The Trump Referendum

I don’t want to even read about the Kavanaugh hearings. We all know that every Republican will vote to confirm the clueless anti-labor, pro-big money in elections, anti-reproductive rights establishment dweeb, so what’s the point? If I’m wrong I’ll be delighted, but in the meantime let’s talk about something more cheerful.

Today the FiveThirtyEight nerds upgraded the Dems’ chances of retaking the House to four out of five, or 79.5 percent. It had been five out of seven for awhile. Four out of five is the best odds they’ve given the Dems this election cycle. Trump’s approval also is moving into the “getting worse” column, but it’s not yet quite as bad as his all-time worst.

The Senate, alas, probably is out of reach.

Possibly as a sign of the times, a local car dealership ran a television ad telling people to come in and buy a new car before Trump’s tariffs raise the prices. I only saw it once; maybe people complained. But if even “normal” folks in Trump Country get a clue that his policies are raising the cost of living, that’s going to hurt Republicans more than a hundred political ads.

Scott Clement and Dan Balz write in WaPo that the midterms are shaping up into a referendum on Trump.

Two months ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats hold a clear advantage over Republicans in congressional vote support, with antipathy toward President Trump fueling Democratic enthusiasm, even among those in the party who stayed home four years ago, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

The survey also points to broad unrest and frustration with the political system generally. More than 6 in 10 Americans say Trump and the Republican Party are out of touch with most people in the country. While Democrats fare better, a narrower 51 percent majority also judged them out of touch.

The new Dem Party rallying cry — We’re not as out of touch as they are!

Ironically, the GOP’s weak position comes even as 58 percent of Americans say the economy is excellent or good, tying ratings from January as the most positive marks in 17 years.

We can quibble over what constitutes “good.” All the talking heads on the teevee keep saying the economy is “good,” so it must be “good,” but that doesn’t mean that the sort of “good” it is makes any difference to most people. The cost of living is heading up; wages, especially for blue-collar workers, are going down. That’s “good”?

Greg Sargent writes,

A new Post-ABC News poll strongly suggests that this kind of talk from Trump is only hurting Republicans, particularly in many of the GOP-held districts that Democrats need to win to take the House: It finds that a solid majority of voters wants a Democratic-led House to act as a check on Trump. And it finds a big swing in this direction since July.  …

… Notably, the Post-ABC poll also finds that by 60-34, voters want a Democratic-controlled Congress to act as a check on Trump as opposed to a Republican-controlled Congress that will support Trump’s agenda. This is up from 52-38 in mid-July, a swing of 12 points toward wanting a check on Trump. (Previous polls have found that majorities in the competitive House districts want this as well.)

What’s more, the new Post-ABC poll suggests that the anti-Trump backlash we’ve seen throughout this cycle among suburban, college-educated and independent voters is running strong: According to the cross-tabs, college-educated whites want a Democratic-led Congress as a check on Trump by 62-34, and suburban voters want the same by 58-37. Independents want a check by 63-27.

In other news: Bob Woodward has a new book out, or about to be out, and this one’s about the Trump Administration. It sounds as if the entire White House staff does little else but try to manage Trump.

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

Also: Recent tweet by Trump slamming Jeff Sessions just adds to Mueller’s obstruction of justice case.