We should lead with the Republican numbers since those are the only ones POTUS himself seems interested in. If the conventional wisdom is right that he’s attacking AOC and her friends because that’ll motivate right-wing turnout, and if Trump is right that pushing his own base’s turnout ever higher is the key to victory next year, then the only opinions he should care about with respect to this Squad fracas are Republican opinions.
The good news, then, is that he has a majority of his own party behind him on this, as usual. The bad news is, well, everything else.
Fifty-seven Republicans agree with him. (It totals 58 there, I know, but that’s because they’re rounding up.) Just 28 percent of Americans overall do, though, while 62 percent disagree — most of them strongly. Among indies the split is a gruesome 19/66. Even the Republican numbers are arguably more of a bad sign for Trump than a good one. A majority say they agree, sure, but POTUS usually enjoys 80-90 percent support from his base. A man who once boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote naturally aims higher than 57 percent of his own party.
Ipsos also asked if the tweets were offensive and un-American:
The GOP divide on whether the tweets were offensive was a narrow 37/42, which speaks volumes about the extent of the misgivings even on the right. I wonder how many answered yes when asked if the tweets were offensive but then also answered yes when asked if they agreed with them because, darn it, that’s what basic partisanship requires nowadays when you get a hostile pollster.
There’s more evidence in the data of GOPers feeling conflicted about this episode. Asked if people who criticize America are un-American, 52 percent of Republicans at least somewhat agreed — but when asked if it’s patriotic “to point out where America falls short and try to do better,” 68 percent agreed with that too. Seventy percent of Republicans somewhat agreed that people who accuse others of racism “usually” do so in bad faith — but 45 percent, a plurality, agreed that telling minorities to “go back where they came from” is indeed racist. Rarely do you see a poll like this where righties seem to be bouncing from question to question between their felt imperative to show loyalty to Trump and their unease with his message.
Which feels like a bad sign for the grand “ramp up the base” strategy. How jacked is the base going to be to turn out because of episodes like this one if many are conflicted about them? And what about the minor detail that the base wasn’t decisive to Trump’s victory in 2016?
For the umpteenth time, the base was *not enough* to win 2016 for him. The key voters were those who disliked Trump AND Clinton and broke for Trump.
In Michigan, for example, 20% of voters disliked both candidates; Trump won them by 21 points. https://t.co/6AIb2zAb1F
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) July 17, 2019
Trump won three years ago because he got his base to show up and because he was the lesser of two evils in most undecideds’ eyes. Like it or not, AOC won’t be the Democratic nominee next year. How does he win the lesser-of-two-evils argument this time if he’s pumping out “go back to Africa” messages which 67 percent of the public — and three-quarters of all women — find offensive?
The tweets were a mistake, probably a minor one which will be forgotten soon enough but not if he keeps doubling down on this message going forward. Maybe he’ll wise up and steer clear butttttt probably not:
It is the kind of fight that the president relishes. He has told aides, in fact, that he is pleased with the Democratic reaction to his attacks, boasting that he is “marrying” the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party to the four congresswomen known as “the squad.”…
Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, has been telling people that it is very hard to persuade voters in the current hyperpartisan political landscape.
Mr. Trump’s re-election strategy, instead, is to solidify his base and increase turnout. A major component of that is to portray his opponents as not merely disliking him and his policies, but also disliking America itself.
If he can make voters think they’re actually electing AOC president by electing the actual Democratic nominee president, maybe this’ll work out for him. He’ll have some help from the Dems themselves on that: Look how many presidential candidates have endorsed the Green New Deal in order to stay on the good side of Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive base. But the nominee will naturally shift towards the center during the general election, and he or she will eventually start enjoying media coverage that dwarfs even AOC’s. The party will also attempt to make the Squad scarce once voters begin paying more attention, precisely in order to deprive Trump of the kindling he’s using them for. Democrats might even end up with a nominee disdained by Ocasio-Cortez herself, as she’s had nothing kind to say about Joe Biden thus far. “Go back to Africa” is the highest of high-stakes bets for Trump to place as a winning presidential message.