In his final campaign push, Donald Trump is avoiding heading to places where he might hurt GOP incumbents, yet his constant racist, xenophobic attacks on immigrants and refugees are simply too incendiary to escape notice. And that is terrible news for House Republicans clinging to their majority with an electoral map that runs through suburban America.
The idea that insanely nativist policies like sending troops to the border to head off a group of desperate migrants could escape notice is as fanciful as the notion that outright anti-immigrant racism would be the perfect closing argument for Republicans in 2018.
As the New York Times notes, “more than a third of the elections set to determine control of the House are being held in districts that rank as the most prosperous in America.” And equally as important, those districts are largely not receptive to the other-ist fearmongering and resentment Trump has used to harden his most loyal fans.
The toss-up districts “are by and large pretty dynamic places, where the status quo is working rather well,” John Lettieri, the president of the Economic Innovation Group, said in an interview. “Things like globalization and immigration aren’t things to be feared there. They’re woven into the fabric.”
Lettieri’s group found that 43 of the 70 most competitive House districts rank as either “prosperous” (28) or “comfortable” (15).
While several surveys, including an extensive Pew poll, have found that Republicans rank immigration as the single most important issue heading into the midterms, it ranks fifth for voters in the suburbs, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll. In the poll, suburban voters ranked at least four other issues as either the “most important” or a “very important” issue driving their votes:
- Economy, 82 percent
- Health care, 79 percent
- Equal treatment of women/men, 74 percent
- Taxes, 71 percent
- Immigration, 65 percent
But health care tops the economy as “the single most important issue” among suburban voters by several points, 20-17 percent.
And once more, suburban voters trust Democrats over Republicans to handle three of those issues: health care (by 10 points), equal treatment (18 points), and immigration (5 points). Taxes are a draw between the parties, while suburban voters favor Republicans over Democrats on the economy by 9 points.
As FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noted Tuesday, “Trump/the GOP are so all-in on an ‘all base mobilization, all the time’ strategy that people just take for granted it must be smart politics when it’s far from obvious that’s the case.”
And pushing blatant anti-immigrant messaging definitively hurt Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie last year, according to extensive statewide polling from Latino Decisions. Gillespie’s ad featuring MS-13 gang members backfired among every demographic group that saw it, including white voters, with 52 percent saying it made them less enthusiastic about Gillespie’s candidacy compared to 29 percent who felt more enthusiastic.
Nonetheless, Trump will spend this final week driving home the most racist, xenophobic messages he can think of, whether it’s ending birthright citizenship, spending some $35 million to send 5,200 troops to the border, or lying about terrorists infiltrating the desperate group of refugees seeking a better life in America.
Next week we’ll find out how well that went over with voters after Trump failed to rise to moments of real national crisis, following the “MAGA bomber” and the tragic anti-Semitic shooting that claimed eleven lives.