With all the obsession in Washington over (brightening) Democratic prospects for retaking the U.S. Congress, it’s good to see the Washington Post taking notice of the other big battleground for 2006: governorships.In yesterday’s WaPo, Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza note that 22 Republican governorships will be up next year, as compared with 14 Dem seats. They cite New York, California, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Arkansas and Colorado and Maryland as Republican-held state chief executive postions potentially vulnerable in 2006, with Massachusetts as an add-on if Mitt Romney decides not to go for another term. For some reason, they miss Alabama and Georgia, where Republican incumbents got a temporary boost from their reaction to Hurricane Katrina, but remain vulnerable. ‘Bama’s Bob Riley still has to get past Judge Roy Moore, R-Hysteria, and then will probably face Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, a candidate with almost no negatives. And Georgia’s Sonny Perdue remains a shaky pick against Democrats Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor, both of whom were running ahead of the GOPer in pre-Katrina polls.I’d add to the mix Alaska, where profoundly unpopular incumbent Republican Frank Murkowski’s acting like he will run again, at a minimum creating a messy and negative GOP primary. House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz (disclosure: a friend of mine) is already in the field, and could be joined by former Gov. Tony Knowles, but anyway you slice it, this is not a safe seat for GOPers.The WaPo report cites Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm, Wisconsin’s Jim Doyle, and Illnois’ Rod Blagojevich as potentially vulnerable incumbent Dems, with Iowa’s open seat (vacated by Tom Vilsack) as another GOP target. But the Dem incumbents have yet to draw any kind of world-beating rivals, and the Iowa situation remains very fluid.Add it all up, and it looks like the Donkey party is in a great position to regain a majority of governorships (we currently trail 28-22). And that’s great news for a party that came out of the 2004 elections afraid that it was becoming ghettoized into a small number of states.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
I ran across a story on faulty focus group memories of Trump, and I wrote about the implications at New York.
As an unpopular president facing a sour electorate, Joe Biden really needs to make 2024 a comparative election rather than a straight referendum on his presidency. Luckily for him, his likely general-election opponent, Donald Trump, is equally unpopular for reasons that are quite vivid. He’s as well known as Biden, and he works very hard to reinforce the traits that might make an undecided voter (even one unhappy with Biden) reluctant to put him back in the White House. So half of Biden’s work in drawing contrasts is done for him, and part of the other half is made easy for him by Trump’s strongest supporters, the “deplorables” (to use the Hillary Clinton term that has become a MAGA badge of honor) who enjoy shocking the world by advertising their hero’s most questionable characteristics.
It is becoming apparent, however, that Trump’s potential coalition is being augmented by low-information voters with a hazy understanding of the Trumpier features of the 45th president’s record, character, and agenda. By that I do not mean the non-college-educated voters who make up so large a part of the Trump base. Many if not most of them are pretty educated about their candidate. But there’s evidence that disengaged and/or deeply alienated folks who may nonetheless vote in a presidential election (if not any others) don’t know as much about Trump as you might assume, as the New York Times’ Patrick Healey has observed:
“Our latest Times Opinion focus group discussion with 13 undecided independent voters included a striking result: 11 of the 13 said they would vote for Donald Trump if the election were held now, and only two said they would vote for President Biden. The reason: overwhelming concern about the economy.
“But I was less surprised by the big vote for Trump than by this: The group didn’t blame Trump for things he was responsible or accountable for.
“For instance, several people linked their economic troubles to COVID, but they didn’t put any blame on Trump for that. Some were upset with the end of abortion rights nationally, but they didn’t tie that to Trump’s Supreme Court appointments. Several wanted bipartisanship, but they didn’t blame Trump for his hand in sinking the recent bipartisan border deal. One person, a Latina, blamed Trump for worsening racism in the country and recounted a searing incident that happened to her — but she was among the 11 who would vote for him anyway.”
Healey concludes that “a lot of our focus-group participants — and many voters — see Trump as an acceptable option in November, yet they don’t know or remember a lot about him.” This makes them, of course, highly susceptible to Trump campaign messaging asserting that the economy during his presidency was the greatest ever; that he’s a natural peacemaker who inspired respect for the United States everywhere; and that he’s a decent, law-abiding businessman (and family man!) whose near-constant forced court appearances are uniformly the product of his persecution by the other party.
Democrats, of course, will have opportunities (and increasingly, an obligation) to set the record straight about Trump and his presidency. But the difficult thing is that low-information voters also tend to be low-trust voters, which means they don’t tend to believe traditional arbiters of objective reality like the mainstream news media, and may not grant more truthful politicians superior credibility. Further distorting understanding of the Trump administration (and thus its possible return) is the huge trauma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which gives everything that immediately preceded the disaster an undeserved glow, while immolating memories of less powerful traumas associated with the former president’s tenure.
In other words, low-information voters who dislike politics so much that they are not inclined to dig into facts and evidence touching on political topics are highly vulnerable to the kind of disinformation that benefits Donald Trump. And if they are in a bad mood in November, they could help turn the election into a negative referendum on Joe Biden even if they are inviting something — and someone — far worse. Democrats will have to work hard to break through with the truth.