Swing State Pres

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BTRTN: Sending Out An SOS... A Message in a Bottle To Michael Bloomberg


Steve thought he was going on vacation, but as soon as he arrived, a chance encounter got him thinking. Sure, we can all dream that Mueller is going to take Trump down, but what if the Republicans refuse to budge?  Perhaps we need a darn good Plan B to make sure Trump isn’t re-elected in 2020.  

The cab driver had just pulled out of Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport and set out across the causeway that spans Castle Harbor when he waved his hand broadly to the left. “Daht is where Mahkel Bloomberg and Ross Perot have dere fahncy mahnshuns,” he noted. “Very reesch men.”

Wow. This was supposed to be a vacation, and I’ve been here all of ten minutes and this cab driver has already jolted me with a strange juxtaposition, which gradually germinates into an idea for a blog post.  Here, on the soft pink sands of Elbow Beach, I see the outline of a strategy for increasing the odds that we extricate Donald Trump from the White House, and it does not rely on Robert Mueller, Republican cooperation, or impeachment.
 
First, necessary context. Over the past year in our quiet little corner of the blogosphere, BTRTN has been repeatedly making the point that Democrats alone cannot take down Donald Trump. Period. Given the math of impeachment (a two-thirds vote to convict in the Senate), and the realities of the mid-terms, it appears that anywhere from 15 to 22 Republican Senators would have to vote to impeach in order to remove Donald Trump from office. In short, if Robert Mueller were to present a Russian military-issue gun that was actually still smoking, and every single Democrat in North America was aligned on impeachment, the issue would still hinge on whether enough Republican Senators would each vote their conscience.

Conscience, however, is not a commodity in rich supply in today’s Republican Party. By and large, the Republican Party leadership is a terrified group of sissies who so fear that wrath of Donald Trump’s base that they have chosen to abandon any pretense of principle. Remember that overwhelming outcry when senior Republicans heard Trump describe African nations as “shithole countries?” Neither do I. Not then, not about Charlottesville, not about Stormy, not about Trump’s attacks on the free press or the FBI, not about reneging on our word on the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris Climate Accords. Sure, there have occasionally been some gentle rebukes from senior Republicans, but in the main, the silence in the Republican Party in the face of Donald Trump’s assault on our democracy is a dark echo of ugly authoritarian regimes that this nation once proudly battled.

There’s no doubt that a certain percentage of the Republican leadership actually worships Donald Trump. But there is reasonable evidence that the Paul Ryans, Lindsey Grahams, and Mitch McConnells of the world view Trump to be a toxic gas bag whose only organizing principles of governing are to undo whatever Barack Obama accomplished and to keep Donald Trump and his family out of jail. And yet they, too, kneel before Trump.

One reason Republican Party leaders are such supplicants is that Donald Trump’s base of support never wavers. This, in turn, may be in large measure because the base is informed by Fox News, Sarah Sanders, and Donald Trump’s twitter feed. All these alleged “news” sources work in concert to amplify Trump’s claim that he has accomplished more in the first seventeen months in office than any president in U.S. history, that the Mueller probe is the most partisan witch-hunt in U.S. history, the lame-stream media is fake-news, and that the Deep State is staging a coup.

Call it the Pravda Doom Loop. Trump and Sean Hannity whisper sweet fabrications in late night calls, which are then broadcast by Fox to ensure that the base only hears Trump’s version of reality. The base’s faith in Trump is reinforced, and Republican leaders kowtow to Trump for fear of alienating his deeply loyal base. No one who wants to get re-elected dares challenge Trump. Indeed, the only Republicans who have spoken out to condemn Trump are the McCains, Corkers, and Flakes who have chosen not to run for re-election.

With no principled opposition from his own party, Donald Trump will be able to survive the impeachment proceeding, and he will no doubt crow that the failure to impeach is tantamount to a complete exoneration, vindication, and declaration of innocence.  The failure of an impeachment vote means no such thing, but Trump will use the vote to crucify Mueller, the FBI, and the media. Before you know it, we will find ourselves in 2020 and Donald Trump will be running for a second term against fill-in-the-blank here… Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or one of a wide bench of charismatic young Democratic Senators. Given a choice between Trump and whatever soft on immigration, anti-Second Amendment, pro-welfare, minority-loving commie the Democrats have nominated, Republicans will pull the curtain in the voting booth and, once again, vote for Trump. Before you know it, it is 2016 all over again.

All of which brings me to a soft pink beach in Bermuda, and a reasonably decent plan.

Mike Bloomberg, please run for president in 2020 as a Republican.

Mr. Bloomberg, yours is already a career of phenomenal success in the private sector, and outstanding achievement in the public sector as Mayor of New York. Yet the greatest service that you could perform for your country is to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. Go on Fox News. Get yourself in a one-on-one debate stage with him in every single primary in the 2020 election cycle. Use the extraordinary pulpit you could wield to rip Donald Trump apart in full view of the brainwashed base that is currently only hearing the bullshit that Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and Fox & Friends is flinging.

At the heart of this audacious plea is the core BTRTN belief that only a Republican can effectively call bullshit on Donald Trump. And Mike Bloomberg is uniquely qualified to do this job.

First, let’s dispense with the issue of party affiliation. Bloomberg has been everything. A registered Democrat prior to 2001, he ran for Mayor of New York first as a Republican, and was re-elected as an independent. It’s not like he’s running against a dyed-in-the-wool Republican in Donald Trump. This issue does not matter. All he has to do is re-register as a Republican and get to work.

Now, let’s move on to the most obvious of credentials: Mike Bloomberg is a far more legitimate candidate than Donald Trump ever dreamed of being when he launched his presidential campaign. Bloomberg is a far more substantial and successful private sector leader than Trump, and he of course also served for twelve years in the “second toughest job in America” as Mayor of New York. From the first instant, Bloomberg could present himself as a far more qualified and competent leader than Donald Trump.

Pile on the even more obvious: Mike Bloomberg is the tenth richest person in the world. He does not need a penny from anybody to wage a $1,000,000,000 campaign that puts him at a spending advantage in every single primary state. He could get the money from an ATM… that kind of spending would reduce his net worth from $50.8 billion to, uh, a mere $49.8 billion.

Now, here is why it is so important that Bloomberg take on this quest.

As noted above, the Republican Party operates in a closed-circuit Pravda-like communications bubble in which Fox, Trump’s twitter feed, and the party leadership constantly reassure the rank and file that Trump is great and that every threat, challenge, or attack is the product of a fake news leftist coup.

But imagine, if you will, a series of Republican Party-sponsored debates, aired on Fox News, in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, in which the loyal Trump base hears a fearless, brilliantly informed, and impossible-to-intimidate voice going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on the full spectrum of issues that have dominated his first term.

Michael Bloomberg became a multi-billionaire by developing a software platform that put up-to-the-second fact and information into the hands of the financial people who needed it to make split second investment decisions. He understands data. He knows a fact when he sees one. 

In a debate, he could filet Donald Trump cleaner than Michelin three star chef serves up a Chilean sea bass. 

Is the point that he could beat Donald Trump?

Nah. It’s not inconceivable that he could, but that’s not necessary.

All he has to do is pound away at Trump’s gaping vulnerabilities and weaknesses in state after state after state, and Michael Bloomberg could bleed Donald Trump down to the point where he is a cement cinderblock padlocked to the ankles of his party.

In interviews, debates, air time, and advertising, Michael Bloomberg could inundate Fox News with information about the Mueller investigation that Trump’s base has never heard.

Bloomberg could use that platform to explain to the rank and file that Trump’s tax law is just a big sloppy wet kiss to the donor class and the one percenters.
  
Bloomberg could explain, better than any candidate in either party, just exactly how important the First Amendment and the free press really are. (He did, after all, make those billions by founding a media company).

Bloomberg, who is extremely active in addressing our national gun epidemic, could stand up to the NRA and propose practical measures to reduce gun violence.  To Republicans.

Of course, you ask, if Michael Bloomberg is such a compelling candidate, why aren’t we urging him to run for the Democratic nomination, or wage a third party candidacy?

For starters, running for president as a Democrat in a what promises to be a twenty-candidate free-for-all is not a good bet for Bloomberg. If the Democratic Party decides to punt and nominate an aging white guy, it is going to be somebody who has paid their dues, like Joe Biden or Sanders. Much more likely is that the Dems will demand a candidate that by virtue of youth, gender, or race is an effective counter to the aging white GOP.  The truth  of it is that as early as we are in the 2020 race, Bloomberg would already be starting way behind Biden, Sanders, Warren, Booker, Cuomo, Gillibrand, Klobuchar, Harris, or Murphy.  He’d be setting out on a long-shot that wouldn’t be worth his time.

A third party candidacy? That’s where his Bermuda neighbor comes in. Ross Perot was the most effective third party candidate in the last 100 years, and he only secured 19% of the vote and exactly zero votes in the Electoral College. He wouldn’t have a chance of winning. More important, Bloomberg knows that if he ran as a third party candidate, he’s be far more likely to siphon votes away from the Democrat, thereby aiding the potential re-election of Donald Trump.

Perhaps the biggest motivation for Mike Bloomberg to run as a Republican against Donald Trump is because it would actually give him the best chance of actually winning the presidency. If that smoking gun appears and the excrement hits the fan, Trump will go down, and Mike Pence is going to be covered in a thick layer of it. Who better to ride to the party’s rescue than the white knight who has had nothing to do with the Trump presidency?

Most interesting of all: a Bloomberg Republican candidacy would expose the lingering fault lines in the Republican Party between extremists and centrists. There’s a popular myth that centrist Republicans no longer exist. They may be in a deep hibernation of denial, but they are out there. In 2016, Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Primary with 35.3% of the vote. Four candidates (Kasich, Rubio, Bush, and Christie) split the  “centrist” vote, and the totals of those four candidates equaled 44.8 percent of the vote. If Bloomberg – alone in a challenge to Trump -- came anywhere near that total against a sitting president, it would be extremely damaging to Trump. Consider the wound that Pat Buchanan inflicting on the elder George Bush when he took 38% of the vote in the 1992 New Hampshire Primary.

It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that every time there has been a significant primary challenge to a incumbent president, it has severely damaged that president’s re-election bid. Reagan did it to Ford in 1976, and Ford lost to Carter. Ted Kennedy did it to Carter in 1980, and Carter lost to Reagan. Buchanan did it to Bush in 1992, and Bush lost to Clinton.

That is the thesis, Mr. Bloomberg: if you run against Donald Trump for the Republican 2020 nomination, you will either severely damage his chances for re-election… or you might win. Indeed, it is a classic situation of “Heads you win; Tails, Donald Trump loses.” How sweet is that?

Where have you gone, Mike Bloomberg? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo, woo, woo.

You, sir, perhaps alone in the universe, have the talents, credentials, smarts, experience, presence, money, knowledge, and attitude to drive a spike into the Donald Trump balloon. You could wound Donald Trump to his base more effectively than anyone.

In so doing, you – alone -- could save the country from the risk of four more years of Trump.

And, hey, who knows? Maybe as a reward, you end up as President of the United States.

Fine with me.

Sing it, Sting... the one about a message in a bottle.That message is simple: in today’s world of polarized politics, the only way to reach Republican voters is through the conservative media. And the conservative media must cover a major Republican presidential candidate. Therefore, the conservative media will be forced to serve as a megaphone for Mike Bloomberg to speak truth to the Trump base.  Mike Bloomberg could command interview slots with every conservative commentator, could go one-on-one against Donald Trump in debates in every state, and could reveal Trump’s ignorance, deceit, and potentially criminal behavior right on Fox News. This turns the Republican media bubble inside out and transforms it into a fire hydrant of truth against Donald Trump and directly to his base.

Most important: history has proven that an effective primary challenge to a sitting president can have a severely damaging impact in the general election. 

Mr. Bloomberg, only you can do it. You have served the citizens of this country many times before. May we ask that you do so one more time?

I'm stuffing this post into a bottle and hurling it into the pale blue water of Castle Harbor. Cue Sting: "Sending out an S.O.S..."

Sunday, May 20, 2018

BTRTN: Trump's Bump: Context for His Modestly Improving Approval Rating


We are dispensing with the weekly “SaturData Review” feature to focus more on the fast approaching mid-term elections, but we will still do the “Month in Review” and occasional mid-month updates, which cover the same ground: the latest political numbers and the events that are shaping them.

Donald Trump’s approval numbers have risen in May, not dramatically, but still perceptibly.  He has spent his entire presidency in a notably narrow rating range, a 9-point band from 39% to 48% (using our aggregation method, which you can find down below, and monthly data).  He is now in the higher end of that range at 45%.

TRUMP MONTHLY APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
J
F
M
A
M
Approve
48
47
44
44
42
41
40
39
40
40
39
39
42
43
42
42
45
Disapprove
46
50
51
52
53
55
56
57
56
56
56
56
55
54
54
54
52
Net
2
-3
-7
-8
-11
-14
-16
-19
-15
-17
-17
-17
-13
-11
-13
-12
-6

Each modern president has experienced much wider swings than Trump in his first 500 days.  In the chart below (and using Gallup data, which is slightly lower for Trump but provides comparability across presidents), you can see that every president since Carter experienced a swing from low-to-high of 20 (Obama) to 39 points (Bush 43), with an average of 28 points.  Trump’s swing, using this data, is only ten points.  This reflects at least three factors:  1) the growing polarization of our politics,  2) the lack of truly meaningful game-changers in Trump’s time (as opposed to the two Bushes, who had the Gulf War and 9/11 to contend with, and 3)  Trump himself, who inspires such intense loyalty and loathing that “natural” floors and ceilings may be in place.

GALLUP APPROVAL RATING AT KEY FIRST TERM MILESTONES
First-term President
Inaug. Day
Day 478
500 Day Range (Low-High)
Just Before Mid-Terms
Mid-Term House Change
Before 2nd Term Election Day
Re-election   Results
Trump
45%
43%
35-45%
tbd
tbd
tbd
tbd
Obama
68%
49%
47-67%
45%
-63
50%
Won 51/47
Bush 43
57%
76%
51-90%
63%
+8
48%
Won 51/48
Clinton
58%
51%
37-59%
46%
-54
54%
Won 49/41/8
Bush 41
51%
65%
51-80%
58%
-8
34%
Lost 37/43/18
Reagan
51%
45%
43-68%
43%
-26
58%
Won 59/41
Carter
66%
41%
40-75%
49%
-15
37%
Lost 41/51/7

This chart also demonstrates the trivial nature of Trump’s recent rise.  While the rise is welcome news for his Administration, for sure, his lowest lows and highest highs are both the lowest of any recent president over their first 500 days or so.  His current numbers – in the low 40’s – are in a range that signal very bad news in the mid-terms, if he fails to push further north.  And the same for his reelection hopes.  The “high” mark of 45% represents trouble for him and is perhaps the most important number.  Unlike each of his most recent predecessors, Trump has at no point had even half of the country on his side at any time.  His predecessor all had a strong majority behind him at some point, ranging from 59% to 90%.  And polls show that a huge proportion of those who disapprove of Trump do so “strongly” – which means that they are unlikely to change their minds.

Trump’s recent “surge” of +3-4 points almost surely can be attributed to the better news emanating from North Korea (Kim Jong-un’s recent threat to cancel the June 12 summit aside).  Whether Trump deserves acclaim for this is a different story.  North Korea was never a prominent part of candidate Trump’s “platform” (he made no campaign promises relating to North Korea that I can find in perusing compiled lists of dozens of such promises).  Unlike his trade, immigration, regulatory and tax policies, he was not the instigator of change.  The recent thaw owes much more to North Korea, under Kim Jong-un, finally achieving nuclear status (on Trump’s watch), and South Korea President Moon’s peaceful overtures to his northern neighbor, than to Trump’s threatening bluster or ramped-up sanctions.  The underlying dynamics would likely have resulted in Kim Jong-un’s new tack no matter who was in the White House.

But the more hopeful environment did happen during Trump’s administration, and he did change the tenor of the dialogue after decades of impasse and false hopes (which may happen here too).  Whether his actions were pivotal or not is a moot point.  Trump has achieved a modest bump in the short term, and he has a great deal riding on sustaining that promise and translating it into true denuclearization in North Korea.  If he disappoints, gravity will begin to act on his approval rating once again.

******************************************************
Here is the complete SaturData chart with accompanying methodology explanations:

SaturData Review
Jan 2017   Post-Inaug.
Wk ending  May 12
Wk ending  May 19
Change vs. Last Wk
Change vs. Jan 2017
Trump Approval
48%
45%
45%
0 pp
- 3 pp
Trump Disapproval
44%
52%
53%
-1 pp
- 9 pp
Trump Net Approval
+4 pp
- 7 pp
- 8 pp
-1 pp
-12 pp






Generic Ballot
D + 6
D + 5
D + 3
- 2 pp
- 3 pp






Trumpometer
0%
+ 9%
+ 9%
0 pp
+ 9 pp
Unemployment Rate
4.7
3.9
3.9
0%
17%
Consumer Confidence
114
129
129
0%
13%
Price of Gas
2.44
2.96
2.95
0%
-21%
Dow-Jones
19,732
24,831
24,715
0%
25%
Most recent GDP
2.1
2.3
2.3
0%
10%

Methodology notes:

BTRTN calculates our weekly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot, we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP.