President Donald Trump's dual obsessions - threatening to fire the deputy attorney general, and denigrating women who say they were victims of sexual assault - does not, remarkably, seem to be going over well with voters. Who knew that contempt for both the rule of law and female victims, not to mention reports that multiple advisers think the president is mentally non-functioning in the job, would turn out to be so unpopular? I guess the image of a blowhard president and a pack of old, white men telling a woman she is part of a "smear" doesn't really sell these days outside the Fox News demographic.
As we face an election less than six weeks away, Republican seem to be sinking - all over.
A pair of polls in Florida appear to undercut the notion that Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., whom Democrats would quietly concede is a poor campaigner, is leading his challenger and current Republican governor, Rick Scott. The Quinnipiac and NBC News/Marist polls have Nelson up by 7 and 3 points, respectively, among likely voters. Similarly, in the state's gubernatorial race, NBC/Marist shows Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, leading Republican congressman Ron DeSantis, 48 percent to 43 percent.
Quinnipiac points to what may be the root of Republicans' problem: Trump. His approval rating is underwater by 10 points in Florida and, by a huge 56 percent to 30 percent divide, voters want Congress to act as more of a check on him. Maybe during the last week or so of heightened chaos, Trump has reminded voters why it is so crucial to put restraints on an erratic, unfit president.
The gender gap, as one might expect is huge, not only in Florida, but in other states. In Florida, Quinnipiac shows Nelson leading by 17 points among women, while trailing by 4 among men.
In Montana, Sen. Jon Tester, D, is up by 4 points over Republican Matt Rosendale in the latest Gravis poll, and is leading by nearly 17 points among women.
It's no better for Republicans in Arizona, where Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D, leads Republican Rep. Martha McSally by 3 points in their race for the Senate. McSally has nailed down Trump voters, while Sinema leads with "independents (52 percent to 38 percent), white college graduates (54 percent to 42 percent), Latino voters (54 percent to 33 percent), voters under 30 (66 percent to 25 percent) and women (53 percent to 38 percent)," according to an NBC News/Marist poll. Playing exclusively to its base has its downside for the GOP, certainly.
These are all margin-of-error races but, surely, Republicans can see they aren't ahead in any of them.
It's difficult to see how the basic contours of the midterms change between now and the day voters cast their ballots (with early voting, that time is now for many Americans). Voters don't like what the Republican Party has done on tax cuts or health care; they don't like Trump; and they are unimpressed with his Supreme Court pick. Those are all "baked in" to the race at this point.
What is not set in stone, however, are the strengths and weaknesses of individual campaigns. Good candidates usually beat poor ones; good turnout operations more often than not beat weak ones; and in big expensive states such as Texas and Florida, the better funded one often wins.
On that spending front, NBC found that "Democrats lead in seven of the top 12 races, according to TV and radio spending figures from Advertising Analytics, while Republicans lead in four of those races. The two parties are tied in West Virginia."
Moreover, among red-state Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., Joe Manchin III, W.Va., Claire McCaskill, Mo., and Joe Donnelly, Ind., none is being outspent. In Texas, which was never supposed to be competitive, Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke is “outspending [Sen.] Ted Cruz and Republicans by more than 3-to-1.”
None of this bodes well for Republicans, or for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, who has the worst poll numbers of any potential Supreme Court justice in the last 30 years. (His insisting on Fox News that he was as pure as the driven snow in high school probably didn't help.) There just aren't enough of Trumpists to balance out the droves of people Trump, the GOP and Kavanaugh have turned off.
The best thing, as Nate Silver argues, is for Kavanaugh to go away quickly and for Trump to nominate someone whom the base likes just as well and can be confirmed during the lame-duck session. Hey, giving them an incentive to turn out for a still-unfilled Supreme Court seat might be their only hope. At least they’d take away a major irritant for women voters. Nevertheless, that doesn’t seem to be happening. If Republicans cannot change the terms of the debate they will lose - badly.