Tuesday, February 13, 2018


A survey from Priorities USA, a group affiliated with the Democratic Party, confirms that the public is somewhat less averse to President Trump and the GOP than it was a few months ago:
According to internal polling by the super PAC, President Trump's approval rating climbed to 44 percent in the first week of February, compared to 53 percent who disapprove. That mirrors Trump's improving position in public polls.

In November, the same survey found his approval rating at 40 percent, with 54 percent disapproving.

The group’s survey also showed the Democratic Party’s generic ballot advantage had shrunk, with 46 percent preferring Democrats to 42 percent for Republicans.
Priorities argues that Democrats need to start talking about the economy:
For much of the past year Democrats have debated Republicans on tax reform and the Republican efforts to dismantle and sabotage the Affordable Care Act. When that debate was being waged, voters overwhelmingly sided with Democrats. In the last few weeks, Democrats turned their attention to other issues while Trump has continued to promote his economic policies, and Trump’s numbers have incrementally improved as a result.... While still on track for a successful November, the extent of Democratic gains will be blunted if Democrats do not reengage more aggressively in speaking to the economic and health care priorities of voters.
There are a few problems with this analysis.

First, it's not as if Democrats spent all of 2017 fighting Trump and the GOP on the economy and Obamacare exclusively -- they attacked him on everything. If his numbers were lower in 2017, it's not because Democrats had a laser focus on kitchen-table issues.

Beyond that, how do Democrats focus voters' attention on the Affordable Care Act now? It's not under a direct threat of elimination the way it was in 2017.

And on the subject of taxes, some of the people who gave Trump bad grades in 2017 did so because he and congressional Republicans couldn't pass a tax bill. Once the bill was passed, a certain percentage of voters, inevitably, were happy. Democrats can't say anymore that Republicans can't get anything accomplished.

After that, Republicans did a better-than-expected job of selling the bill. They took credit for 2017's share of the long-term recovery and said it was all Trump's doing. An ongoing series of well-publicized bonus announcements has helped to reinforce the notion that Trump and the GOP are improving the economy.

One reason this is working is that it fits a narrative a lot of Americans are inclined to believe: that someone outside of politics can do a better job than a career politician, especially if he's a businessman. Americans love this idea -- it's believed across the political spectrum. (Here in deep-blue New York City, voters gave three mayoral terms to Mike Bloomberg because they believed it.)

I don't think Democrats should try to tell people who are feeling better about the economy that what they really should feel is anxiety. That's not going to work. Democrats should point out the problems -- layoffs are still happening, raises aren't, the stock market is uncertain, and cuts to needed programs are inevitable if Republicans keep both houses of Congress -- but they should expect people to want to feel good about current conditions, if that's what they're feeling now, until those conditions change.

I think Democrats should emphasize whatever Republicans are doing that's clearly not working -- they'd be crazy to try to focus on bad-mouthing the economy this week instead of talking about the Rob Porter debacle. Beyond that, Democrats should talk about what they'd do about problems that aren't being addressed -- education costs, the opioid crisis, and so on.

The GOP has effective messaging on the economy. Democrats can't fully neutralize it right now. They need to wait and see what happens between now and November, and in the meantime they need to talk about other subjects, because the public really doesn't like Trump, however much people feel good about their economic situation.

No comments: