Monday, October 18, 2021


It should make me happy that Republicans are freaking out -- and snapping at one another -- over Donald Trump's comments about future elections. The New York Times reports:
The G.O.P.’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that has the ability to sway tens of millions of votes: former President Donald J. Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath.

In a series of public appearances and statements over the last week, Mr. Trump has signaled not only that he plans to work against Republicans he deems disloyal, but also that his meritless claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the White House in 2020 will be his litmus test, going so far as to threaten that his voters will sit out future elections.

“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020,” Mr. Trump said in a statement last week, “Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
Mediaite tells me there's data to back up this Republican fear of diminshed turnout:
A stunning New York Times report reveals an “alarming” possibility that nearly 10 percent of Georgia Republican voters could sit out the 2022 election unless the 2020 general election is audited.
But when you read the relevant passage from the Times story (the same story I've quoted above), you see that there's not much to it:
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia ... has told colleagues that she was surprised by a recent survey of Republican voters in her district, according to one person who spoke with her about it.

The internal survey found that 5 percent of Republican voters said they would sit out the 2022 election if the state of Georgia did not conduct a forensic audit of the 2020 election.... Another 4 percent said they would consider sitting out the election absent an audit.

The possibility that nearly 10 percent of Republicans could sit out any election — even one in a solidly red district like the one held by Ms. Taylor Greene — was something Republican strategists said they found alarming.
So this is a secondhand account of a statement made by Greene, one of the least trustworthy members of Congress, describing a private poll that Greene claims she's she's seen but that the person speaking to the Times apparently hasn't seen. The poll, if it exists, confirms the "need" for an audit in Georgia, which just so happens to coincide with what Greene wants. Yeah, I'm totally convinced.

But it's now conventional wisdom that Trump's election fraud talk reduces Republican turnout, and probably led Republicans to losses in the two Georgia Senate runoffs in January. But Philip Bump of The Washington Post is right and the conventional wisdom is wrong:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked at county-level results and found that turnout declines in January were heavier in some counties that had voted more strongly for Trump in November.

That’s true.... The more supportive a county was of Trump in November 2020, the bigger the downward shift in turnout in January 2021....

But this isn’t the whole story. If we look at the shift by county from the 2018 gubernatorial race to the 2021 contest, there’s no such pattern. In other words, the increase in votes cast in the runoff election was pretty uniformly distributed relative to 2018 vote....

It wasn’t the 2021 election that was exceptional, it was the 2020 one. And the differentiating factor was whether Trump was on the ballot.
In other words, if you compare the 2021 runoff to the last statewide Georgia election in which Trump wasn't on the ballot, the difference in vote totals is roughly the same in Democratic and Republican counties. The runoff just seems bad for Republicans relative to the 2020 presidential election because in 2020 Trump was on the ballot, and there are a lot of people who don't vote very often but are eager to vote if they can vote for Trump.

But I wish I knew how this misunderstanding could work to Democrats' advantage. I admit that it's fun to watch scared Republicans trying to find someone who'll agree to take incoming from Trump. Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy apparently drew the short straw and was assigned this mission:
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told “Axios on HBO” he’s not sure former President Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination if he ran in 2024 — a rare voice of criticism from within the party.

When I raised the conventional wisdom that Trump would be expected to win the nomination, Cassidy jumped in.“

I don't know that,” the senator said during our interview in Chalmette, La.

... “Trump is the first president in the Republican side at least to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning," Cassidy said.

On the possibility of Trump losing the nomination, Cassidy said: “Well, if you want to win the presidency — and hopefully that's what voters are thinking about — I think he might.”
But Cassidy just won reelection in 2020. He's safe until 2026. Trump will snipe at him, Trump allies will snipe at him ... and in upcoming elections Republican voters will still vote Republican, because they think Joe Biden is in an advanced state of dementia and is also, somehow, the worst dictator since Stalin, because Nancy Pelosi is the Antichrist, and because Anthony Fauci and George Soros and Bill Gates and the global Deep State and Antifa and Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory and the Transgender Menace must be stopped at all costs.

We continue to be told that Trump is a drag on poor Glenn Youngkin in Virginia. From the Times story:
Mr. Trump’s recent interference in the Virginia contest — where polls show the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, narrowly trailing his Democratic rival, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe — worried advisers to Mr. Youngkin’s campaign. They watched as their carefully scripted plan to keep the race focused on their candidate and on claims that Democrats have veered too far left became engulfed by news coverage of the former president praising Mr. Youngkin at a political rally last week.

Some Republicans said they feared they were watching a preview of the awkward and unpleasant dilemma their candidates would face for the foreseeable future, as Mr. Trump remains the most popular figure in their party, determining what candidates say and how voters think.

“Here is where Trump is so destructive,” said Barbara Comstock, a former Republican member of Congress who lost her seat in suburban Virginia in 2018. That year, voters in swing districts across the country turned against centrist incumbents like her in a repudiation of Mr. Trump.
But if Trump is hurting Youngkin so much, why is Youngkin trailing in the polls by only 2.2 points, in a state Biden won by 10? It seems to me that Youngkin is doing the rope-a-dope perfectly -- telling media outlets consumed by suburban voters that he's not like that awful Trump, while using Trump and Trump surrogates to rally the Trumpist faithful. (I still think he'll lose, but not by much.)

I'd be thrilled if Trump were a drag on fellow Republicans, but I see no evidence of that.

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