As the 2018 midterms approach, the Republican Party has a bit of a messaging problem. GOP officials and candidates can’t talk about their tax breaks for the wealthy, because the public hates them. They can’t talk about their health care efforts, because voters hate them even more.
They can’t talk too much about Donald Trump, because he’s unpopular and is helping drive up Democratic turnout. They can’t talk about their plans to cut Medicare and Social Security, because the backlash would be severe. They can’t even talk about their record of success over the last two years, because Republicans, despite controlling each of the levers of federal power, just haven’t accomplished much.
And that leaves the party with just a couple of remaining pillars: Republicans are running against immigration and they’re running against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But as Bloomberg News reports today, even this approach is burdened by a significant flaw.
President Trump likes to mock Nancy Pelosi, but a private survey conducted for the Republican National Committee finds that she’s actually more popular – and beats the president when the midterm election is framed as a contest between the two.
The internal poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, asks registered voters who they support “when the November election is framed by Trump and Pelosi.” Overall, respondents prefer Pelosi-aligned candidates over Trump-aligned candidates by 5 points, 50 percent to 45 percent. Among independents only, Pelosi still prevails by a 4-point margin. The poll was completed on Sept. 2.
This comes on the heels of a Fox News poll that found Pelosi with roughly the same national approval rating as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and more support than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
This is not to say I expect Republicans to change rhetorical direction. They’re not really in a position to abandon their anti-Pelosi posture, since they have so little else to run on.
But if the GOP is counting on this message to help defeat Democratic candidates in November, the party may need to lower its expectations.