While the media is gaga over the possibility of a blue wave and polls at the macro level all seem to indicate that, there are three points the national media is largely ignoring that could cut deeply into that wave.
First is a poll done by WAPi for the Club for Growth, which is a conservative group but runs polls to determine where to place its money and how to message in the races in which it is investing. It’s not puff pollery for public consumption. WPAi conducted the poll of only the people who really matter — 1,000 likely voters in 41 competitive House districts, as reported by Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal.
And indeed, at the macro level the poll is still bad. President Trump’s negative approval rating in these districts is particularly high among women (57%), independents (58%) and suburban voters (52%). The scariest number is the 12-point enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans calling themselves “very interested” in this election. In the suburbs, the gap doubles to 24 points. Those are all the numbers the media will generally report from polls.
But here are the bright spots for Republicans in those 41 swing districts. And they are meaningful.
Republicans actually hold a 3-point lead on the generic ballot in those districts, meaning that the large advantage Democrats have nationally is being ballooned by deep blue districts and/or deep red districts. But in the districts that will decide control of the House, Republicans have a good chance of winning — if they get their voters to the polls and message rightly.
An even bigger opportunity for Republicans is that the poll found that 25% of the likely voters who said they would vote Democrat in those districts were still “persuadable” to vote Republican. That goes directly to the message formation in those districts.
On that point, taxes remain a big winner, but not by touting past accomplishments. Republicans need to run on making last year’s tax cuts permanent and force Democrats to answer on the question of whether they will vote to repeal them.
A couple other areas of messaging are strengths for the GOP in all of those districts. One is highlighting the radically leftist ideas that many Democrats are embracing. The poll found that uncommitted voters reacted strongly against Democrats’ calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and strongly in favor of GOP promises to defund “sanctuary” cities and states. In fact, those were the top two messages for swing suburban voters, who have seen urban violence invading their neighborhoods. Those both propel the base and move the independents. The third topic for suburban voters? Repeal ObamaCare. This should be home-run stuff.
The second good sign for Republicans and a bit of an unknown is the unexpected trend of blacks warming to Trump.
While the level of support varies greatly poll to poll, surveys from Rasmussen polls to NAACP polls reveal a glaringly consistent trend: Black support for President Trump has doubled or more than doubled since the November 2016 election. Considering the non-stop charges of racism leveled at the President and his administration, along with Trump’s own missteps (initial response to Charlottesville) this is a fairly astonishing development.
The causes seem to be two-fold. One, the economic improvement for blacks since Trump’s election is tangible in a way that no race-based media blitz can obscure. Record levels of high black employment and low black unemployment, combined with rising incomes and opportunities are felt and noticed. Second, the hope and change of Barack Obama turned into little more than race-stoking. No healing, no moving forward, no hope — plus a terrible economy. The disappointment at Obama’s presidency in the black community is a story repeated over and over.
This has the potential to be monumental, even if it only plays out by a few percentage points at the November ballot box.
The third point of optimism for Republicans was touched on in the first: the Democrats’ lurch toward open socialism in multiple candidates.
This is well-known in the case of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat who beat a long-time incumbent in the primary, but it is also going on in other candidates this cycle after Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unexpectedly strong showing in the 2016 Democratic primary. Perhaps the biggest, however, is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Gillum has many drawbacks, from presiding over Tallahassee becoming the most dangerous city in Florida to an FBI investigation of corruption at City Hall. But the biggest negatives for voters are his radical stances on socialism, ratcheting up the state corporate tax that Gov. Rick Scott has been decreasing (helping create the hottest state economy in the nation) abolishing ICE, legalizing recreational pot, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour and more.
While Gillum is a good fit for Ocasio-Cortez’s very liberal New York Congressional district, he’s probably not for a right-of-center state. This “is giving Democrats heartburn,” according to a Florida newspaper that polled several Democratic candidates. Most of them, including Sen. Bill Nelson, are distancing themselves from Gillum.
The problem for these Democrats, and opportunity for Republicans, is that the media loves Gillum, Ocasio-Cortez and others and national party leaders have been quickly embracing their ideas. This is a heavy anchor that can be hung on Democrats in the 41 close House races.
The wild card is the Mueller investigation. But there has been nothing but fog so far, mimicking smoke to imply a fire. But even former Washington Post editor and reporter of Watergate fame Bob Woodward said he looked “very hard” for Russian collusion in his extensive interviews and research for his book “Fear,” but said he could find none. Unless Mueller has an October surprise, this has become a non-issue for voters in the middle, along with Trump’s unpredictability, which has become predictable and baked in for the electorate.
Republicans have a real chance, but they have to have the courage in these close races to go straight to voters with a strong message on taxes and law enforcement issues.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.