2020

The Ides of August?

July 21, 2019
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(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The veteran New York political operative Bruce Gyory agreed to our publishing this email from him, which I think you’ll find interesting:
Once again, it might be worth reminding everyone in the midst of all the news that polling is a lagging indicator, and that we should wait to try to gauge the real public reaction to the last week of vitriol and poison from Trump until at least the middle of next week. The earliest we really could get an accurate read on how the public is reacting is from polling done beginning today, which we won’t see until next week. Moreover, weekends tend to be unreliable for polling data, especially hot summer weekends. So we won’t necessarily have good data until we get results from polls that go into the field Monday, and that data may not be in until Wednesday night or Thursday morning. So let’s be prudent and patient on drawing conclusions regarding public opinion until the dust settles on Trump and the “Send them Back” canard.
In addition, while Trump thinks the race baiting is the reason he won, that’s probably not true, at least with respect to the general election. At every point he’s gone overboard on race—attacking the Khan family, besmirching Judge Curiel, and Charlottesville—his polling ratings suffered, and pretty sharply. In each case his favorability ratings trended down from the low to mid 40s to the mid to high 30s. Trump makes the classic blunder of any elected official who governs based upon why he wanted voters to vote for him, rather than why they actually did. Trump won in the Electoral College because Clinton lost: Voters just did not want her, especially in the Midwest and coastal Atlantic swing states. Trump toned it down the last two weeks of 2016 so he could absorb the negative reaction to Clinton. His polls rise as president when the economy is good and voters are allowed to focus on that (when he stays comparatively quiet), and/or when he seems to be searching for peace rather than producing chaos overseas. He did not help Republicans by going all-in on the caravan fear-mongering at the close of the 2018 fall campaign.If I had to hazard a guess, I’d watch for some drop in his polling ratings as the surveys start coming in next Wednesday through Friday. Of course, some other major event could intervene next week to create new turmoil or reaction one way or the other. And Mueller’s testimony is next Wednesday. But to repeat, we won’t get a true reading of the public reaction to the “Send them home” controversy until the middle to end of next week. If the public reaction to this past week tracks that of the controversies over the Khan family, Judge Curiel, and Charlottesville, then the polling data could look bad for Trump heading into August 1. On the other hand, if Mueller’s testimony is a yawn while folks forget about this past week, the decline may be muted or non-existent. I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on where Trump’s poll ratings will stand in early August. But I wouldn’t assume that we may not look back and see this as being the Ides of August for Trump.

Two additional notes: First, the media could provide a service by focusing on the fact that none of these four members of Congress called the nation garbage or said they hated America. And I say that as someone who disagrees fundamentally with their approach to Israel and politics in general.

Second, if Tom Steyer wanted to perform a real public service in helping defeat Trump, he could put up mini-Perot type ads with graphics, charts, and stats which fact-checked Trump in a way hard to challenge. And they should run on Fox News as well as CNN and MSNBC.

William Kristol

William Kristol, editor-at-large of The Bulwark, is chair of the new Project for the Republican Future.