For cripes sake. The Trumpiest thing ever would be populist voters staying home on Election Day because they believed his idiotic braggadocio that a red, not blue, wave is in the works. Why go to the trouble of voting when your vote isn’t really needed, after all?
Reality check: Not only would a red wave be all but impossible given his low-40s job approval, it would defy decades of precedent in which the out-party always cleans up in the first midterm after the White House changes hands.
I know, I know: “Decades of precedent also said he couldn’t win in 2016.” All rules of political gravity bow before the glory of MAGA. It seems strange, then, that Republicans themselves are nervous about the apparently devout belief among righties that they’re looking at a big night in November regardless of what the polls say:
America First Action, a political committee aligned with Mr. Trump, conducted a series of focus groups over the summer and concluded the party had a severe voter-turnout problem, brought on in part by contentment about the economy and a refusal by Republicans to believe that Democrats could actually win the midterm elections.
Conservative-leaning voters in the study routinely dismissed the possibility of a Democratic wave election, with some describing the prospect as “fake news,” said an official familiar with the research, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the data was not intended to be disclosed. Breaking that attitude of complacency is now the Republicans’ top priority, far more than wooing moderates with gentler messaging about economic growth.
America First Action isn’t some NeverTrump outfit. It’s a big-money Team Trump operation, one which Sean Spicer now works for. Essentially, Trump’s own data shows that he’s tamping down the urgency that his fans feel to vote. And it’s not just AFA that’s detecting a “fake news” response to reports of a blue wave. The RNC is picking it up too:
A source who has seen recent polling, conducted by the Republican National Committee, told me the data show that a majority of Trump voters don’t believe the mountain of evidence that Democrats will win back the House in November.
By the numbers: 57% of strong Trump supporters believe it’s unlikely Democrats win the House, according to the source, who wasn’t authorized to share findings from the RNC poll with the media. (The survey of 800 registered voters — 480 via landline calls and 320 via cellphone calls — was conducted from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 and has a margin of error of 3.5%.)
By contrast, election forecaster Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website gives Democrats an 83.1% chance of winning control over the House.
So fragile is the presidential ego, so resistant is it to the idea that a movement led by him might get hammered at the polls, that his scoffing at the likelihood of a blue wave might end up inadvertently making it happen. The good news is that while he tends to dismiss out of hand any outside polling that gives him gloomy numbers, he seems to be taking his own internal bad-news polling seriously. Yahoo News noted last week that the “red wave” talk has been slowly disappearing from Trump’s public comments, precisely because he and his team are worried that he’s talking down right-wing turnout by engaging in it. (Said one consultant, “In his recent rallies, he has maybe heard a few of us operatives out here that are saying, ‘Mr. President … I know we’re pushing back on our narrative but this actually needs to be a different strategy. We need to turn out our base.’”) The “tell” that Trump’s message had changed, notes Yahoo, was that Sean Hannity’s message also changed recently, something I’d noticed myself. Hannity was a “red wave” guy for months. Then, suddenly, last week he became a “blue wave” guy. Yesterday’s “fake news” is today’s GOTV rallying point.
And a good thing too.
The X factor now is the Kavanaugh clusterfark. It’s entirely possible that him getting borked would be *good* for Republican turnout this fall. Trump will slam the Democrats for having ruined a good man with a last-minute smear and will demand revenge, an even bigger GOP majority in the Senate next January to confirm a more conservative replacement. You want to punish Schumer and Feinstein and Durbin for ratf*cking Kavanaugh? Then go elect Republicans and let’s confirm Amy Coney Barrett next year. But of course a Supreme Court vacancy will goose Democratic turnout too. Veto power over Trump’s nominee will be within their reach. There’s no way you’re getting a pro-life warrior like Barrett on the Court if Schumer has final say, and every pro-choicer in America will be keenly aware of it by November. Who benefits more electorally from a borking? No idea.