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Trump’s Brutal Battleground Polls

Welcome to Wisconsin, President Trump!
June 25, 2020
Trump’s Brutal Battleground Polls
Protesters gather around a liquor store in flames near the Third Police Precinct on May 28, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. - A police precinct in Minnesota went up in flames late on May 28 in a third day of demonstrations as the so-called Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul seethed over the shocking police killing of a handcuffed black man. The precinct, which police had abandoned, burned after a group of protesters pushed through barriers around the building, breaking windows and chanting slogans. A much larger crowd demonstrated as the building went up in flames. (Collage by Hannah Yoest / photos: KEREM YUCEL/AFP /GettyImages)

Later today, when Donald Trump lands here in my home state, he’ll find a whole lot of bad news. But also a narrow path to claw his way back into contention in a state that he pretty much has to win.

First the bad news.

Two new polls show him trailing badly here. The Marquette University Law poll (considered the state’s most reliable poll) has him down by 8 points to Joe Biden. The NYT/ Siena poll has him trailing by 11 points. (The poll also shows Trump trailing in other key battleground states.)

Marquette’s poll is filled with ominous numbers for Trump:

    • 30 percent approve of his handling of the protests over the police murder of George Floyd, 58 percent disapprove.
    • 44 percent give him high marks for his handling of the coronavirus (which has been relatively contained here), 52 percent disapprove.
    • Just 39 percent of Wisconsin voters think that Trump cares about people like them.

But here are the really scary numbers for the president: he’s slipping among Republicans and getting hammered among independents.

In May, Trump led Biden among Republicans 93 percent to 1 percent. In June, his lead over Biden was 83 percent to 8 percent among Republicans.

Independents had preferred Trump over Biden in May by 34 percent to 27 percent. That preference reversed in June, with Biden supported by 38 percent to Trump’s 30 percent.

Similar shifts, since May, Trump’s job approval… slipped among Republicans and reversed among independents. In May, 50 percent of independents said that they approved of Trump’s job performance and 36 percent disapproved. In June, that shifted to 36 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval.

There are also warning signs from the suburbs, including the crucial WOW counties that have been the engine for the state’s GOP resurgence. Not surprisingly, Biden has a big lead in heavily Democratic Milwaukee. But in the rest of the Milwaukee area Trump leads by just 7 points.

As Dave Weigel notes, that’s a problem:

Now the glimmer of hope for Trump.

Elections are notoriously close in Wisconsin and you can expect to see some Republican voters returning home as the campaign progresses. And then there is this story:

MADISON – During chaos at the Wisconsin State Capitol Tuesday night, protesters tore down two statues that have stood in front of the statehouse for decades—including one memorializing a Wisconsin abolitionist who died trying to end slavery during the Civil War.

Hans Christian Heg was not merely an outspoken opponent of slavery, he was a leader of an anti-slave catcher militia known as the Wisconsin’s Wide Awakes. During the Civil War, he joined the Union Army.

He defeated a number of Confederate armies in battles in Kentucky and Tennessee. On Dec. 30, 1862, Heg lost more than 100 men and had his horse shot out from under him. His general later called him “the bravest of the brave,” according to the Wisconsin Historical Society…

Heg’s brigade chased a retreating Confederate army to Chickamauga, Georgia, on Sept. 19, 1863.

Outnumbered, Heg was leading a charge in front of his troops when he was shot in the abdomen. He died the next morning.

A triangular pyramid monument of 8-inch shells stacked 10 feet high marks the spot where Heg was mortally wounded, according to the National Park Service.

On Tuesday, rioters pulled down Heg’s statue, which they beheaded and threw in a nearby lake. They also pulled down a statue of Lady Forward, a symbol of the state’s progressivism.

Protesters also attacked and badly beat a Democratic state senator.

“I don’t know what happened … all I did was stop and take a picture … and the next thing I’m getting five-six punches, getting kicked in the head,” said Carpenter, 60.

In a message to the Washington Post, Carpenter said he may have a concussion and fractured nose in addition to a bruised eye and sore ribs and back.

“This has got to stop before someone gets killed,” he wrote. “Sad thing I’m on their side for peaceful demonstrations—am a Gay Progressive Dem Senator served 36 years in the legislature.”

The state’s GOP has seized on the incidents and you can expect Trump to bring them up during his visit. The story is already ubiquitous in conservative media. Right now, it is the story.

There is some history here. Back in 2011 during the fight over collective bargaining rights for public employee unions, polls showed Republican Governor Scott Walker badly underwater. But the excesses of the protesters effectively flipped the script. As I wrote back in 2017:

Anti-Walker protesters became addicted to their own self-indulgent melodramas, which could be sustained only by continually ratcheting up the level of emotional and rhetorical opposition. As time went on, Democrats found it harder to modulate the tone or to police the fringes, which inevitably became the public face of the protests. As conservatives also learned with the Tea Party, fires like this are exceedingly hard to control, especially when they are constantly fueled by hysterical fustian.

And so the protesters made themselves the issue.

Walker believes that the turning point in the fight may have been when protesters targeted his family home in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. For middle-of-the-road voters, that crossed a line of civility and decency. But that line was crossed repeatedly as Walker’s oppositions morphed from petulant to obscene to threatening.

During one of protests in Madison in 2011 a video captured one demonstrator repeatedly shouting the F-word at 14-year-old girl who was speaking at a pro-Walker rally. On the floor of the State Assembly a Democratic state representative turned to a female republican colleague and shouted “You are f—-ing dead!

While the scorched earth tactics and massive rallies excited the base, they alienated independents and reinforced the loyalty of conservatives.

Over the next three years, Walker was re-elected twice.

Trump’s folks are undoubtedly hoping for a replay. It is, however, unclear that voters will blame Joe Biden for the disorders. After all, he’s not the incumbent, is he? And, so far, he has been careful to distance himself from the worst excesses of the left.

But that’s not likely to stop Trump from attempting the exploit the incidents and the memories they might dredge up.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.