Will Trump Help State’s Democrats Win?
His disapproval rate is way high in Wisconsin, yet Michels, Johnson have embraced him.
No sooner had Tim Michels won the Republican nomination for governor in Wisconsin than he removed his endorsement by Donald Trump from his campaign website. Only after a New York Times reporter tweeted about this did the campaign restore the endorsement to the website.
Yes, Michels traveled to Mar-a-Lago to solicit Trump’s endorsement. And yes, he trumpeted that endorsement, comparing himself to the ex-president in the primary election. But he and his campaign know full well the Trump imprimatur won’t help in the general election.
The most recent Marquette Law School poll might help explain why some “staffer” for Michels removed the endorsement. The survey found that 57% of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Trump compared to 38% who had a favorable opinion.
And that was similar to results of the poll in June, April and February. This high negative rating is baked in and unlikely to change. The poll found 95% of Democrats, 63% of independents and even 15% of Republicans had an unfavorable opinion of Trump.
The poll also found that those who assign Trump at least some of the blame “for the violence of some of his supporters in the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” include 96% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 34% of Republicans.
The irony is that the mid-term election was supposed to be a referendum on President Joe Biden, who also has a high disapproval rating, with 55% disapproving and 40% approving in the latest MU poll. But as Luke Broadwater recently wrote for the New York Times, Republicans “are signaling concern that the referendum they anticipated on Mr. Biden — and the high inflation and gas prices that have bedeviled his administration — is being complicated by all-encompassing attention on the legal exposure of” Trump.
“The Republicans clearly don’t want this election to be about Trump because they know they can’t win,” notes Patrick Guarasci, a Milwaukee consultant who has worked on Democratic campaigns. “We’ve seen what happens when the election is about him. The Republicans lost two races for U.S. Senator [in January 2021] in Georgia.”
But Trump refuses to go away, and will continue working to elect candidates pushing his Big Lie that he won the 2020 election. That has pushed Michels to correct himself twice: Michels first said that decertifying the results of the 2020 election wasn’t a priority for him and later re-explained, saying “everything is on the table.” And after declining to say whether he would back a Trump reelection bid in 2024, Michels amended this a day later, saying he would back Trump for president. Because an endorsement from Trump requires total, unswerving loyalty to The Donald.
Michels and his campaign team would undoubtedly like the election to be about inflation, cutting taxes and bringing the business-like approach to government he promises. But Trump will do all he can to make the race about him.
As for incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, he’s made little attempt to separate himself from Trump. Indeed, few if any Republicans have worked harder to back Trump, from pushing Trump’s bogus theory that is was Ukraine that undermined the 2016 American election, to promoting the president’s quack remedies for COVID-19, to aiding Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, to offering support of the January 6 Capitol riot. ROJO is all MAGA all the time.
All of which suggests Trump’s shadow will loom large over the fall election. Does that mean Michels and Johnson will lose? Both Guarasci and Mordecai Lee, the UWM emeritus political science professor, say it’s not that simple, that Trump will both help and hinder the Republicans.
“I think we have seen in past that polling has kind of underestimated Trump’s intensity,” Guarasci notes. “Trump really turns people out.”
But Trump also turns out those who oppose him. Witness the midterm blue wave in 2018 and the historical high turnout in 2020. “It was clear in 2020 that the WOW [Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington] counties’ soccer moms had soured in Trump: white, suburban, college grads, some full-time homemakers,” Lee says. “I’m guessing these voters are now much more likely to vote Democratic in November than to vote for pro-life Republicans on the ballot. Advantage Dems.”
So which is the bigger advantage? The Marquette Poll has showed an enthusiasm edge for Republicans this year, though by a much smaller margin after the U.S. Court decision overrunning abortion rights. But Charles Franklin, who has long done the poll, sees the Trump influence as a November negative for Republicans.
“His dominance in the GOP helped in the primary, but emphasizing ties to Trump is not a positive with the general electorate,” Franklin says. “Republicans need his core supporters to turn out, but avoid turning off independents who are negative to Trump.”
Easier said than done.
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