Dem pollster: Nothing can change the trajectory of the midterms now -- except maybe one thing

Dem pollster: Nothing can change the trajectory of the midterms now -- except maybe one thing
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

You know the situation is grim when Biden’s prime minister is forced to cling to very modest improvement in a single poll to find some optimism somewhere.

In the CBS poll mentioned, Biden’s approval “moved up” from 42 percent to 44 — i.e. statistical noise. And the “solid” public confidence in COVID and local jobs to which Klain refers are 53/47 and 52/48 splits, respectively.

Even that wan bit of good news comes with caveats. Scientists believe that a fifth wave of COVID is now under way while some economists believe we’re destined for a recession as the Fed hikes interest rates. So even Biden’s “solid” ratings are likely to turn negative soon.

The hard reality for Biden and Klain is that his job approval in the RCP average has barely budged all year. It’s consistently a 41-42 percent proposition.

In a Quinnipiac poll taken last week, Biden rocked a 26 percent approval rating among Hispanics. With numbers like that one bordering on apocalyptic, my hat’s off to Klain for even pretending to find encouragement in the data recently.

The good news for Democrats is that we’re still five months out from the midterms, plenty of time for them to turn things around with a lucky break or two, right? Uh, no, writes former Bill Clinton pollster Doug Sosnik in a memo obtained by Politico. Midterm voters don’t decide which party they’re voting for in late October. They decide by summer. Summer’s almost here. Realistically, it’s too late for Dems to steer the ship away from the iceberg.

Their only hope is that a legal earthquake strikes before the collision, throwing them out of the iceberg’s path. Sosnik:

If past elections are any indicator, we are heading into the final stage of the election period when voters are beginning to lock in on their views of the state of the country and their expectations for the future. It is during this period – and not the final days of an election – that the public settles in how they are going to vote.

The President’s job approval during this stage is the best proxy to determine current levels of support for the party in power. And that window is closing rapidly. In the last four midterm elections, by June the public had made up its mind about the leadership in Washington and how they were going to vote in November. According to Gallup, Trump’s 39% job approval in early February 2018, Obama’s 41% approval in June 2014 and 45% approval in June 2010, and Bush’s 38% approval in March 2006 all matched their job approval on Election Day.

As might be expected based on the incumbents’ anemic numbers, the President’s party suffered significant defeats and lost control of at least one branch of Congress in all four of those midterm elections. That is why the stakes are so high as we enter this final period critical for the Democrats to seize the pending Court decision on Roe vs Wade as a way to alter the trajectory of the election. If they are not successful in reframing the terms of debate for the midterm elections around the pending decision by the Supreme Court on Roe, we will look back at Biden and the Democrats’ failures last summer and early fall as the reasons for their electoral defeats this November.

The midterms were lost last year in a string of blunders, Sosnik writes. Biden’s foolish declaration of independence from COVID in July, the Afghanistan fiasco in August, and rising inflation in the fall amid months of tone-deaf Democratic wrangling over Build Back Better all led to shockingly strong results for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey, cementing the public’s sense that Biden had lost the country. The resulting pessimism has been relentless ever since. Dems might be able to talk Joe Manchin into taking one last shot at a stripped-down Build Back Better bill this summer to try to boost morale on the left but no one expects that to be a gamechanger this fall.

Only the end of Roe has the potential to galvanize Democratic voters in a meaningful way, and even that would likely be a matter of transforming a Republican tsunami into merely an impressive wave.

Speaking of which, This story about Trump’s curious silence about the imminent end of Roe caught my attention this weekend. It’s not just Democrats who think the end of legal abortion is a net electoral benefit to them, apparently:

Instead, Trump has been privately fretting about what the impending collapse of abortion rights will do for his own political prospects, telling those close to him that the issue could hurt him with “suburban women” should he try to retake the White House in 2024. “Suburban women have been a recurring concern for [former] President Trump, including during the 2020 campaign, when his smarter advisers were sounding the alarm to him about how he was losing suburbs. He is … worried women in the suburbs could punish him for this one day, [too],” said a person familiar with the matter…

“‘Suburban women — some who voted for me — they don’t like it when we talk about it. That’s a problem sometimes [and that is] important to remember,’” Trump said at one small gathering earlier this month, the second source relayed.

Not once in the 120 posts he’s made at Truth Social since the Dobbs opinion leaked has Trump mentioned it, says Rolling Stone, and he’s alluded to it only in passing at rallies this past month. Maybe he’s worried about Republican overreach this summer: It’s one thing to overturn Roe, after al, it’s another to have red states banning abortion from the moment of conception. Still, it’s silly for Trump to think he can hide from that issue forever. If he’s the nominee again in 2024, a key part of the Democratic message will be that letting him make more SCOTUS appointments in a second term will lead to red-state bans on contraception, gay marriage, civil rights, etc etc.

Besides, he’s destined to tout his role in ending Roe in the 2024 GOP primary, assuming anyone bothers to run against him.

Democrats should cheer up, though. As long as they’ve got an ace communicator like this on their team, hope for victory is never fully lost.

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