This is likely to be New Republic Day here at NewDonkey, given some interesting new stuff up on its site, along with the news that the venerable mag has been bought by a Canadian media firm that is presumably disconnected from its previous owners’ ideological shibboleths. More about all that later.But first up, I wanted to draw attention to a TNR Online debate over Rudy Giuliani’s viability as a candidate and as a potential president, involving two friends of mine: former American Prospect editor Mike Tomasky, and the New York polymath Fred Siegel, who wrote an admiring but not uncritical book about Rudy a few years ago. Up first, Tomasky focuses his Rudy-skeptic case (which I share) on Giuliani’s position on abortion, which is formally pro-choice but with lots of winks and nods indicating that he would make Supreme Court appointments guaranteed to doom Roe v. Wade.In passing, Tomasky says that Republicans have not “nominated a pro-choice candidate since Gerry Ford in 1976.”That raises a very interesting and pertinent question: among Republicans, what passes for a “pro-choice” position, and what doesn’t? Ford actually supported a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade, and return abortion policy to the states. He did not, however (unlike his primary challenger Ronald Reagan) support the Human Life Amendment, which would have leapfrogged both the Supreme Court and the 50 states to endow human embryos, from the moment of conception, with “personhood” under the 14th Amendment.More than thirty years later, while support for a Human Life Amendment remains formally the position of virtually all anti-abortion groups, and of the Republican Party as expressed in its national platforms, nobody’s really serious about it. When Bob Dole said he didn’t feel bound by that platform plank in 1996, it created a lot of controversy on the Right. When George W. Bush said much the same thing in 2000 and 2004, it was regarded as something of a truism. Aside from the political and practical impossibility of the HLA, what changed, of course, was a significant enhancement of a non-constitutional, non-legislative strategy for overturning Roe: simply stacking the Supreme Court with “strict constructionists” who would perform a constitutional counter-revolution.Thanks to Bush’s SCOTUS appointments, right-to-lifers and their opponents think they may be one or two High Court appointments away from that fateful day. The big question now is whether the Bush message to social conservatives–I’m with you, but not vocally; and I’ll get it done indirectly through Court appointments–can be successfully replaced by the Giuliani message–I’m not with you, but not vocally; and I’ll also get it done indirectly through Court appointments.So for Rudy and his handlers, the big gamble is the hope that social conservatives have “matured” enough to accept a Republican nominee who will not even pay their formal positions the kind of lip-service they’ve grown to expect, in exchange for another GOP president who might give them what they actually, realistically want. And the X-factor here is that Rudy’s rather spotted ideological history (at least from the point of view of the Right) may require more explicit assurances to social conservatives that will make this whole double game unsustainable in a general election campaign.I hope this particular issue–a critical subset of Giuliani’s entire political case for nomination and election as president–continues to get serious attention in the Mike-versus-Fred debate as it rolls out.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Any time new state-by-state data about Trump’s popularity comes out, I am very focused on those once-blue “Heartland” states that shocked the world in 2016 and lifted him to the presidency. So I wrote about some new Morning Consult findings at New York:
The president’s ratings among registered voters are underwater (more negative than positive) in the very heartland states he flipped from a past heritage of Democratic voting in 2016: Wisconsin (-12), Michigan (-9), Iowa (-7), Ohio (-4), and Pennsylvania (-4). In the short term, that matters because all these states other than Iowa have Senate races in November, and there are a total of 12 highly competitive House races among them (according to the Cook Political Report).
There are some other Trump ’16 states where his high standing has eroded significantly, including six that are holding Senate races this year: Arizona (+2), Montana (+3), Florida (+5), Missouri (+5), Texas (+5), North Dakota (+6), and Indiana (+8). There are other 2018 Senate battlegrounds, however, where POTUS is still very popular, such as Tennessee (+20), Mississippi (+23), and West Virginia (+27).
It may be argued that Trump did, after all, win in 2016 despite poor favorability ratings. But presidential elections are comparative, and Trump was fortunate to face a Democratic opponent with pretty bad favorability ratings as well. Since midterms are typically more of a straight-up referendum on the president (and are likely to be so even more with a president who dominates the news like this one has), lack of presidential popularity should be a much bigger deal. Yes, Trump’s national approval ratings have drifted upward in 2018, but are still well south of 50 percent. And there’s one bit of historical data from Gallup that ought to especially worry Republicans: the parties of presidents facing midterms with job approval ratings below 50 percent have on average lost 36 House seats.
Of course, 2020 is a different matter, and what happens then will depend on a thousand variables, including the identity of Trump’s Democratic opponent (assuming he’s running for reelection). But let’s don’t forget he won in the first place by executing what amounts to an inside straight based on extremely narrow wins in heartland states in the context of a national popular-vote defeat. And that’s why we might pay especially close attention to how his party does this November in those very states.