Midterm Issues: Part IV – The Trump Factor

“The future’s not ours to see. Que será, será. What will be, will be.”  

NJ women in Plainfield

Currently New Jersey Democratic House candidates are in a good position to flip four House seats. In the most recent polls Mikie Sherril in CD11 leads by 4 points, Andy Kim in CD 3 by 10, Jeff Van Drew in CD 2 by 23, and Malinowski in CD 7 by 3.  WaPo says in an article this weekend that after surprising the nation in 2016, Trump appears to be driving turnout this year that will largely benefit Democrats, because of moderate voters, and particularly college-educated women.

SO IS EVERYTHING COMING UP ROSES?

No. Nationally Real Clear Politics (RCP) now has 205 House seats as safe, leaning, or likely Democratic, 200 seats as Republican, and 30 as tossups, with 218 seats needed for a majority. So flipping the house is possible or maybe probable but not assured. In a more sanguine view of New Jersey, RCP has CD 2 as Likely Dem, CD 5 as Leaning Dem, CD 3, 7, and 11 as Tossups, and CD4 as Safe Republican. We can’t forget that although these districts vary from each other, they have been Republican-held, and most voted for Trump in 2016. 

SO WHAT IS THE TRUMP IMPACT? 

In the midterms the President’s party typically loses seats. The question remains, by how many?  NJ can make a significant difference if our three tossups turn into D’s and if Josh Gottheimer (D) retains his seat. The last two chief executives with approval ratings below 50 percent at this point in their presidencies, saw their party lose control of the House. According to RCP Trump’s national average approval rating in the last 10 polls (between the end of September and early October) is 43.2%, ranging from 41% to the most recent 49% in a Rasmussen poll which reports voters are seeing President Trump as more of a positive than they did a year ago.

CD 2  Open Seat. Jeff Van Drew (D) vs. Seth Grossman (R) 

The popular Republican Representative Frank LoBiondo (R) in 2012-2016 won with large majorities, while in the presidential races of 2008 and 2012 Dems won until 2016 when Trump won +5. There are 16,000 more registered D’s here than R’s. (Note in all districts there are more unaffiliated voters than those in either party, and they can make a significant difference.) In a mid-September Stockton poll voters identified taxes or income taxes (16 percent) as their top choice while 11% said President Trump is the major issue, and 9 percent identified control of Congress. Those wanting a Dem blue wave outnumbered respondents seeking to retain GOP control in Washington by more than a 3-1. The district includes Atlantic City where Trump wreaked havoc. Grossman (R) has campaigned as an ally of Trump.

CD 3 Incumbent Tom MacArthur (R) v. Andy Kim (D) 

Currently there are 12,000 more registered D’s than R’s. In 2016 MacArthur won +20 and  Trump won +6. In an August Monmouth poll 57% the electorate say it is very important for them to cast a vote for Congress that shows how they feel about the president – including 66% of Trump opponents and 60% of Trump supporters. Overall, 46% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing while 49% disapprove. MacArthur (R) has been linked to Trump on many key initiatives, including healthcare and tax reform, but the the local environment favors Democrats. CD 3 encompasses two very distinct areas, the eastern part is strong Republican where Trump has significant support, and the western part where Trump is unpopular. Whereas in the August Monmouth poll Kim was +1, in the NYT poll of September 22, Kim was +10, a substantial increase. Regardless, in a district where Mac Arthur is so supportive of Trump and one where Trump won +6, there its discontent in Trumplandia, and Kim is doing well. 

CD 4 Incumbent Chris Smith (R) v. Joshe Welle (D)

There are 18,000 more registered R’s than D’s. In 2016 while living out of the district, nineteen-term incumbent Smith (R) won +30 and Trump won +15. Welle talks about bringing jobs back to NJ and and lowering taxes. His progressive campaign does not take money from corporate PAC’s. Ipsos ranks Welle as Lean R and a tossup as viewed on social media, but there are no public polls on this race.

CD 5 Incumbent Josh Gottheimer (D) v. John McCann (R) 

Currently there are 3,000 more registered D’s than R’s. Republicans won here for many years until 2016 when Gottheimer (D) won +4, and the district now leans Democratic. In 2016 Trump won +1. Fivethirtyeight ranks Gottheimer as Solid D. Except for a Republican commissioned poll which unsurprisingly favors McCann there are no public polls on this race. McCann (R) is a conservative pro-Trump supporter who should fare well in the western part of the district, but find his downfall in the more populous, liberal eastern area assuming the turnout is strong here. 

CD 7 Incumbent Leonard Lace (R) v. Tom Malinowski (D) 

In spite of Lance being re-elected numerous times, most recently +11 in 2016, in that same year Hillary Clinton won the presidential race +1. There currently are 7,000 more R’s registered than D’s. The September 20 Monmouth poll finds that 62% of potential voters say it is very important for them to cast a vote for Congress that shows how they feel about the president – including 71% of Trump opponents and 67% of Trump supporters. Overall, just 39% of district voters now approve of the job Trump is doing. While there’s not a lot of difference in enthusiasm levels between the two camps more voters have swung toward Democrats in part due to problems they have with their presidential neighbor. More voters say that they would rather see Democrats (46%) than Republicans (32%) in Congress. Malinwski describes Lance as a ‘weather vane,” and says “the problem with a weather vane is that it doesn’t change the way the wind is blowing.” Malinowski is leading +3 but within the margin of error, so Lance is still in the hunt.

CD 11 Open Seat. Mikie Sherrill (D) v. Jay Webber (R) 

Rodney Frelinghuysen long held sway here winning in double digits, but in  2016 Trump won by only +1. There are 7,000 more registered R’s than D’s. According to the October Monmouth poll, 75% of likely voters say that the president is a very important factor in their House vote, including 84% of Trump opponents and 77% of his supporters. Voters are divided (48% to 47%) on Trump’s approval level  and hold a negative view of the new GOP/Trump tax law. The recent Supreme Court nomination process has not noticeably moved this race in either direction. Last month Trump tweeted an endorsement of conservative Assemblyman Webber (R). Although voters are closely divided over Trump, Sherrill is maintaining her 4 point lead over Webber.

SUMMARY COMMENTS 

It’s apparent the electorate think it’s important to cast a vote for Congress that shows how they feel about the president, and fortunately that belief  is more pronounced among Democrats. That does not mean it’s necessary for candidates to mention Trump frequently by name or attack him personally. Sherrill in her recent debate never mentioned Trump, but she did explain why her policies were better than those of Trump. Should candidates go high or go low? The current Senate TV ads are exclusively going low with one candidate being attacked for his indictment and the other for selling a drug at an exorbitant price, without giving us any positive reason to vote for either of them. High is often better.

Although “the future’s not ours to see,” it is we the voters who will determine the results. Our outrage and our ballot make the difference. Doris Day who sang “Que Será Será” reached incredible heights of popularity, but later the public turned against her and she ended up in bankruptcy. A harbinger for our midterms and for Trump’s future? 

The historical data and media info is here.  The registration data is here.

Photo above of Trump from SOURCE.

Part I of this series is on SALT, Part II is Healthcare, and Part III is Climate Change. There is a link  to each of these articles by clicking on the top slider on our frontpage or entering 2018 midterm issues

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