Congratulations, Congress: you're no longer the least popular political entity out there -- the guy many of you may share a ballot with this fall has taken over that title, per a Bloomberg-sponsored survey conducted by Selzer & Co. Trump's negative ratings are driven by the 53 percent of Americans who view him "very unfavorably" — the stronger of the two options for 'unfavorable.' As Philip Bump notes, only about a third of Americans hate Congress that much. But half of the country gives Trump the worst rating it possibly can.
That's the context driving the push by establishment Republicans and their big-money allies "to build a multistate defense system to protect Senate and House candidates, fearing that the party could lose its hold on Congress if Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket in November" that Paul Kane and Matea Gold reported yesterday.
As we've noted before, the good news for Republican lawmakers in swing state races is that efforts are already underway to protect them. The bad news is that those efforts are probably doomed, because running away from your party's standard-bearer never actually works as a campaign strategy, says Chris Cillizza.
"Congressional Democrats running for reelection (or election) in the 2010 and 2014 midterms learned that lesson — over and over again," he writes. "In each of those elections, the Affordable Care Act, and President Obama's dipping popularity because of the controversy over it, hung like an anvil over Democrats' heads. And they tried hard to run away so it wouldn't crush them." They failed, losing six Senate seats in 2010 and nine in 2014, 63 House seats in 2010 and 13 in 2014. "In the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections combined, Democrats lost 83 House and Senate seats." (Sen. Joe Manchin is the exception that proves the rule.)
"For most voters, the two parties are like the Borg from 'Star Trek.' If the leader of the party — a.k.a. the presidential nominee — thinks something, then everyone with an 'R' after his or her name must think it, too. Even when presented with direct evidence that not every Democrat agreed with everything Obama did ...voters didn't care....
"Attempts to get out from under what is presumed to be a sinking ship are as old as politics itself. So are the failures of those attempts."
The "localized" tactics GOP Senate strategists tout are up against historical forces. 2012 SEN almost 1-1 with prez pic.twitter.com/WzOrXOT5gk— Scott Bland (@PoliticoScott) March 24, 2016
... that doesn't mean a local strategy *can't* be successful. But separating from nat'l trend has clearly gotten harder— Scott Bland (@PoliticoScott) March 24, 2016
One big reason for potential Trump drag in a general election: The mogul isn't having much luck with women these days.
"Trump’s treatment and views of women has been a central issue throughout his presidential campaign," report Jenna Johnson and Jose A. DelReal. "Polling shows Trump sliding sharply among women in recent months, hurting the GOP’s already shaky position with that demographic.
"Trump’s favorability numbers have decreased 10 points among women nationwide since November, to 23 percent, while his unfavorable number among women has jumped from 64 percent to 75 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken earlier this month...In the states that have voted so far, Trump received an average of 41 percent of the male vote and 34 percent of the female vote.
"...GOP strategists fear that Trump clinching the nomination could present a real opportunity for Democrats, who are poised to nominate the first female presidential nominee and who in past elections have accused Republicans of waging a 'war on women' over access to affordable women’s health care, abortion rights and pay equity."
Here's how deep the hole is right now: In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, nearly half the Republican women surveyed said they wouldn't vote for Trump.
Then again, it's possible the antipathy from women voters might not be a real swing factor this fall -- although for that to be true, the campaign endgame would feature a scenario Trump himself wouldn't exactly welcome: "Trump has crept to within shouting distance of the nomination by eking out wins in a splintered field," notes Philip Bump. "Lots of people don't like him, so that more of them are women doesn't make much difference. And in a general election, people tend to vote with their parties anyway. If Republican women decide to bail on Trump in November, the odds are good that lots of Republican men have made the same decision."
Speaking of Trump's women problems...
WELCOME TO WIFE-GATE, DAY 3: Yes. For three days, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz candidates have been tweeting about the GQ photo of Melania Trump lying on a bearskin run that an anti-Trump super PAC used in a Facebook ad, or fighting about tweets about it, or tweeting about fighting about tweets about it.
Late last night, Trump launched a new front:
Under pressure today, Team Trump stood by the tweet.
Responding this afternoon, Cruz went nuclear.
“Our spouses and our children are off bounds,” he said. “It is not acceptable for a big, loud New York bully to attack my wife. It is not acceptable for him to make insults, to send nasty tweets -- and I don’t know what he does late at night, but he tends to do these at about 11:30 at night, I assume when his fear is at the highest point. ...
“It’s not easy to tick me off,” he added. “I don’t get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time. Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.” in other words: Ted Cruz is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore.
Trump responded to Cruz's comments:
I didn't start the fight with Lyin'Ted Cruz over the GQ cover pic of Melania, he did. He knew the PAC was putting it out - hence, Lyin' Ted!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2016
Finally, the super PAC responsible for the ad in the first place...responded to Trump's response to Cruz's response to Trump's response (to sum up the past 24 hours in 10 words or less)
Only reason people are still writing+talking abt it is YOU;it hasn't run for DAYS. If you want focus to end, stop talking! @realDonaldTrump— Liz Mair (@LizMair) March 24, 2016
I guess they didn't teach Common Sense at Wharton when @realDonaldTrump was there. Sad!— Liz Mair (@LizMair) March 24, 2016
SPEAKING OF STUFF SURROGATES SAY: Last night, Lindsey Graham continued this year's most entertaining trend -- the underminey supporter. “I prefer John Kasich, but he has no chance,” the Cruz backer (ok, that still feels weird to type...) told the Daily Show.
“He was my fifteenth choice, what can I say?" but hey -- "he’s not completely crazy.” In other words: Vote Cruz!
Trump surrogate Ben Carson was also solidly on-trend today, saying he didn't "condone" the mogul's threats to attack Heidi Cruz; Carson's endorsement, he said, was "not an endorsement of anything that anybody has said and done throughout their lives." When it comes to candidates, people have to "work with what we have, not necessarily what we ideally would want," he said. (By which he obviously meant: Vote Trump!)
Carson also said this, when asked whether the GOP front-runner was a liar:
I'm coining a new election portmanteau— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) March 24, 2016
endursement (n): An endorsement for a candidate whom one supposes one could endure, if necessary
While we're talking less-than-decisive endorsements:
TOMORROW'S CAMPAIGN DRAMA TODAY: As Hillary Clinton followed up her terrorism speech at Stanford University yesterday with a homeland security roundtable in Los Angeles today reports emerged that a post-Brussels video from the Islamic State had featured images of Donald Trump -- potentially providing fresh fodder for a controversial attack Clinton used a few months ago (until she didn't.)
SCOTUS BATTLE SPIN UPDATE:
Today we learned that the first rule of the Biden Rule, according to Joe Biden, is that there is no Biden Rule. "It doesn’t exist," the vice president told more than 200 students, professors and staff at the Georgetown University Law Center.
"Biden's speech served as an attempt to rebut the Republican portrayal of a lengthy speech he delivered in 1992 about the Supreme Court confirmation process, which Republicans have cited as 'the Biden rule' for not even granting hearings or a vote on Garland until the next president takes office in January and makes the selection," report Paul Kane and David Nakamura.
"On Thursday, Biden recited the other portion of that June 1992 speech in which he said that if there was a vacancy, and if President George H.W. Bush consulted with Biden and other Senate leaders to select a consensus choice, he would have held hearings and a vote just weeks before the 1992 election.
"The administration's allies have used the current two-week break in the Senate to organize rallies in states where senators are holding town halls and other events back home, trying to apply pressure particularly on the more than half-dozen Republicans facing potentially difficult elections in the fall."
(As we've noted, a majority of Americans do say Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland should be confirmed. But that still means less than you might think. So far, three Republican senators have publicly called for Garland hearings.)
THE VIEW FROM THE FIELD: HELLO, WISCONSIN Club for Growth's latest anti-Trump ad in Wisconsin ahead of the April 5 primary focuses on convention math -- and takes aim at John Kasich: "A vote for Kasich actually helps Trump...to stop Trump, vote for Cruz." It's slated to hit the airwaves this weekend as part of a planned million-dollar buy.
(Club for Growth isn't alone; a lot of people have convention math on their minds these days, and the remaining GOP presidential campaigns "have already embarked on a once-in-a-generation feat of political and technological engineering" to track delegate support when the party meets in Cleveland this summer, reports Darren Samuelsohn. "While campaigns for statewide office have used delegate-tracking data technology in state party conventions and even at recent national party conventions, nothing on the scale of what would be required for the summer of 2016 has ever been attempted....")
MORE DELEGATE DRAMA WATCH: The chaotic process and aftermath of GOP delegate selection in the Virgin Islands is even being featured in an attack ad running on the radio there.
TRAIL MIX: Plenty of Hill lawmakers support Donald Trump, says Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) -- they're just not supporting him out loud, where people can hear. (Collins apparently did not respond to reporter questions about whether his own decision to publicly endorse Trump might have been influenced by some not-so-quiet persuasion from businessman Carl Paladino, who has promised to attack New York's Republican lawmakers if they don't back the front-runner.)
--As Donald Trump's political fortunes rose in 2015, his actual fortune appears to have taken a hit. "Eighteen out of 21 hedge funds and mutual funds in Trump's portfolio lost money in 2015, and 17 of them are down so far this year, according to public disclosures and private performance data seen by Reuters." (Trump took the long view on the losses. "I put some money with people that are friends," he told Reuters. "I have no idea if they are up or down. I just know that they have been very good over a period of time."
--Move over Trump University: it's time for a closer look at "The Trump Network"
--Ted Cruz says he didn't attack Trump earlier in the campaign cycle because candidates who did ended up as "roadkill" and the Texas senator is "very strongly-committed on the anti-roadkill approach."
--Here are 5 signs the guy you’re arguing with about 2016 is full of it.
--Wheel of Fortune is apparently making a fortune off the campaign.
--Former presidential candidate Scott Walker thinks it's "very likely" delegates at an open GOP convention would nominate "someone who's not currently running" for president.
Speaking of potential late entries: Over the weekend, a new name hit the mix...
Today, Brooks killed the boomlet.
I'm flattered but have to decline-- there is enough comedy in the current collection of candidates. https://t.co/RqYXWa1Iwv— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) March 24, 2016
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: The cherry blossoms are here.