After months in which Donald Trump has told Republican voters that they need not fear a “blue wave” in the 2018 midterms, his party is confronting an important problem: many GOP voters have accepted the president’s claims at face value, leaving them complacent about the results of this year’s elections.
As we discussed yesterday, a series of focus groups from America First Action, a political committee aligned with Trump, and a polling report from the Republican National Committee both came to the same conclusion: Republican leaders are far more concerned about the midterms than their party’s voters, in part because they’ve received dubious assurances from the president.
But that’s not all the RNC polling memo found. Bloomberg News reports today:
The study says GOP fortunes will hinge on the party’s ability to activate “soft” supporters: “Those voters who ‘somewhat approve’ of Trump and those who support the President’s policies but not his leadership style are the ones posing a challenge to the party.”
Motivating these voters could be tricky. One hurdle is Trump’s chaotic style, which shows no sign of changing. Another is that the issues soft Republicans care about most are ones involving government spending and are typically associated with Democrats. The survey found that increasing funding for veterans’ mental health services, strengthening and preserving Medicare and Social Security, and reforming the student loan system all scored higher than Trump’s favored subjects of tax cuts, border security, and preserving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The RNC’s report added, “Special attention should be paid to the messaging regarding Social Security and Medicare…. [T]he challenge for GOP candidates is that most voters believe that the GOP wants to cut back on these programs in order to provide tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.”
Well, it’s quite likely that most voters believe Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare to finance tax breaks for the rich because that’s exactly what Republicans keep saying they want to do.
But even putting that aside, it’s striking that the RNC’s research found that many of the party’s key supporters sound quite Democratic in their preferences: we’re talking about a group of voters who want more government spending, support social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security, and are unmoved by the White House’s top priorities.
Election Day is seven weeks from today. It’s safe to say Republicans are not feeling confident about where things stand.