In other words, the battle lines will roughly divide between GOP leaders, party strategists, and establishment figures who are urging one set of lessons to be drawn from the defeat (that the party needs to make peace with cultural and demographic change), and Trump supporters who are urging that a very different set of lessons be drawn (that the party must embrace Trump’s species of ethno-nationalism and xenophobic, America First populism). As one congressional expert puts it: “I expect civil war within the GOP after November 8th, as party elites inside and outside of Congress jockey to assign blame and claim the GOP mantle going forward.”
Putting aside the question of whether Ryan really needs to fear the threat of his ouster, all of this is terrible news for those who hope for a more functional opposition party that might be able to work with Hillary Clinton on matters such as immigration reform and fixing the problems with Obamacare.
The big question underlying all of this: whether defeat might crush or at least marginalize Trumpism as a force inside the party, by driving home to most mainstream GOP lawmakers, particularly in the House, that the party is staring in the face of long-term demographic doom, and that only cutting loose Trumpism can change that. (As I’ve suggested, a Trump loss in a place like Arizona might really help focus the minds of mainstream Republicans.) You’d think a large enough defeat could accomplish that. But conservative writer Philip Klein makes the case that, paradoxically enough, Trump’s loss could actually strengthen the hold on GOP voters of the arguments some Trump supporters will make about his loss, making moderation even harder:
There will be people arguing that Trump isn’t the problem at all, but that the GOP establishment didn’t do enough to help him….There will also be Trump supporters who will argue that massive, systemic, voter fraud was to blame for Trump’s defeat, and they’ll want tougher voter ID laws, which will cut against establishment Republican efforts at minority outreach.
Those conclusions would be completely divorced from reality, but unfortunately, the polling suggests that they might find a willing audience among GOP voters. A recent Bloomberg poll found that 51 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners say Trump better represents their view of what the GOP should stand for, while only 33 percent picked Ryan — meaning they might be open to the argument that Ryan, not Trump, was the problem that led to the latter’s inglorious defeat. Meanwhile, another poll shows that two thirds of Republicans think voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter disenfranchisement is — meaning they’ll be open to Trump’s argument that the election was stolen from them, and will likely demand that GOP leaders continue to push to restrict voting, further alienating nonwhites (something those leaders might be inclined to do in any case).
Meanwhile, as one libertarian policy analyst recently suggested, Republican voters might be inclined to draw exactly the wrong lesson from an outcome that underscores the GOP’s worsening demographic challenges: that the answer is to redouble opposition to immigration, since it is swelling the ranks of Latinos voting Democratic. That, too, would be a delusional conclusion to reach, but it’s certainly a real possibility — after all, polls showed that lots of Republican voters supported Trump’s various prescriptions and pronouncements on immigration.
All of this means that the various interwoven fantasies Trump has played upon — that the GOP leadership’s lack of spine is to blame for the party’s failure to “win” more; that voter fraud is rampant; that dark hordes flooding over the southern border constitute an existential threat to the country — could conceivably be strengthened by a Trump loss.
* DEMS HAVE LONG TERM PLAN FOR TAKING BACK HOUSE: The Post has a good report on the current state of play in the battle for the House. It is very unlikely Dems will flip the 30 seats they need to get the majority back. But note this:
Democrats’ long-term plan for reclaiming the House majority has anticipated a “demographic pivot” where well-educated, wealthy suburban dwellers who tended to vote Republican become increasingly Democratic over time. Trump, party strategists argue, has accelerated that pivot to the point that districts thought to be out of reach until 2018 or beyond are now in play.
One question will be whether Trumpism continues to stain the GOP after the election in the minds of those voters, and if so, whether that helps Dems ultimately get back the Lower Chamber.
* CLINTON HOLDS WIDE NATIONAL LEAD, POLL FINDS: The latest ABC News national tracking poll finds Clinton leading Trump among likely voters by 49-40, though that’s a slight tightening from previous days. The breakdowns:
Clinton leads by 17 points among women, while men divide essentially evenly, 42-45 percent, Clinton-Trump….Trump leads by 7 points among whites, Clinton by 49 points among nonwhites. Trump’s best group demographically remains white men who don’t have a four-year college degree, a 61-29 percent advantage over Clinton. She counters with virtually the same margin, 60-32 percent, among college-educated white women.
That lopsided margin among college educated white women could have lasting implications. By the way, the averages have the spread a bit tighter (six points) than ABC does, so keep that in mind.
* UNDECIDED VOTERS VARY FROM STATE TO STATE: Nate Silver breaks down the polling and concludes that the number of remaining voters varies, depending on the state, which could matter in the final two weeks:
The fewest undecideds are in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Nevada….These are states where both parties have their bases, with voters split heavily along racial, religious and educational lines….Maine, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire have more undecided voters than the others….they have something in common: a lot of white voters, and particularly a lot of middle-class whites, which is one group that’s still relatively torn between the candidates.
Of course, if much of the vote is locked down in those first five states, and Clinton is up, Trump won’t have a path. But we don’t know whether that’s the case yet.
* NEW POLL FINDS TRUMP LEADING IN FLORIDA: Here’s a rare sighting: A good poll for Trump. The Bloomberg Politics survey finds Trump leading among likely voters in Florida by 45-43 in the four-way, and by 46-45.
This is the best poll for Trump in the state in a long time. According to HuffPollster, Clinton has led in around 20 of the most recent polls (two were tied), and a poll hasn’t shown Trump up since mid-September. The averages put Clinton up slightly over three points.
* WILL PAUL RYAN SURVIVE? Congressional reporter Billy House reports that the hard-right Freedom Caucus is making noises about ousting Ryan after the elections, but Ryan will probably be able to hang on, anyway:
Ryan’s anguished on-again, off-again support of Trump has left him in no man’s land inside the Republican Party — tainted by his endorsement of the nominee while facing a possible revolt by Trump backers for having largely abandoned him. Ryan is likely to withstand any attempt…to oust him…but Trump’s attacks on Ryan may have done lasting damage to his stature among the party’s base, just as he weighs a possible White House run in four years.
Needless to say, Trump will do everything he can to incite his mob of supporters to blame Ryan for his loss. The coming civil war should be interesting to watch.
* TRUMP LAYS GROUNDWORK TO BLAME RYAN: He’s already going there in this interview with Reuters:
“The people are very angry with the leadership of this party, because this is an election that we will win 100 percent if we had support from the top. I think we’re going to win it anyway.”
Of course, it would never occur to Trump that his own behavior might have had something to do with the fact that Ryan broke with him (finally, after months of racism and hate).
* AND McCONNELL GOES QUIET ON TRUMP’S ‘RIGGED’ LIES: The Associated Press tried to get Mitch McConnell to comment on Trump’s claims that the election is “rigged.” No luck:
Asked if he agreed with Trump that the election is “rigged,” McConnell laughed and walked away. McConnell’s silence is especially notable in light of Trump’s recent complaints about the election system and hints he might not ultimately accept the results….McConnell has offered no reaction, passing up the opportunity to defend the nation’s democratic institutions.
Of course, GOP leaders have been validating the myth of rampant “voter fraud” for years amid efforts to restrict voting, so this isn’t that surprising.