The Morning Jolt

Elections

Problematic Polling for Trump

President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On the menu today: New polling suggests that Trump needs to make up ground in swing states between now and Election Day, Senate Democrats refuse even to debate a Republican effort at police reform, and a congressman has proposed a new way to protect statues and memorials to U.S. presidents and Founders.

Biden Moves ahead of Trump in Key Battlegrounds

I pointed out in yesterday’s Morning Jolt, the latest national survey from the New York Times and Siena College shows Joe Biden with a fairly significant lead over President Trump, with 50 percent support to the president’s 36 percent among registered voters across the country.

We are, of course, still several months out from the election and lots can change in just a little time, so it’s not as if these numbers spell certain doom for Trump’s reelection effort. Nevertheless, they’re worth taking a look at, and they’re something both campaigns use to determine strategy, especially in terms of which demographic groups to reach out to, which to count on, and which to count as a loss.

Because of the way the Electoral College works, though, state-level polling tends to be far more useful in campaign strategy — and more useful in suggesting likely outcomes — than national surveys. This morning, the Times and Siena are out with a second wave of data, this time looking at the Biden–Trump matchup among voters in several key swing states.

In a poll of nearly 4,000 registered voters, conducted between June 8 and June 18, Biden held a lead of at least six points in each of six swing states that Trump won in the 2016 general election. Let’s go through the numbers in a little more detail.

In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, all states that Trump won by less than one point in 2016, Biden has a lead of at least ten points. In Florida, which Trump won in 2016 by just one point, Biden is up by six points, 47 percent to Trump’s 41 percent. In Arizona and North Carolina, states that Trump took by a four-point margin last time, Biden is up by seven and nine points respectively.

Here’s some analysis from the Times on these numbers:

Mr. Trump’s once-commanding advantage among white voters has nearly vanished, a development that would all but preclude the president’s re-election. Mr. Biden now has a 21-point lead among white college graduates, and the president is losing among white voters in the three Northern battleground states [Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania] — not by much, but he won them by nearly 10 points in 2016.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump’s strength in the disproportionately white working-class battleground states allowed him to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. The surveys indicate that the president continues to fare better in these relatively white battleground states than he does nationwide.

But the survey certainly doesn’t portend sheer gloom for Trump, as the Times analysis points out:

With a little more than four months to go until the election, there is still time for the president’s political standing to recover, just as it did on so many occasions four years ago. He maintains a substantial advantage on the economy, which could become an even more central issue in what has already been a volatile election cycle. And many of the undecided voters in these states lean Republican, and may end up returning to their party’s nominee.

It’s true, though, that these numbers aren’t terribly encouraging for Trump and could reflect any number of factors, including the recent dip in the president’s overall popularity. Some of that disapproval is almost certainly related to general anxiety over the coronavirus outbreak and, in part, the way Trump has handled it. This survey seems to bear that out.

For instance, just 41 percent of all voters surveyed said they approve of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, 37 percent of voters in Michigan said they believe Trump “treated their state worse than most” in his coronavirus response, likely the result of his sparring with Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer over her unnecessarily strict shutdown policies.

On the economy, Trump does much better, netting a 56 percent approval rating among all voters surveyed, compared with just 40 percent who disapprove. Voters also prefer Trump to Biden by a double-digit margin when it comes to handling diplomacy with China. In these battleground states, Trump has the support of 86 percent of those who said they voted for him in 2016 (a drop from 92 percent in the Times/Siena survey last fall), while Biden wins 93 percent of voters who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

One very notable point from the survey, and an encouraging sign for the president, is that Biden has made almost no gains among non-white voters in battleground states, even in the wake of the past month of social unrest.

It’s a mistake to put too much faith in poll numbers, especially with a few months to go until Election Day, but this survey gives the Trump campaign plenty of reason to focus hard on key battlegrounds he won in 2016 and stop running expensive cable ads in Washington, D.C.

Democrats Aren’t Interested in Compromising on Police Reform 

In the Senate yesterday, Democrats blocked a Republican bill aimed at police reform, refusing even to debate the legislation or consider a series of amendments aimed at assuaging the Democratic coalition’s alleged concerns about the bill.

Here’s more from Wall Street Journal reporting:

The impasse hardened Wednesday when Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill they deemed inadequate and the GOP criticized Democrats for being unwilling to even begin debate on the legislation. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to pass a rival bill Thursday, but the GOP-run Senate has said it has no intention of taking it up, leaving lawmakers blaming each other.

“This bill lost because it was woefully inadequate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said of the GOP bill Wednesday. “It never would have passed and McConnell provided no path to improve it,” he said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

Republicans countered that they had been ready to negotiate on any aspect of the bill, but were thwarted by Democrats’ unwillingness to even begin debate.

Schumer, it turns out, isn’t telling the truth at all. In a speech on the floor yesterday afternoon, Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.), who led the coalition to draft the GOP bill, offered to include an amendment for every concern that Democrats had raised in their talking points opposing the legislation.

“If you don’t think we’re right, make it better. Don’t walk way,” Scott said ahead of the vote. “Vote for the motion to proceed so that we have an opportunity to deal with this very real threat to the America that is civil, that is balanced.”

But Democrats refused to heed his call, voting in an almost entirely united bloc not to proceed to debate — the sole exception was West Virginia’s Democratic senator Joe Manchin.

The GOP bill would restrict police use of chokeholds by withholding federal funds from departments that allow the practice, as well as increase funding for police body cameras. It would also establish a national database on police use-of-force incidents and use grants to incentivize police departments to inform the FBI of serious injury or death during such incidents.

At NRO earlier this week, we had a great piece detailing some of the ways in which the authors believed the GOP bill went too far and areas in which it didn’t go far enough, which is worth taking a look at if you’re not sure what to make of the legislation. But unfortunately, it doesn’t matter all too much at this point, as Democrats have shown they’re more interested in clinging to their talking points and villainizing Republicans than in making actual progress toward reform.

Republican Lawmaker Moves to Protect Monuments

Representative Jim Banks, a Republican from Indiana, is introducing a bill that would make it a federal offense, punishable with up to ten years in prison, to desecrate any memorial to a former U.S. president or a Founding Father.

The “Defending America’s Heritage and Culture Act” would amend the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003 — which already protects veteran memorials from vandalism and destruction — to include statues and memorials to former U.S. presidents, as well as the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Banks’s proposal follows on the heels of President Trump’s tweet earlier this week, in which he said he had “authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S.” It’s not clear what authorization Trump was referring to, but this legislation from Banks would certainly give law enforcement the authorization they need.

ADDENDUM: I had the chance to do an interview with Larry O’Connor on his WMAL radio program yesterday afternoon, talking about my latest article for NRO, in which I explained that Frederick Douglass spoke highly of the Emancipation Memorial in D.C., contrary to what Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton claims. I highly recommend taking a few minutes of your morning to read Douglass’s full speech dedicating the memorial at its unveiling.

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