But rather than send the president to central Virginia to take on Spanberger, the White House is sending the B Team, in the guise of Vice President Pence.
According to Politico’s Alex Isenstadt, the Pence offensive is intended to target Democratic House members representing districts Trump won in 2016. Isenstadt wrote, “At each stop, Pence is expected to paint Democrats as being more focused on destroying the president than on solving the problems of their constituents.”
Perhaps Pence will talk about infrastructure week instead. That’s always a crowd-pleaser.
Pence should avoid making this new road show into a version of his 2016 “big shoulders” tour. That was getting deeply weird.
But don’t expect the vice president to answer any questions from the local press about his role in the whole Ukraine thing. This is all about Spanberger, who insists on getting answers about the president’s dealings, and, if necessary, paying a political price for doing what she thinks is right.
But before the underwhelming collection of GOP wannabe nominees gets too excited about Pence’s arrival, the sad polling data supporting his visit or how either might boost their anemic campaigns, there are some hard truths about the 7th Congressional District we all need to remember.
Yes, it was a GOP stronghold until Spanberger’s win over the hapless Dave Brat in 2018.
Yes, the 7th is still nominally Republican. Trump won the 7th in 2016.
But the 7th’s vote-rich suburban Richmond core — Chesterfield and Henrico Counties — turned against Republicans in the 2017 statewide and House of Delegates races and in the 2018 congressional midterm.
The Nov. 5 General Assembly contests will tell us if this shift was the start of a trend or just a run of bad luck.
The impeachment cloud has nationalized the General Assembly races, giving Virginia voters an opportunity to use these contests as a proxy for their views on Mr. Trump.
While the most recent polling data didn’t capture any early effects of impeachment, the Washington Post-Schar School poll and the Wason Center poll showed the president remains unpopular and a powerful get-out-the-vote tool for Democrats. As the Post reported:
President Trump is an even bigger factor, however, cited as “very important” to their vote by 51 percent. That is up from 38 percent who said he was an important motivator in 2017, when anti-Trump Democrats and independents turned out in massive numbers and flipped a record number of Republican seats in the House of Delegates.
The Wason Center’s data confirmed this finding and added a deeper layer of gloom to GOP prospects:
The data presented here suggest that even if turnout is still fairly low on Nov. 5, this year’s electorate will have more in common with the electorates of 2017 and 2018 in terms of its demographic and — more importantly — partisan composition, than with the electorate of 2015.
Remember: None of this includes the effects of the impeachment inquiry.
Republicans expecting impeachment will somehow diminish rising Democratic enthusiasm to vote this November, never mind November 2020, need to rethink their assumptions.
Republicans staged an early test of the anti-impeachment theme — a lackluster protest outside a Spanberger district office that drew 50 people, including congressional candidate Tina Ramirez and Del. Nick Freitas, who is currently running a write-in campaign for re-election because he couldn’t be bothered to file his paperwork on time.
Pence would be a huge step up for this crowd. But he’s just as unlikely as Freitas & Co. to shake Spanberger’s resolve or diminish Democratic enthusiasm to send a message Nov. 5.