by Richard Cameron
Trump’s GOP Gets Skittish
The Republican party is the party of Donald Trump. And even though it is, there are signs that some elected officials of that party are sensing that some newly emerging realities of the electoral landscape may require them to incorporate some degree of political social distancing from the (impeached) president. This is showing up in various localities throughout the nation.
Wisconsin was the scene of one of these such examples, Friday. Anti-government protests took place in Madison, Wisconsin, where an estimated 1,500 people, violating public orders for community mitigation, rallied outside the state capitol, most disdaining the wearing of masks and also disdaining Democrat Governor Tony Evers.
This is the sort of event that high ranking GOP politicos, especially one such as Senator Ron Johnson, with a deep history of embracing the Tea Party and the alt Right, would be normally expected to attend and would do with out reluctance. But Johnson did not. When asked about the protest, Johnson, who opted to remain at home, equivocated, “I’m neither encouraging nor discouraging them.”
Republicans who are up for re-election in November, along with their campaigns, are doing a reassessment of the optics of these protests, where such troubling elements include the donning of the trappings of extremist militia apparel, ballistic gear, open carry of high capacity semi-auto firearms and racist symbols like the Confederate flag.
In previous years, there would be little hesitancy to be identified with this element. Since then, the playing field looks different – especially in the wake of the 2018 mid terms, where Democrats picked up 43 seats and captured state legislative majorities and high level offices in formerly Red strongholds like Virginia.
Polling data indicates that Donald Trump and White nationalism are not resonating well with significant elements of the GOP voting coalition – whites with educational degrees and suburban women.
The COVID-19 protests against state and local restrictions, according to opinion surveys, are not popular with the wider swath of the populous and GOP campaign strategists are taking notice.
A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found only 12% of Americans say the measures in place where they live to prevent the spread of the coronavirus go too far, though Republicans are roughly four times as likely as Democrats to say so — 22% to 5%. The majority of Americans — 61% — feel the steps taken by government officials in their area are about right.
Veteran GOP pollster Glen Bolger, observes indications of the change in the dynamic of the election that is coming:
“With the economy in free-fall, Republicans face a very challenging environment and it’s a total shift from where we were a few months ago. Democrats are angry, and now we have the foundation of the campaign yanked out from underneath us.”
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said the president had to change his tone and offer more than a campaign of grievance. “You got to have some hope to sell people,” Mr. Cole said. “But Trump usually sells anger, division and ‘we’re the victim.’”
Causing indigestion and alarm among Republican incumbents are internal and external polls that strongly indicate trends moving away from both them and the president. They show Senators in Maine, Colorado, North Carolina and Arizona either trailing their Democratic opponents or running even with them inside the survey margin of error.
Trump himself, is now behind Joe Biden in a handful of key battleground states. Most indicative are the 3 states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), in which Trump accumulated an electoral vote victory in 2016, with a razor thin margin of 77,000 total votes. Biden leads Trump in Wisconsin by 3 points in the Ipsos poll and despite court rulings shutting down absentee ballots, Republicans lost a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Fox News shows Biden ahead in Michigan 49 to 41 percent, widely outside of the error margin. In Pennsylvania, where Trump won by just .07 of the vote in 2016, Ipsos shows Biden ahead by 6 points and Fox News, has Biden in the lead by 8.
But Trump’s problems don’t end there. Trump is showing weakness in two of his firewalls, Florida and Arizona. Quinnipiac showed Trump behind Biden in Florida by three points and Fox News has Biden ahead by eight. Split the difference between the two, and Biden is sprinting past the president outside each poll’s margin of error.
Trump, according to the Predictive Insights poll, is down by 9 points in Arizona as is appointed incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally, who is being significantly outgunned in fundraising by Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and popular national figure, who is a fairly precise fit for the currently evolving political environment in the state.
Kelly leads McSally by 9 points at 51 percent to 42 percent, according to a OH Predictive Insights poll. And in the case of McSally, we circle back to the problem confronting GOP candidates in these battleground states – diverse elements of the electorate outside Trump’s core base.
Mike Noble, Chief researcher for the Phoenix-based OH Predictive observes, “McSally’s path to victory is difficult, but not impossible. She needs to expand her base outside of Trump’s base of support by winning over women, independents, Latinos and suburban voters in Maricopa County.”
But local reporting has indicated for several months that the Democratic party is winning over those voters, while Trump’s messaging is either alienating them or angering them.
And the GOP’s own internal polling is setting off alarms in their camp. The RNC (Republican National Committee) contracted a survey of 17 states and if Trump is not able to pivot and begin messaging outside his base, the data shows he will lose the election bigly and take down ballot Republicans down with him. And this was before the recent meltdowns Trump has had at the daily COVID-19 briefings.
Of the effect of those on Trump’s perception in the eyes of voters, particularly independents, longtime Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, remarked, “Any of us can be onstage too much. There’s a burnout factor no matter who you are, you’ve got to think about that.”
Geoff Garin, seasoned Democratic pollster warns:
“I haven’t seen anything to suggest that what happened to Trump and Republicans in the suburbs in 2018 has abated, and it’s hard to think of anything they’ve done or even tried to do that would make their situation any better in the suburbs than it was.”
And to add to Trump and correspondingly, GOP candidates’ precarious prospects nationwide, there is also a serious erosion in an important segment of the White vote. Monmouth University and CNN both found that fewer than 40 percent of college-educated white voters said they approved of Trump’s response to the outbreak.
It’s early in the cycle still, but if past performance is any indication of future results, Trump is highly unlikely to be able to discipline himself and his message – and as such, will only further exacerbate the treacherous landscape Republicans are facing. It may necessitate an increasing number of them, moving more than six feet away from the contagion.