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The Republican Party's "Jim Bognet Problem"-- Lots Of Really Bad General Election Candidates

In 2020 Trump won a district I used to live in in northeast Pennsylvania, PA-08 by over 4 points— 51.7% to 47.3%, which was especially sad because Biden’s origin story makes a big fuss about how he’s from Scranton, which is in the district. Two weeks ago, Biden gave one of the worst speeches of his whole endless career in Wilkes-Barre, also in the district. Unfortunately for the Republicans, they had nominated an exceptionally bad candidate for the congressional seat, political operative and Saudi lobbyist Jim Bognet. Despite Trump’s endorsement, Bognet lost to progressive Democrat Matt Cartwright 178,004 (51.8%) to 165,783 (48.2%).

Determined to dump Cartwright, the Republican-controlled legislature redrew PA-08 radically, changing the partisan lean from R+9 to R+13. It was already a very tough district for a Democrat, a testament to Cartwright’s dedication and skill. Now it’s next to impossible. But, luckily for Cartwright, the GOP nominated Bognet again. And he’s still as terrible a candidate this cycle as he was last cycle— and, like Dr. Oz and Doug Mastriano, a carpetbagger who has voted more often in other states than in Pennsylvania. He’s also the first congressional candidate of the cycle to be endorsed by Trump. And he’s anti-Choice and pro-coup.

The GOP has Bognet problems all over the country— terrible candidates running up and down the ticket in almost every state. And voters are beginning to take note. A new NBC News poll released today augers badly for this bad Bognet-like candidates. Biden’s approval rating has climbed-- and Trump’s has fallen precipitously. 47% of voters have a negative perception of Biden. 54% have a negative perception of Trump.

Mark Murray reported that “Democrats have pulled even with Republicans ahead of November’s midterm elections, fueled by six-in-10 voters who disapprove of the decision to overturn Roe v Wade, by President Joe Biden’s approval rating improving to its highest mark since October and by Donald Trump’s favorability rating dropping to its lowest level in more than a year… [W]hat maybe stands out the most from the survey are the two starkly different issue campaigns the parties are running, with the Republican Party holding all-time high advantages on the economy, crime and border security, versus Democrats’ all-time high on abortion and double-digit edge on health care.”

“We often think about wave elections,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
“But this year, we may think instead about a ‘waves’ election where unprecedentedly strong crosscurrents push voters in different directions, with an end result that may not be what we expected.”
McInturff, the GOP pollster, agrees.
“There is a campaign about the economy, cost of living, crime, and border security, and Republicans are winning this campaign,” he said.
“But there is a second campaign on abortion, democracy, and climate change, and Democrats are winning that campaign.”
In the poll, 46% of registered voters say they prefer Republicans to control Congress as the outcome from the November elections, versus an equal 46% who want Democrats in charge.
… While Biden’s approval rating has inched up, Donald Trump’s favorability has ticked down to one of the lowest levels of his post-presidency.
According to the poll, 34% have a positive view of the ex-president, versus 54% who have a negative view (-20).
Trump’s net score is down slightly from August (when it was 36% positive, 54% negative) and May (36% positive, 51% negative), and it’s his lowest since April 2021 (32% positive, 55% negative).
By comparison, Biden’s favorability score in the new NBC News poll is 42% positive, 47% (-5).
And asked whether the different investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Trump should continue or stop, 56% of all voters say they should continue — including 92% of Democrats, 56% of independents, but just 19% of Republicans who believe that.
By contrast, 41% say the investigations should stop.
…Testing which party better handles 12 different midterm issues, Republicans have a 19-point advantage over Democrats on dealing with the economy (an all-time GOP high in the poll), a 23-point edge on dealing with crime (another all-time high) and a 36-point advantage in dealing with border security (yet another all-time high).
Democrats, meanwhile, enjoy their biggest leads on protecting democracy (7-point advantage over Republicans), dealing with education (11 points), health care (20 points) and dealing with abortion (22 points— an all-time high for them in the survey).
And on the topic of abortion, 61% of voters say they disapprove the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade, compared with 37% who approve.

It’s important that Democrats do things in Washington the will make peoples' lives-- not the donor class' lives-- better while not losing track of the fact that polls have been giving them false hope. “Polling,” wrote Dan Pfeiffer this morning, “is a flawed, imperfect measurement, but it’s the only way to get a sense of the political environment— how the voters feel about the candidates, what issues are popping, and what’s making people happy and mad… It’s been six years since the great polling miss of 2016. We probably aren’t paying enough attention to the miss in 2020; still, as the polls predicted, Biden won. But the margins were way off in a lot of states. The industry seems no closer to solving the problem now than it was in the aftermath of Trump’s win. It’s not for lack of trying. I can only speak for the Democrats, but our polling community is filled with highly motivated, very smart individuals with massive incentives to get this right. The problem may not yet be fixed which raises the possibility that the polling problem is unfixable. This chart from the New York Times shows just how bad things were in 2020. There was a nearly identical dynamic in 2016, and this is exactly what Nate Cohn and others worry may be happening in 2022.”

In other words, the polls are repeatedly underestimating Trump voters and specifically non-college-educated white voters distrustful of institutions. The states where the error rate was the highest (Wisconsin, Ohio) are also the states with a particularly high percentage of those voters. The polling error was less severe in states where a higher percentage of the electorate were college-educated (Georgia, North Carolina). Pollsters can’t figure out how to get certain segments of Trump voters to respond to their surveys. This quiet group produces inaccurate results and a misperception about who will vote.
Non-responses from Trump voters is part of the broader problem of getting people to answer the phone in an era where everyone under the age of 65 views talking on the phone as nearly as painful as a root canal without anesthesia. When was the last time you answered a call from an unknown number? Almost all polling calls are marked “potential spam” by the iPhone. A few years ago, someone involved in the Obama data team told me that the response rate for our polls dropped 50 percent from 2008 to 2012 and then 50 percent again in 2016.
…The problem boils down to this— polls don’t just tell you how people are going to vote, they are also supposed to tell us who is going to vote. When more highly engaged, educated people make up a disproportionate number of the polling universe, you will get a distorted result.
…Does all of this mean Democrats are doomed? Is the recent burst of Democratic optimism another case of inaccurate poll-fueled naivete?
While polls may or may not be wrong in certain places, there is plenty of evidence for Democratic resurgence and an improved political environment. First, you can ignore the polls and look at the results in special elections where Democrats consistently outpace their 2020 performance. Second, while inflation is still high, gas prices have been dropping steadily for months. Finally, and most importantly, sometimes it makes sense to ditch the calculator and use your common sense. It’s obvious and apparent the Dobbs decision energized millions and millions of voters.
It’s also worth noting that the polls were much more accurate in 2018— including in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Trump was on the ballot in 2016 and 2020 and not in 2018. So, there may be something about the voters who turn out for Trump. Without Trump, the polling inaccuracies may be absent in this election.

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