Chris Cillizza of CNN has an article out today on the CNN website that is one of the smartest, most concise analysis that I have seen in a long time on the state of the race with 6 months left until the November midterms. And while Cillizza concurs that most likely a wave is coming for the Democrats, he also cautions that the Democrats can turn it from a wave into a normal “tide” if they’re not careful.
Cillizza points out that there is what appears to be an interesting anomaly in polling concerning Trump and the country right now. Trump continues to be mired at around 41% approval rating with the public. This is nothing new or shocking, he’s pretty much been there ever since he shed the 5% or so independents and disgruntled Democrats that he wooed in 2016. But at the same time, 12% say that things are going “very” well for the country, and 45% say they are going “fairly” well. In other words, almost 60% think the country is going in the right direction.
On the surface, this makes absolutely no sense. Normally, if people think the country is doing well, the President gets credit, and his popularity numbers rise. If people think the country is on the wrong track, the President takes it in the chops. But here, while people think the country is doing just peachy, they still think that Trump is a blivet in a Pierre Cardin suit. What gives?
Chris Cillizza has a reason for the apparent contradiction, and I think it’s the correct one. God knows, Trump is no oozing valentine Democrat. But at the same time, people don’t consider him a traditional conservative Republican either. To put it simply, Trump is Trump. And as such, his damage can be largely self contained. Cillizza points out that while Trump being severed logically from the GOP means that his coattails won’t help candidates like Roy Moore or Rick Saccone, likewise, his drag may not be as bad on more traditional candidates in competitive races. People do not automatically equate Trump’s nonsense with the GOP writ large.
Cillizza has reached a perfectly logical conclusion, and it contains a stern warning for the Democrats. You can’t expect to blow the Republicans out of the water in November simply by highlighting what a miserable excuse for a human being Trump is. The GOP has already twigged to this, it is the reason that they would so desperately love to run on their tax cuts, if only the damn things were giving non billionaires real money. But between now and November, the Republicans are going to keep casting their lines in every direction, looking for something that they can tout as an accomplishment that still keeps Trump at arms length.
Recent history shows that Democrats don’t have to run solely against Trump, nor should they need to. In Virginia last year, Democrats cleaned up running on local issues. Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania largely ignored the sirens song of Trump bashing, as did Doug Jones in Alabama. Rather than holding Stormy Daniels up as a poster child for Trump’s depravity, force Republicans to own the rising healthcare costs coming from their gutting Obamacare safeguards in their tax bill. Call them out for the hypocrites they are, for preaching “fiscal responsibility” from the pulpit, and then sleeping with a trillion dollar deficit in the back room. The GOP incumbents are wholly owned, lock, stock, and barrel by their special interest donors, there is no lack of local based issues to slam them with.
The Democrats have already largely corrected their greatest single deficiency. Wayne Gretzy once said “I guarantee you that you’ll miss 100% of the shots you never take.” You want to beat a Republican? Put a name on the goddamn ballot! In Virginia, Democrats flipped seats that had been uncontested since Christ was a carpenter. They beat GOP incumbents who hadn’t had to run in so long that they had forgotten how to run. Democrats now have a name in almost every congressional slot for November. Now that we have names on the ballot, the last thing the DNC and DNCC should be saying is “Here’s what to run on if you want to win.” The only thing they need to say is “Here’s how to set up your campaign, now, how can we help?”
You can always tell the really good ones. They can scan across the endless bands of white noise, and still find the “Are you out there?” signal from Mars. Chris Cillizza just put his thumb on it today. Hey, Democrats! You wanna pitch a no hitter in November? Keep ’em off balance with your Trump curve ball, and just keep blowing your fastball right by them. All it takes is discipline and execution. We can do this.