In the wake of some Republican primaries in June that went the way the White House wanted, Donald Trump interpreted the results as proof that Democrats would have a difficult year at the ballot box. "So much for the big Blue Wave," the president wrote on June 6, "it may be a big Red Wave."
That didn't make a lot of sense -- Republican victories in Republican primaries do not diminish Democratic prospects -- but two months later, Trump was at it again. "[T]here will not be a Blue Wave," the president wrote on Aug. 5, "but there might be a Red Wave!"
In all, looking exclusively at Trump's tweets, he's talked up the idea of a "red wave" -- a reference to major Republican gains in the 2018 midterms -- seven times since summer began.
And while it's easy to laugh at such analysis, Republicans are confronting an awkward problem: many of the party's voters actually believe the president's assurances and are feeling quite confident about this year's midterms. The New York Times reported over the weekend:
America First Action, a political committee aligned with Mr. Trump, conducted a series of focus groups over the summer and concluded the party had a severe voter-turnout problem, brought on in part by contentment about the economy and a refusal by Republicans to believe that Democrats could actually win the midterm elections.Conservative-leaning voters in the study routinely dismissed the possibility of a Democratic wave election, with some describing the prospect as "fake news," said an official familiar with the research....
Axios had a related report yesterday on polling conducted by the Republican National Committee, which also found that "a majority of Trump voters don't believe the mountain of evidence that Democrats will win back the House in November."
To be sure, there's more than one reason Republicans are dealing with "a severe voter-turnout problem," but I see Trump as the principal culprit. Rank-and-file Republican voters aren't hearing their president ring the alarm bell; they're hearing him state categorically, "[T]here will not be a Blue Wave."
Sure, those same voters have probably seen some of the polling, in addition to reports from independent news organizations about the likelihood of Democratic gains, but they've also heard Donald Trump spend two years arguing that all survey data are "fake polls" (unless he likes the results), and all media coverage of the elections is "fake news."
These voters can either listen to Trump or they can accept the evidence at face value. The Republican base apparently prefers the former to the latter, which creates an awkward dynamic for GOP leaders: they're vastly more concerned about the midterms than their voters are.