Yesterday afternoon I was ready to declare that Trump is in real trouble based on a reading of Nate Silver's article from Wednesday, "Donald Trump’s Base Is Shrinking":
...Trump’s base seems to be eroding. There’s been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump, from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now. (The decline in Trump’s strong approval ratings is larger than the overall decline in his approval ratings, in fact.) Far from having unconditional love from his base, Trump has already lost almost a third of his strong support. And voters who strongly disapprove of Trump outnumber those who strongly approve of him by about a 2-to-1 ratio, which could presage an “enthusiasm gap” that works against Trump at the midterms. The data suggests, in particular, that the GOP’s initial attempt (and failure) in March to pass its unpopular health care bill may have cost Trump with his core supporters.But then this morning there is the news that Republican Greg Gianforte handily beat Rob Quist, darling of the Bernistas, in the Montana special election to fill Ryan Zinke's at-large congressional district seat, and this despite Gianforte being charged with assault on the eve of the election.
The anti-Trump mainstream press is spinning the result by closing the barn door after the pony has departed the farm, saying that, well, Quist never really had a chance to win. Here's a sample from Nate Silver's "What Went Down In The Montana Special Election":
Our vantage point is that we’re mostly looking at special elections in terms of how they might predict 2018. A night where Democrats are losing Montana by “only” 6 or 7 points is consistent with the sort of map you might see if Democrats were either taking over the House, or coming pretty close to it.
On the other hand, our expectations were already pretty high for Democrats. The opposition party — the party that doesn’t hold the White House — usually does well in midterm elections. And Trump is not a popular guy. The Democrats have plenty of issues, like the GOP’s unpopular health care bill, to campaign upon. This isn’t complicated stuff. You’d expect them to do pretty well under such circumstances, and to have a decent shot — let’s call it 50 to 60 percent — of taking over the House.
This result in Montana doesn’t change our priors much, therefore. Furthermore, it’s a somewhat quirky race, given that Quist and (especially) Gianforte both have their issues as candidates, and that Montana has been a little bit more competitive in Congressional and statewide races than in races for the presidency. Quist winning by 1 or losing by 13 might have called for a recalibration of our assumptions; we don’t think this result does.We have a situation where Trump is losing his true believers at the same time the Democrats are trying to find true believers based on a new McCarthyism. It is a race to the bottom. While the touts at FiveThirtyEight are proclaiming, based on the numbers, that control of the House should shift to the Democrats. The problem with this is all the Dems are offering voters is an infantile, delusional complaint that it is all Russia's fault.
Look at this morning's lede unsigned editorial "President Trump Fails NATO," in the "newspaper of record":
That Mr. Trump and the allies were unable to agree on a common approach toward Russia was also worrisome. Moscow has become increasingly aggressive as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea, waged war in eastern Ukraine, meddled in the American and European elections and intervened militarily in Syria. The most that emerged from a meeting between Mr. Trump and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, was that the two shared the “same line” on Ukraine.
All told, Mr. Trump’s commitment to NATO and America’s tradition of leadership remain very much up in the air. Should the president abdicate both, no one would be happier than Vladimir Putin.If Russia were an aggressive power, shattering states right and left, forever on the offensive, this pitch might find an eager audience. Instead it's an upside-down view of the world. Russia is acting overwhelming in a defensive manner. The deep-state Democratic Party is asking voters to embrace a Bizarro World. That's a tough sell.
Trump is peddling a similar product. Rather than Russophobia, Trump is pitching Wahhabi-philia. It is not just the reality of Trumpcare upsetting his true believers; it's Trump's cavorting with the sheikhs and failing to collaborate with Russia to role up ISIS that is prompting his die-hard supporters to calve off from the base. Once this happens, once your vanguard crumbles, the rout is on. (A modified form of this happened with Obama in 2013.)
It surprised me that on Tuesday David Brooks, "The Alienated Mind," nonchalantly referred to Trump's impeachment as inevitable:
As the impeachment investigation proceeds, it’ll be important for us Trump critics to not set our hair on fire every day, to evaluate the evidence as if it were against a president we ourselves voted for. Would we really throw our own candidate out of office for this?But in order for that to happen, Democrats have to take back the House next year. Russophobia alone is not going to get that done.