The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 43

This week:

  • Democrats’ poll panic
  • Inevitable impeachment trial
  • Republican election setbacks in Kentucky, Virginia

Poll Panic: Democrats, feeling certain of President Trump’s unelectability, got a rude awakening this week when the New York Times released polls of multiple battleground states

Among likely voters, Trump beats frontrunner Elizabeth Warren in Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina, and ties her in Arizona. Although the finding received less attention than the others, Warren trails Trump by a full six points in Iowa, even though she is involved in an intense primary campaign, has built up full name recognition, and leads the Democratic caucus contest. 

Other Democratic candidates did better than Warren, but not that much better. Of the states mentioned, Bernie Sanders only leads Trump in Michigan. 

These results point to the possibility of another resounding electoral college victory, whether or not Trump wins the national popular vote. These polls demonstrate that if Democrats nominate one of the candidates at the left fringe of their nominating field, they will be taking a huge risk.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, whose fundraising and polling has fallen apart all at once, appears to be the only Democratic candidate leading Trump in those states (except for North Carolina).  

Although the poll is very early on, it illustrates the degree to which Democrats are overconfident about their ability to win. Trump’s support is well-placed and sufficiently large to guarantee he will never be completely out of next year’s race. 

This raises questions even about impeachment. As Democrats pursue it, are they deep down afraid that it represents their best chance at doing away with Trump? 

Bloombergmentum? Lastly, the apparent entry of Michael Bloomberg into the Democratic race for president is a puzzling development. There is no particular constituency for his candidacy. 

However,  the fact that even he leads President Trump in national polling is a sign of what to watch for in 2020. Trump will most likely trail in national polls, as he did throughout 2016. But there is no national election. As noted above, Trump could easily win re-election without winning the vote nationally, once again.

Impeachment: The House has finally voted, almost exactly along party lines, to open an impeachment inquiry. If House Democrats do vote to impeach President Trump — and it is inevitable that they will do so — the smart way for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be to handle it would be to hold a vote on conviction and removal as quickly as possible. 

In the event of a purely partisan impeachment, this would be the clear way of refusing to take it seriously. A quick down-vote would also avoid the pitfall of a lengthy Senate trial that could leave a public impression that Trump did something clearly wrong or illegal. It would give Trump the ability to put as much distance as possible between himself and the impeachment by the time of the election.

Election 2019

Kentucky: Gov. Matt Bevin, R, came up short in a heartbreakingly close finish Tuesday, losing re-election to Attorney General Andy Beshear, D, by less than half a percentage point. 

Bevin, who picked too big a fight against his state’s teacher’s unions, trailed at one point in his re-election race by more than 15 points. President Trump and the Republican machine built up in Kentucky by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R, nearly sufficed to save him. But not quite.

For a clear indication of just how unpopular Bevin had become, consider that Republicans won all other statewide constitutional elected offices aside from the governorship — secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, and agriculture commissioner — and did so by a relatively wide margin in all cases. This hasn’t happened since 1920. In fact, there hasn’t been a Republican attorney general since the 1940s. 

The Republican Party’s status in the Bluegrass State is clearly much stronger today than it was when Gov. Ernie Fletcher, R, was blown away in his 2007 re-election bid. But a loss is a loss is a loss. Bevin’s loss hurts.

Still, Democrats are probably deluding themselves if they think this means they can take out McConnell in a presidential year. President Trump will win more than 60 percent in the state next November. It’s going to be a big uphill climb for any Democrat to overcome that and defeat him.

Mississippi: Republicans at least avoided disaster in Mississippi, holding on to the governor’s office by a relatively narrow margin. Tate Reeves, R, managed to defeat the relatively conservative Jim Hood, D, preventing his state from backsliding on its realignment the way Kentucky just did and Louisiana did with the election of John Bel Edwards in Louisiana four years ago. 

One side-effect of Hood’s candidacy was the election of the first Republican attorney general since 1878. Hood was probably popular enough to win re-election indefinitely, but in his absence there are no Democrats left in office. Republicans control all statewide elected offices for the first time since 1876, and they enjoy their largest majority in both state legislative chambers since 1871.

New Jersey: Republicans managed to gain a bit of ground in Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s midterm, although they haven’t returned even to the level in the state legislature that they enjoyed earlier this decade. The GOP picked up between two and four seats in the state Assembly and a state Senate seat that was up in a special election. 

Murphy was fortunate to avoid worse. At a public event last month, he remarked, “If you’re a one-issue voter, and tax rate is your issue…we’re probably not your state.” That’s the kind of thing that soon-to-be-former elected officials say.

Virginia: It was a grim day for the Commonwealth’s Republican Party. With victories in both state legislative chambers, Democrats now control Virginia’s state government completely for the first time since the early 1990s. Back then, they were a very different party. Today, they stand to turn Virginia into a new laboratory for left-wing ideas.

They most immediately threaten Virginia’s longstanding right-to-work law, and they may move, like New York and California, to institutionalize taxpayer-funded abortion. They will also be able to gerrymander the state to lock themselves into power, since this was the last state election before the Census and reapportionment.