could be looking at midterm election results comparable to those of 1946, 1978, 1982, and 1994. In these years when Presidential approval was at 45% or lower in September of the midterm election year, the party in power lost an average of 37.5 seats in the House of Representatives in November elections. That would be more than enough for Democrats to take back the House.

Unfortunately, the President's low job approval is not an ace in the hole for Democrats... However, if Democrats are able to capitalize upon Trump's weaknesses on healthcare policy, foreign affairs, immigration policy, and helping the middle class-- not to mention his implosion amongst Independents-- it could certainly lead to them retaking the House in 2018.
Tuesday night, Alabama Republican primary voters rejected Trump's endorsed candidate, incumbent Luther Strange, for the U.S. Senate seat, despite massive amounts of money going into Strange's campaign and only modest amounts spent by his opponents. Strange came in second and there will be a September 26 runoff.

Crackpot extremist Roy Moore took 162,570 votes (38.9%), while Strange, the Trump guy, took 136,910 (32.8%) and another crackpot, Mo Brooks, took 82,363 votes (19.7%). Moore is more of a Trumpian character than Strange but Trump repeatedly endorsed Strange and did all he could do to motivate his supporters in Alabama, where's he's still popular, to vote for him. All he could do wasn't enough. And if he doesn't have coattails in Alabama... what do you think Mimi Walters, Ed Royce, Darrell Issa, Steve Knight and Dana Rohrabacher are thinking in Southern California. John Culberson, Will Hurd, Pete Sessions, Lamar Smith and Kenny Marchant are all sweating up a storm in Texas now. Trump coattails in the northeast-- for GOP incumbents, Bruce Poliquin (ME), Leonard Lance (NJ), Tom MacArthur (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Chris Smith (NY), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Lee Zeldin (NY), Peter King (NY), Dan Donovan (NY), John Faso (NY), Elise Stefanik (NY), Claudia Tenney (NY), John Katko (NY), Ryan Costello (PA), Pat Meehan (PA), Brain Fitzpatrick (PA) and Lloyd Smucker (PA) would be turned into absolute anchors by a competent DCCC. And even the grotesquely incompetent one we have might be able to win some Republican seats here and there.

One thing that many Democratic candidates want to get the balance right on has to do with how much they should make their races about Trump. The DCCC strategy is basically to recruit a pack of dreadful corrupt self-funding conservatives-- Blue Dogs, New Dems, "ex"-Republicans, anti-Choice fanatics, corporate whores (the whole Republican wing of the Democratic Party)-- and hope Trump's self-destruction bleeds over into congressional campaigns. Sensible candidates always ignore DCCC strategy and this year the ones who look like they're doing the best so far are the ones who are campaigning on Medicare-For-All, legalized pharmaceutical importation, free state college education, $15/hour minimum wage, a real infrastructure program, expanding Social Security by lifting the cap and other specific policy proposals the conservatives who run the DCCC abhor.

Our friends at HSG Campaigns laid out the pros and cons for using "Trump" and a piñata in House races.

According to Rasmussen, strong disapproval for Trump exceeded 50% in July, mostly among Democrats. Using Trump's image can be a good way to motivate the base to come out and vote on Election Day. "Send a message to Trump" is a good message for progressives.
Attacking Democratic primary opponents who hold any views that align with Trump's can give your primary campaign a shot in the arm and move the needle in your favor.
In general elections, Republicans who align themselves with too closely Trump will lose independent voters. So, if you have a Trumpian Republican you're facing, you should exploit that in your mailers, ads, and press conferences.


Many voters understand that Trump is not a typical Republican. While anti-Trump messages will work well with progressive Democrats and people of color, they are likely to fall short of expectations with other voters, especially if the Republican in the race distances him or herself from the president.
There is a law of diminishing returns when you try associating a Democratic primary opponent to an unpopular Republican. We have seen it many times in the past. While it can give your campaign a shot in the arm, sustaining those attacks will make them less and less effective because (frankly) voters don't find them very believable.
Traditional Republican voters like the ones we discussed a few weeks ago (wealthier, more educated, suburban) might not like Trump, but that doesn't mean they're ready to vote for a Democratic congressional candidate. They will see through it if you try to get them to vote Democratic with an anti-Trump message.
We asked some of the Blue America-endorsed candidates how they're trying to get the balance right. Jenny Marshall is running for the very gerrymandered west central North Carolina seat held by GOP crackpot Virginia Foxx. "In my campaign," she told us today, "I am about holding our elected leaders accountable for their words and actions. Whether that is Rep. Foxx or President Trump, they do not get a free pass for their bad behavior. I do try to frame it as a contrast rather than just look at how awful these two are. I speak briefly about their statement and then quickly shift to what I believe in and how do I want to enact changes once elected. It can't all be about them in a sky is falling way. You have to show why you are the best candidate for the job."

Sam Jammal is the progressive Democrat in the race for the northeast Orange County seat occupied by Ryan crony/Trump rubber stamp Ed Royce. He said he can't speak for other districts around the country but almost all the candidates we spoke with expressed a similar perspective to his for their own districts. "I can't speak for every district, but, here in the 39th District, Trump has created a level of activism we have never seen. This will be helpful for mobilizing a grassroots army to defeat Ed Royce. But being anti-Trump is not enough. Voters will not just fire an entrenched incumbent, like Ed Royce, they need a reason to hire the Democrat. This is why I am running. I believe we need bold ideas-- like Medicare for All and 100% clean energy-- and to also get back to the basics and focus on making sure workers get a raise, people can afford a home and student debt doesn't cripple the next generation. My campaign is focused on fighting for the families I grew up with and giving voters a clear choice. Trump gets people to pay attention, but real solutions will win these seats."

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At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For any Democrat to simply blame Republicans for all the ills of the economy is ludicrous. It shows a complete ignorance of history. It makes, in this case, Lieu seem a moronic puppet of a lame talking point. I want to like Lieu, I really do, because I know he's better than most. But the Dems need to get a better message - and they need to get it quickly. Or they'll just keep losing and the lives of the 90% will continue to get more miserable. History has shown that this kind of situation does not usually work out well for the 10%, and especially the 1%.

Kim Kaufman

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kim, you are 100% on this.

But the democraps can't build an honest message without their own mea-culpas. And that would be self-immolating. The mea-culpas would necessarily include what the Clintons and Obama and their acolytes did to make the shitstorm into a royal clusterfuck... and the Clintons and Obama and their acolytes still run the party and are loathe to admit their own perfidy in ruining the nation politically, socially, economically...

With no chance the democraps will EVER fix themselves, voters need to vote with their feet... finally, after almost 40 years of this shit.

If americans are as stupid as they demonstrate year after year, maybe scummer's and Lieu's lame talking points will be enough. But for meaningful change, as in a complete 180 back to Carter to start over again, it won't be enough until there is a different party getting the votes of the left (and independents).


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