I have mixed feelings about the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. On the one hand, it suggests that President Trump will have trouble winning reelection:
A year and a half before the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump faces formidable obstacles in his bid for re-election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Just four in 10 voters say they would re-elect him next year; 58 percent don’t think he’s been honest and truthful regarding the Russia probe; and 60 percent disapprove of his recent national emergency declaration to build a border wall.
On the other hand, Trump's job approval/disapproval numbers are disturbingly high -- 46%/52%. And while his reelect numbers are low, they're comparable to Bill Clinton's, if not Barack Obama's:
Forty-one percent of registered voters say they will “definitely” or “probably” vote for Trump in 2020, versus 48 percent who say they will “definitely” or “probably” vote for the Democratic candidate.
Those numbers for Trump are worse than what Barack Obama faced at this same point in time in the 2012 cycle, when 45 percent said they’d vote for him, while 40 percent would vote for the Republican opponent.
But they’re on par with Bill Clinton’s numbers in January 1995, when 38 percent said they’d vote for Clinton, versus 42 percent who said they’d pick the generic Republican candidate.
Also, the poll gives us a look at voters' comfort level with certain candidate attributes. Note the ones at the bottom of the list:
This is at a time when elderly socialist Bernie Sanders is one of the Democrats' two front-runners. Sanders is also the most popular second choice of supporters of the other front-runner, Joe Biden (who, of course, is also elderly).
But here's some good news in the poll: Voters see the GOP for what it is, and (so far) haven't been swayed by Republican attempts to portray Democrats as dangerous radicals.
At a time when Republicans are working harder than usual to portray Democrats as environmental wackaloons, 56% of respondents say that Democratic ideas about climate change are in the mainstream, and only 35% say Democrats are outside mainstream. For Republicans, the numbers are reversed: 29% mainstream, 63% outside.
The same is true on abortion. Republicans have spend the last few weeks misstating the standard Democratic position on late-term abortion and tarring Democrats as the party of infanticide. So far it's not working: Democrats are seen as being in the mainstream on abortion by a 51%-41% margin, while Republicans are seen as outside the mainstream, 38%/54%.
Democrats also score clear wins on health care and immigration, while (alas) the parties are at rough parity on taxes and fiscal policy. I'd like the Democratic numbers to be better on that issue and the Republican numbers to be worse, but it's clear that the GOP stereotype of Democrats as people with crazy ideas about money is rejected by half of America.
The poll suggests that Democrats should continue talking about the economy -- respondents think it's good, but they don't think it's good for them:
As for views on the economy, 53 percent of Americans say they believe the United States won’t be in a recession in the next 12 months, compared with 33 percent who disagree.
But when asked about their own economic situation, 59 percent say 2019 will be a year to hold back and save because harder times are ahead, while 34 percent think it will be a time of expansion and opportunity.
I don't know whether the Democrats' good numbers can withstand the hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of propaganda Republicans will unleash in the next year and a half. But for now, Americans don't seem to regard the Democratic Party as extreme on the issues.