Trump, Republicans Down in Poll of Crucial Midwest States

US Capitol at Night

Because of the constitutional quirks of the Electoral College, Donald Trump was elected president because of approximately 80,000 voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A newly released NBC News/Marist poll of two of those three states does not bode well for the president nearly two years before he runs for re-election.

In Michigan, the president’s approval rating is 36-54.

In Minnesota, the president’s approval rating is 38-51.

In Wisconsin, the president’s approval rating is 36-52.

In contrast, only about one third of voters in all three states say President Trump deserves re-election.

The poll was done mostly after the President’s widely criticized summit and press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on July 16. A majority of voters in all three states were in favor of a Democrat-controlled Congress: 45-36 in Michigan, 48-36 in Minnesota, and 47-39 in Wisconsin. A majority of voters in all three states said the message of their vote in November would be that more Democrats are needed in Congress to act as a check and balance on the president.

Besides House congressional races, all three states also have governor and U.S. Senate races as well.

Poll: Half of Americans Think President Trump is Racist

Highlights of a Quinnipiac University poll released July 3:

  • Trump approval/disapproval: 40-55
  • Trump approval/disapproval among Republicans: 86-11
  • Trump approval/disapproval among Democrats: 95-3
  • Trump approval/disapproval among men: 57-40
  • Trump approval/disapproval among women: 39-57
  • Trump approval/disapproval among whites: 47-50
  • Trump approval/disapproval among blacks: 6-92
  • Trump approval/disapproval among Hispanics: 33-64
  • Is Trump honest, yes/no: 38-58
  • Does Trump care about average Americans, yes/no: 43-55
  • Does Trump provide moral leadership, yes/no: 36-62
  • Trump handling of economy, approval/disapproval: 50-45
  • Trump handling of foreign policy, approval/disapproval: 43-53
  • Trump handling of immigration, approval/disapproval: 39-58
  • Trump handling of trade, approval/disapproval: 38-55
  • Trump handling of race relations, approval/disapproval: 36-58
  • Trump handling of taxes, approval/disapproval: 43-51
  • Trump handling of health care, approval/disapproval: 37-55
  • Trump handling of children separated from parents, approval/disapproval: 36-60
  • Does administration have responsibility to reunite families, yes/no: 83-12
  • Is policy of separating children a human rights violation, yes/no: 60-36
  • Trump uniting/dividing the country: 36-58
  • Do you think Trump is racist, yes/no: 49-47

These aren’t the complete results, but in general they do put his approval ratings on various issues in negative territory.  What should keep his political advisers up at night is that these are his numbers in a time when the stock market is at a record high and there is little, if anything, that can be done to further stimulate the economy in the event of a downturn or recession. If he had plans to run during midterms on his handling of tax cuts, foreign policy, and immigration, these numbers should make him think twice, although voters give him a small majority of approval on his handling of North Korea and his meeting with Vladimir Putin.  What this poll does not take into account are recent intelligence reports that North Korea shows no indication of denuclearizing.

What is also jarring is the clear public opposition to his family separation policy.  Clear and decisive majorities feel the administration has committed human rights violations and that the administration has a responsibility to reunite the families that have been separated.

In essence – the president has been very fortunate that so far in his presidency, he hasn’t faced a real crisis that has tested his administration. The bad news is that if that does happen at some point, his polls have nowhere else to go but down.

Supreme Court Politics and the 2018 Election Map

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire four months before the election is the best thing that could have happened to Republicans, conventional wisdom says.  It is difficult to disagree with that logic, but it is also necessary to keep in mind the counterargument – which is that enthusiasm cuts both ways. (To be fair, the more adequate word for Democrats still reeling from the announcement isn’t enthusiasm, but fear.)

Historically, Republican voters have been more motivated to go to the polls because of the issue of judicial nominations than Democrats.  Exit polls from the 2016 election confirm this view. According to CNN, 56 percent of Trump voters said Supreme Court appointments were the most important factor in their decision. Evidence strongly suggests that filling Supreme Court vacancies was a big reason for Donald Trump’s win. Though the stakes for filling any court vacancy are always high, they aren’t as high or urgent from the Republican perspective this time around. Why? Two years ago, the presidency was up for grabs and, with it, the next two or more court vacancies, including the seat held by Scalia which could have altered the court’s majority if Hillary Clinton had won.  Now, Donald Trump is in the middle of his first term, with a Republican-controlled Senate. It may gin up enthusiasm among some Republican voters, but it doesn’t have the same existential sense of urgency that Democrats are now feeling.

“Misery motivates, not utopia,” Karl Marx once wrote. That principle, combined with lingering anger over the Senate Republican blockade of Merrick Garland and the recent string of losses in Supreme Court decisions during the week leading up to the Kennedy retirement, strongly suggest that Democratic candidates and their allies aren’t going to treat this Supreme Court vacancy like any other opening in the past.

State Democratic parties and candidates are fundraising off the Kennedy retirement, some on the specific message of running as a defender of abortion rights. Others have spoken more generally about the urgency of electing Democratic governors and legislators to have as a check on any sweeping future rulings from the Supreme Court on issues like abortion, voting rights, gun control, campaign finance, or redistricting. However, the initial messaging from Democrats and various interest groups on the actual Supreme Court vacancy itself is all over the map, depending on who you ask.  Their options to block a nominee are nonexistent after Senate Republicans abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees for the Neil Gorsuch vote. Their only chance at blocking a nominee is the slim chance that minority leader Charles Schumer can hold all 49 Democrats and is somehow able to get two Republicans to join them in voting against.

Just as there will be enormous pressure on a handful of red state Democrats who are running for reelection this cycle (specifically Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch last year), there will also be enormous pressure on Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are the only pro-choice Republicans in their party’s Senate caucus. Collins and Murkowski have the benefit of not running for reelection in this hyperpartisan political environment, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be feeling pressure. As Republican pro-choice women in the Senate who have a vote in judicial nominations, do they want their legacies to be defined by potentially casting the deciding vote to seat a Supreme Court justice who might one day vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?

It is also necessary to look beyond Murkowski and Collins for potential pressure points. Even though they aren’t on the ballot this year, the governors of Alaska and Maine are, as is Maine’s independent senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats. Voters in both states won’t be able to vote against Murkowski or Collins in this cycle, so they may opt to flex their political muscles by voting for (or against) the candidates who are on the ballot in November.

While Senate Democrats have a terrible electoral map to defend this year, when it comes to governors and state legislatures, the map becomes almost the inverse, meaning that they will have ample pickup opportunities in down ballot races.  Democrats have shown more interest and energy in down ballot state legislative races in the first eighteen months of the Trump presidency, and have already demonstrated some success in special elections – the DLCC has flipped 44 Republican-held seats to the Democrats, in addition to a Wisconsin state supreme court seat, a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, and stunning off-year results up and down the ballot in Virginia. If Democrats can harness this anxiety about the court and turn it into votes in November, that could drive them to some surprise victories.

Democrats might not be able to stop Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee, but they can put themselves in a better political position for the second half of his term: retaking the House or Senate will give them subpoena power and the ability to launch investigations, as well as control of nominations to the upper chamber; control of governor’s mansions, state offices and state legislatures will give them control of state voting rights as well as drawing the congressional maps for the next round of redistricting after 2020.

As painful as losing cases at the Supreme Court will be, the Democrats’ best hope for now is that they can use the court as an issue to play the long game: rebuild their bench in state and federal offices, gain congressional majorities, and eventually win the presidency.

 

Biden Endorses Kyrsten Sinema

Former vice president Joe Biden has endorsed Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic candidate running for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat. In an email sent out from Sinema’s Senate campaign, Biden said:

“I am proud to support my friend Kyrsten Sinema in her campaign for Senate. Kyrsten understands the challenges and opportunities that Arizona families face every day and will make a great Senator.

I’ve seen first-hand how Kyrsten gets things done for Arizona. She was indispensable to our work to strengthen the landmark Violence Against Women Act and brought a unique perspective, having worked in communities and schools. Together with Kyrsten, we expanded protections against domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Kyrsten also cares deeply for the brave men and women who wear our nation’s uniform. From standing up for our active duty service members to her work to ensure all veterans get the care they deserve, Kyrsten is tenacious in delivering results.

Kyrsten is as hard-working and principled as they come. She has the rare ability to cut through the political games and work across the aisle to get things done. These qualities can be tough to find today, but are as important as ever to solve our nation’s toughest challenges. We need more people like Kyrsten in the U.S. Senate.”

Arizona’s primary election is scheduled for August 28. Both Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report project the Arizona Senate race as a tossup.

Terry McAuliffe Headlining Kansas Democratic Party Convention

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) will be the keynote speaker at the Kansas Democratic Party’s bi-annual Demofest convention, scheduled to take place in Wichita during the weekend of August 24-26. It has been widely speculated that McAuliffe, a former chairman of the National Governors Association and of the Democratic National Committee, is considering a presidential run in 2020.

Jay Inslee Headlining Florida Democratic Party Gala

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) has been announced as the keynote speaker for the Florida Democratic Party’s annual Leadership Blue Gala, scheduled for this weekend in Hollywood, Fla.  Also scheduled to speak at the event are House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and incumbent senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is running for re-election this fall.

The event is scheduled one week after Inslee traveled to Iowa to campaign on behalf of Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell, who is running for governor.  As was the case in Iowa last week, Inslee is attending the event in Florida in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, although it will also raise eyebrows about his possible 2020 presidential ambitions.

Also scheduled to speak at the event are Democratic state legislators and candidates, including the five candidates running for the party’s nomination in the governor’s race this fall: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine, as well as Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Kat Posada. Democrats are trying to win the state’s chief executive position for the first time in 24 years.

Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both project the Florida governor’s race as a toss-up. The state’s primary is scheduled for August 28.

DNC Chairman Heading to Texas Border

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez is heading to Brownsville, Texas to participate in a rally protesting against the Trump administration’s family separation policy.  The rally will take place on Thursday, June 28 outside of a federal courthouse where many of the separated immigrants were prosecuted.

Update: The DNC announced this morning that Perez and Vice Chair Michael Blake will be visiting a school in the Bronx where migrant children are being held on Tuesday, June 26. Perez and Blake will then join with the National Action Network and local organizations in a protest against the administration’s family separation policy.