The NY Times published an interesting story today that must be causing some heartburn in Democratic circles. The point of the piece is simple: Democrats who were inspired by the party’s solid showing in 2018 should prepare for disappointment. A sliver of voters in swing states who turned out for Democrats last year plan to still vote for Trump next year:
Nearly two-thirds of voters in six battleground states who voted for President Trump in 2016 — but for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 — say they intend to back the president against each of his top rivals, according to recent polling by The New York Times Upshot/Siena College.
The results suggest that the party’s winning formula in last year’s midterms may not be so easy to replicate in a presidential election. The Democrats’ relatively moderate House candidates succeeded in large part by flipping a crucial segment of voters who backed the president in 2016. If these voters remain open-minded again in 2020, Democrats will have a ready-made blueprint for winning back the crucial Rust Belt battlegrounds…
Michael Townsend, 38, a high school-educated construction worker in Dunmore, Pa., was a lifelong Democrat — until he voted for Mr. Trump.
“In the last couple years, the Democrats had kind of been losing the work, and I thought Trump might get us that work,” he said. “And to be honest, I’ve been in construction 21 years and the last two years were the best years I’ve ever had.”
As you read through the rest of the statements the Times has compiled from swing-voters around the country, there are a couple of things that stand out. First, many of them point to the economy as a sign that Trump is doing something right. That’s a very traditional explanation for why presidential candidates get re-elected and in this case it seems to be true. In their heart of hearts, Democrats must be rooting for a recession next year because without it this is probably going to be an uphill battle.
Second, several of the people quoted seem to separate Trump as a person from Trump as a President. Margaret Foster told the Times Trump is an “egotistical, overbearing man,” but she plans to vote for him. Juli Anna California said, “He’s not exactly the person I’d have as my best friend.” But she added, “But he’s a great president.”
You could hear something similar in recent remarks by Rick Perry: “God’s used imperfect people all through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect.” You can get carried away with that attitude, especially if you only apply it to one side of the aisle. In Perry’s case, he said he believed the same about President Obama. In any case, there’s plenty of room in many people’s minds for someone who is a) not a moral exemplar but b) still an good leader. That’s obviously frustrating to the left but, frankly, the party that supported Bill Clinton despite years of allegations against him has no room to complain about other people’s convoluted moral reasoning.
The polling out today suggests that, despite the push by some to drive the party to the far left, Democrats are starting to take a more moderate course. That’s probably the best they can do to make these swing-state races competitive. Medicare for All is not going to win them this election.