Last week’s wispy vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and subsequent haranguing from national party Democrats on the fate of their political opponents creates many points (with inflection) for pundits and policy watchers.
There is no question both sides will use the vote as a watershed moment for the 2018 election cycle. Many, many twists and turns can occur between now and next November.
Critically, Republicans would do well to ask about the strength of President Trump’s coalition?
Many forces converged last November to elect Mr. Trump president. These included factions of voters written off by traditional pollsters, or even under-reported, across state polling organizations for a myriad of flawed reasons.
Yet, a Trump coalition did in fact exist. If the White House wants to avoid a sudden stop to its agenda, officials had better determine how they can mobilize these disparate groups once again. It won’t be easy.
As much success as President Obama had in mobilizing his core followers, that effort took a lot of pre-election research and data mining; initiatives continuing in full-effect during the months and years following his having been sworn into office.
In a word, Obama's efforts in this regard reflected sophistication. If his data operations during the last campaign were any indication, I’m not convinced Trump has that same degree of innovation. There’s still time, however, and in order to be effective, the political arm of the White House must recognize three core challenges:
1. Identifying the typical Trump voter is difficult. There is no formula for reliably pinpointing a Trump disciple. And when one does, they rarely look like 20 other individuals who pulled the lever for the president last year. They are not monolithic. Sure, there are pockets which are easily recognizable. But even organizations that would help cultivate and grow those voters such as The Heritage Foundation struggle in this new era of politics. Look no further than the reasons stated publicly and privately last week in the ouster of its leader, former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. Some felt he was too close to Trump. Others believed the organization wasn’t leaning into true conservative crusades. Yet on the surface, that supporter should be one and the same since Trump summoned those conservative tenets throughout his campaign. Finally, even the typical Trump voter today won’t necessarily help this president. When was the last time you saw a poll reliably measuring the representative Trump voter in its samplings? Hint — It’s less than you think. As several pollsters have attested lately, Trump voters rarely self-identify themselves as such. That will be another factor in reaching his core constituency.
No rallying national policy. At this stage, it’s difficult for me to see a policy initiative that has the salience and national value of drawing millions of voters to the ballot box on behalf of their Republican congressional candidate. Healthcare won’t be that beacon; not for Republicans. Behavioral economics teaches humans value loss more than they value gain. By that theory, expect Democrats and proponents of Obamacare to line up in droves to repudiate Republicans come next November for gutting the program. But don’t expect many Trump supporters to respond likewise and reward the GOP for its profiles in courage. It doesn’t work that way. There must be another issue. Perhaps it’s one of international scope. Heaven forbid, but if the U.S. ends up locking horns with North Korea, that could galvanize voters like no other issue. Republicans could see their majorities grow. But on the domestic side, I simply don’t see a national issue rising to such prominence. Tax reform won’t fit the bill. It has to many moving parts to see accomplishment prior to 2018.
The mother’s milk of politics is money. I've never gotten the sense that President Trump is a huge fan of fundraising. This was easy to dismiss on the campaign trail, as he pointed to his own wealth to assuage any concerns that the GOP presidential candidate had enough resources to power his efforts. But competing in 350 plus individual U.S. House and Senate races takes gobs of cash; the amount of money only a president can command. To do this well, and give Republicans the firepower they need, Trump will need to start fundraising — now.
Yes, the months ahead are defining moments for Trump's coalition. That is, a test of its strength and reach. The president will not be on the ballot, but his priorities and his doctrines will. Republicans will be looking to him to successfully navigate those political shoals.
Armstrong Williams is the author of "Reawakening Virtues." He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called "The Right Side," and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (6-7 p.m. and 5-6 a.m.) Monday through Friday. He also is owner of Howard Stirk Holdings Broadcast TV stations. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
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