Politics

This week on The Brief: Trump’s looming shadow and the abortion political bomb in the midterms

Democrats are increasingly worried about November, and the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe on Friday only seemed to add to a growing concern that this fall could be the election that decides the fate of this country. As Moulitsas has observed, the midterm election is usually rough for the first-time incumbent president because it is almost impossible for him to live up to the expectations he created through promises on the campaign trail.

As the American legislative system is not designed to allow legislation to pass, it becomes almost impossible to deliver on most of your promises as president, Moulitsas argued, though this fall’s elections may not be centered around Biden’s performance specifically:

You have sort of dual problem where the minority party is [upset], because they’re out [of power] … on the other hand, the winning side gets demoralized because things aren’t happening, and there’s also a bit of complacency of, ‘Oh, we won. Everything’s okay.’ So it becomes a referendum on that president. And that president very rarely is able to survive that first midterm unscathed. Now, the theory is that Trump, by inserting himself, it becomes less a referendum on Joe Biden and a relitigation of 2020. Now I think the jury is still out on whether that is going to be a major factor … maybe that’s having some kind of effect, with Republicans starting to sour on Trump.

Eleveld noted the fact that the January 6 hearings are bringing up a new way in which Trump can easily be inserted into the general election. Turning to the question of whether or not Republicans, including Trump voters and donors, are souring on Trump a little bit, she also cited findings from The Focus Group podcast.

Sarah Longwell, the host of the podcast, said, “I have been doing focus groups for years with Trump voters and I have never heard a majority of them in any way suggest Trump shouldn’t run in 2024.”

Recalling Longwell’s findings, Eleveld noted that for the first time ever, in either one of these focus groups of bona fide Trump voters that Longwell just did within the last week as these hearings are unfolding, no one said Trump should run in 2024 — they all wanted somebody else.

According to Longwell, “It’s not like they were saying, ‘Oh, I don’t like Trump. I’ve soured on him.’” Eleveld thinks there might be multiple reasons. “They might not like the way that he reflects on them, having voted for him. They might not think he can win, which is a completely reasonable conclusion that he’s too divisive. This, along with polling … doesn’t mean that Trumpism isn’t alive and well. It is totally alive and well. I think they just want Trumpism without Trump baggage,” she posited.

Turning to the issue of convincing voters, Moulitsas noted that in today’s gridlocked partisan environment, “the only real persuadable group right now is suburban, college educated women.” Their votes would be enough to change the outcomes in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina.

Divides exist starkly along gender and education lines regarding abortion as well, Eleveld noted:

The biggest divide on the abortion issue is really among college educated and non-college educated voters. It is gendered, too … women are much, much, much more interested in the issue as a top three issue than men are … The NPR poll found that 69% of college graduates opposed the ruling that overturned Roe … Basically 7 in 10 college graduates opposed the ruling on Roe … that’s all genders, that’s everyone [who’s college educated]. For voters who didn’t graduate from college, they’re evenly opposed. It’s 47% opposed, and 47% support it. So you are talking about a huge suburban divide there on the issue of abortion. Now, how much they prioritize that matters from a gender standpoint … women by and large think it’s far more [urgent of an issue].

She added that 78% of Democrats said the court’s ruling made them more likely to vote this fall — 24 points higher than Republicans who said the ruling made them more likely to vote in the midterms.

“The party in power is demobilized because of complacency. That may be the first hint of that, Kerry,” Moulitsas quipped.

“I think a lot of Republicans are going to show up at the polls anyways because they want to cast a ballot anyway because they want to cast a ballot against Joe Biden, who they think stole the election. I think that we can conclude that there are going to be a fair amount of Republicans [who will vote]. But I do think the abortion issue helps Democratic base voters considerably,” Eleveld said.

Citing polling results using the generic ballot that show a several-point gain for Democrats after the Supreme Court ruling on Roe, Eleveld hit home on the fact that abortion remains a ‘blockbuster’ issue, as polls showed that a pro-choice Democrat had a 15-point edge over a pro-life Republican: “You just have to remind people, all Republicans are anti-abortion. And virtually all Democrats, like 99% of Democrats, are pro-choice. So let’s just make sure everybody remembers which party is which party.”

Emphasizing the importance of downballot elections, the pair noted several states with trigger laws, where the governor of each state is essentially going to be able to decide whether or not abortion is legal at all in their state. “The governor in their state is the difference between … and an all-out ban.” Citing Pennsylvania as an example, Eleveld added that if he were to win, “[Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro] would be the only thing that stands between reproductive freedom and a total ban in the state.”

Increasing Democratic turnout will also be key to victory this fall — and the path to victory could involve cultivating more single-issue voters in the party base, according to Moulitas.

“Republicans have been very successful at cultivating single-issue voters. They will vote for them every single time, they will show up,” Moulitsas noted. “What if we as a party are creating that single-issue voter [on abortion]? If we can expand our base, it changes everything, just by 10% extra people we can depend on. Not only that — they’re going to be our foot soldiers.”

As polling has shown, the Supreme Court’s ruling last Friday was widely unpopular, and Moulitsas believes that Republicans sense the tide turning. “I think they sense the energy changing,” he said.

“Another side effect of the Supreme Court decision is that now, no one is thinking about Joe Biden. Supreme Court trumps everything. Republicans are still being like, ‘Joe Biden, Joe Biden.’

Moulitsas thinks that better Congressional leadership will help. New leadership there could be key to leading us out of this difficult time, and Eleveld pointed out that people are frustrated with Democrats because they aren’t acting. Recalling an interaction with one of her own friends, a liberal, Eleveld said she aksed her, “What do you think about this? A lot of my friends are saying, Democrats aren’t doing enough. They’re not trying to codify [Roe] into law, and they’re frustrated with Democrats.”

Eleveld empathized, but urged that Democrats do not have the luxury of tuning out or not voting at this critical time. “But absolutely we need to organize and get new leadership in there. We need to have leaders who will [push].”

Watch yesterday’s episode here:

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