View from the Left: Trump’s drag on House Republicans continues, despite national polling

PBS NewsHour / YouTube Rep Barbara Comstock says Capitol Hill...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

One of the most endangered Republicans in Congress, Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10), must have sat there, mouth agape, as Donald Trump repeatedly declared Tuesday how much he would “love to see a shutdown” over immigration issues. He was insisting that his so-called four-pillar wish list of immigration goodies be included in any budget deal, leaving Comstock—with a district full of government workers—little choice but to challenge Trump’s assertion.

“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she said, according to video of the exchange.

In particular, she didn’t need a GOP-inspired shutdown. Some pundits thought it was a good moment for Comstock, showing she could stand up to a pr*sident that proved deeply unpopular in her Virginia district during elections last year. But Comstock didn’t speak up because she was eager to take on Trump—few-to-none Republican lawmakers have dared engage in gratuitous Trump bashing. Instead, Comstock acted out of desperation to distance herself from the man who, one way or the other, will loom large over the midterm elections.

Trump is at least part of the reason that Cook Political Report this week revised their ratings in 21 districts to be more favorable to Democrats. Though Republicans have been taking solace in a bump in their national polling, Cook Political’s David Wasserman writes:

…most new district-by-district fundraising and polling numbers are downright terrible for Republicans, even in seats previously thought to be safe. […]

Republican leaders believe they can save their majority with a four-pronged approach: emphasize strong economic fundamentals, a muscular national security posture, opposition research against untested first-time Democratic candidates and the possible return of Nancy Pelosi as speaker. But historically, it’s been difficult to frame midterms as anything other than referenda on the president and party in charge.

In other words, even though Democrats’ generic ballot lead has tightened to about seven points, Trump’s approval rating has increased to nearly 41 percent, and people are feeling pretty positive about the economy (or at least they were before the stock market correction), Trump is still serving as a drag in congressional district polling.

In fact, two California Republicans are a perfect example of the liability Trump now poses to many House Republicans. Polling in the districts of GOP Reps. Steve Knight and Dana Rohrabacher shows that Trump’s sagging approval ratings are directly correlate the lawmakers’ reelection bids.

The Sacramento Bee writes:

The polling, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) in mid-January, finds that support for the two Republicans’ re-election is highly correlated with voter opinions about the president’s job approval, their 2016 presidential vote, and GOP control of Congress. […]

Despite a Republican voter registration edge in Rohrabacher’s district, over half of likely voters there disapprove of the president. Knight faces a similar dynamic.

Among those voters in Rohrabacher’s district who disapprove of Trump, 86 percent are not inclined to support their congressman’s re-election bid. In Knight’s district, that figure rises to 90 percent.

Rohrbacher’s overall favorability ratings are underwater, at 38 percent approval to 50 percent disapproval, including 38 percent who “strongly” disapprove. Things don’t look any better for Knight, who sits at a 37 – 53 percent approval/disapproval rating, with 40 percent “strongly” disapproving.

It’s exactly that phenomenon that continues to drive a historically high number of GOP retirements and offers Democrats so many opportunities to flip seats this cycle. As Wasserman notes:

The balance of evidence points towards a very wide — and mostly suburban — House battlefield with up to 75 GOP-held seats and fewer than 20 Democratic-held seats in play. At this point, we still view Democrats as ever-so-slight favorites to net at least 24 seats and win a majority…

Here’s a list of Cook’s newest ratings changes.

Rating changes for 21 House seats.

P.S. If you haven’t yet signed up to join a protest in the event that Trump fires Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller, please do so at Nobody Is Above The Law. I wrote about how crucial a quick response would be last week and you can read it here.

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