Wow. In journalism, they say you must beware to ‘bury the lead.’ So today, on March 15, 2017, what is the lead?
1. Last night Rachel Maddow had a scoop on Trump’s 2005 tax returns. A lot more on that later.
2. James Comey is finally going to reveal if there actually is an active investigation into Trump/Russia or not. Give Lindsay Graham credit he pretty much told Comey ‘Tell us what’s going on, or you’re not going to have a fun time at the Judiciary Committee.’
Good job Lindsay. He is one of the-very few-Republicans who actually care about their national interest beyond their partisan interest.
3. Today, Janet Yellen is expected to raise interest rates. Which the market has been anticipating for months and seems to think is a good thing-particularly for the bank stocks.
But here at Last Men and OverMen, we have just a little news too.
For about a month, you’re humble blogger and friend has been telling you that he’s exploring a Congressional run against none other than Peter King (NY-2nd District) here on Long Island. I also told you that I commissioned a poll.
I also asked you to consider making a donation to help me in this regard.
Judging by the response I’ve got to this request, it seems that many of my readers seemed to think I was joking. LOL. I did have a few reach out to me on Twitter and tell me they really like the idea of me running vs. King. But it seems that many thought I was just making a joke!
Who do they think I am-Donald Trump who demands you ‘take him seriously but not literally?’ No, when I talk about running for office and commissioning a poll the way to ‘take me seriously’ is to take me literally.
So the results are finally in. And I think you’ll find them very interesting. I certainly did.
Let’s frame things by remembering who Peter King is-and who I, you’re friend and blogger Mike Sax is.
Peter King is a Congressional powerhouse. He has won 13 Congressional races. He’s been NY Congressman since 1992.
That is very hard to do. It’s not easy staying in Congress that long in the sense that you are always up for election again. No matter how many times you win, in just two more years, you stand in the precarious position of getting booted at any moment. In Presidential politics now, the race for re-election starts the last two years. Congress critters only serve two years, so their next election can never be far from consideration.
This is why a lot of Congress folks who have won a few elections then move their sights to something else-often the Senate where you get six year terms, or maybe run for Governor.
So no doubt King is something of a Juggernaut and I’m not taking on an easy task in considering challenging him. However, the first thing I noticed about King is that while he has been very successful, he has been winning these races as a Republican in a couple of NY districts that normally vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate.
His old Third Congressional District which he held from 1993 to 2013, actually voted for a Republican POTUS candidate only once since 1992; they voted 52-47 for George W. Bush in 2004. They voted for Hillary 52-46 in 2016.
His new Second Congressional District he’s served in since then, did vote for Trump 53-44, but this was the first time it’s voted for a Republican since Bush 1992-and that was by a few thousand votes.
What this suggested to me is that maybe King has won by highlighting local Long Island issues more than national, partisan ones. He doesn’t wear his partisanship on his sleeve and this is by design.
So the challenge for a Democratic challenger in 2018 would be to tap into the angry energy of the Democratic base and make this a national race, a referendum on Donald Trump and Paul Ryan; Ryan, of course, is Mr. Medicare Block Grants. Then there is his new plan. This, I believe-and I’ll get more into this as we chronicle the results-gives Democratic challengers across the country a huge opening in 2018.
But King is obviously good at what he does. You don’t win 13 straight races without some clue about your district and your constituents. His strategy no doubt will be to try to ignore the national dimension-as he always does. The challenge for any challenger of his is to frustrate his strategy for once.
Ok, so the results. Think of it as two polls of the same question ‘Who will you vote for in 2018, Peter King or Mike Sax?’
On the face of it, this is an amusing question. For these respondents that SurveyUSA polled the last week, the question for them begged: Who the heck is Mike Sax?
You might as well asked them: ‘Who will you vote for in 2018, Peter King or the Man in the Moon.’
I’m a total neophyte to politics. For that reason, I found the results of this poll rather interesting: Peter King 60%, Mike Sax 22%. This is without having the foggiest idea of who I am. Which tells you something. King is a juggernaut, but even he seems to have a hard ceiling of support if only 60% choose him vs. The Man in the Moon.
This vote can be seen as a pure referendum on Peter King and yet he still gets just 60%. For comparison in his 2016 race, he defeated Democratic challenger Du Wayne Gregory 57-35.
So this would suggest that any challenger then, simply by running against King and on the Democratic party ticket, has a hard base of support.
So that was the first time they were polled on ‘Peter King vs. Mike Sax’ where they knew nothing about ‘Mike Sax.’ So basically ‘Peter King vs. Placeholder Mike Sax.’
This was question number 9.
Then on question number 34-the last question of the poll-they asked again. This time the question was ‘Peter King vs. Mike Sax, who you were formally introduced to five minutes ago.’
And this time-after getting an idea of who I am-or more importantly-where I stand-the answer this time is 49% for Peter King and 38% for Mike Sax. This is a 27 point swing in my favor after a brief introduction.
I have to say that overall, this certainly exceeded my expectations. Just an 11 point gap is certainly encouraging. Obviously there are plenty of caveats. This is just one poll-by SurveyUSA. The sample size was 500. I don’t know if that’s considered adequate. I think it might be but that the more the merrier.
No doubt any challenge to a juggernaut like Peter King will be an uphill fight. But overall, this topline number suggests there is an opening if a challenger proceeds correctly.
The question came after the poll had contrasted the policy positions of Peter King and myself on a number of issues. The fact that I gained 27 points showed that overall, the policy discussion benefitted me greatly.
Let’s go through them one by one.
1. First the bad news. I was somewhat disappointed to see that on question 5 most respondents seem to approve of the Muslim ban. Maybe this is why King is not shy about supporting it too and why he is not worried saying things like ‘There are too many mosques in this country.’
Still I think the framing can have an impact. This is how SurveyUSA framed the question:
“Do you agree or disagree with Donald Trump’s decision to restrict persons from certain countries from entering the United States?”
The answer was 53% support it, only 41% oppose it
To be sure, this strikes me as a very neutral way to put it. Of course, if I do end up campaigning against King, I’ll put it much more viscerally than this: Do you agree or disagree with Trump’s Muslim ban.
Would the respondents have answered differently if it were framed this way? I had spoken to SU before the poll and they clearly prefer to use more neutral language and think this gives a more accurate picture.
Still, a candidate would not need to be so neutral, and it’d probably be better not to be.
Then on question 18, the respondents were asked about the Muslim ban again, this time after being told which candidate supports it/opposes it:
“Peter King supports Donald Trump’s decision to restrict persons from certain countries from entering the United States; Mike Sax opposes that decision. Does this make you … more likely to support Peter King? More likely to support Mike Sax? Or makes no difference?”
Overall, Trump’s Muslim ban still won: 50% said King’s support makes them more likely to support him, 35% say my opposition makes them more likely to support me.
Again, this is a very neutral way to frame it. Trump himself on the campaign called it a Muslim ban. The federal court who knocked down the ban showed they strongly suspected it was a Muslim ban.
But the way SurveyUSA framed it here, is exactly how the Trump WH frames it. So I’d be interested to see if the response varies to different ways of framing it.
2. Respondents were also asked about Trump’s immigration raids. Yes, this is my framing of it, and again, SurveyUSA preferred a different tact-to say the least!
“Do you agree or disagree with Donald Trump’s actions to deport people who are in the United States illegally?”
Again, I really think this is way too Trump friendly a framing and I told them that before they did the poll. I mean, framed this way, the average person-who’s not a political junkie like some of us-figures: They’re in this country illegally, so they should go back.
Framed this way, it gets a lot of support, 58-32. One thing that jumped out at me is according to the crosstabs. White respondents support the measure 59-30, but Hispanics support it by an even larger margin: 63-30. That I find very hard to believe. Blacks were the only group to oppose it, 36-57.
In Question 19:
“Peter King supports Donald Trump’s deportation policy, which has been deporting more people who committed no crime other than being in the country illegally. Mike Sax opposes those deportations. Does this make you … more likely to support Peter King? More likely to support Mike Sax? Or make no difference?”
Here, SurveyUSA reframed the question a little in response to my concerns. It’s still not quite how I would frame it of course, but it was to my mind an improvement. A step in the right direction, anyway.
And indeed, the numbers did improve relative to what they were in Question 6: 58-32 in support of Trump’s mass deportations.
Framing it a little more sympathetically in 19 gave us the result that King’s support of Trump’s crackdown made 47% more likely to support him, while 38% were more likely to support yours truly.
This would seem to suggest that there is something to my concern over framing. That is a 17 point swing against the deportations when framed a little differently.
I must return to the issue of Hispanic respondents. I simply can’t account for the fact that they again on this question were the most enthusiastic supporters of Trump’s deportations.
While White respondents after hearing our positions, pick King over myself, 49-37, Hispanics choose King 50-29. I asked SurveyUSA about this. They told me that there were only 30 Hispanic respondents in the survey-so that might account for part of it-there is a lot of room for error.
But they also insisted that they think this may be a true picture. They seem to think that subset of Long Island Hispanic voters who vote this may well be an accurate picture.
And I get it. It’s possible that Long Island Hispanics have a different set of circumstances than those in California or Texas. You can’t extrapolate someone’s voting choices simply from their ethnicity. On the other hand I have spoken to Hispanic folks in my area and there is panic in parts of the community about what Trump’s ICE raids are doing to them.
And what’s interesting is that when you look at the Hispanic respondents in this poll in more detail, I’m struck by the fact that if you believe the results, they have a more positive view of both Trump and King than any other groups and just about every Republican policy than any other groups. If you believe it, they are the demographic least sympathetic to my opposition of Trump and his policies.
Again, it makes me want to see more data as on an intuitive level I’m very skeptical.
Despite the fact that based on these numbers, the 2nd District seems to be somewhat supportive of the Muslim ban and Immigration raids we have this counter indicator.
Peter King has been dealing with protesters on the subject. And elections are about turnout. There is clearly a constituency for a candidate who will full throatedly condemn both Muslim ban and the immigration raids.
In any case, this was the bad news section of the poll. The rest of the policy comparisons mostly have encouraging news for my potential challenge vs. Peter King.
A. On the question of Obamacare, it’s pretty much a jump ball. Question 22:
“Donald Trump says the Affordable Care Act is a disaster, and needs to be repealed. Peter King voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Mike Sax believes the Affordable Care Act should be improved, not repealed. Does this make you … more likely to support Peter King? More likely to support Mike Sax? Or make no difference?”
With this framing 44% choose Peter King, 46% choose Mike Sax. So, yes, technically ‘I won’ but within the margin for error.
I think what this reflects is that the ACA-aka Obamacare-is still seen in a fairly partisan lens. To a large extent if you’re a Republican that means you have to oppose it out of party loyalty. Yes, ACA’s poll numbers have improved. They are still not earth shattering. A lot of that, I believe, is mood affiliation. A lot of people who do like and benefit from it can’t admit it as this is disloyal to the party.
B. This is underscored by Question 23. When the question is Obamacare, the ACA is gaining but it’s still very polarized. But look at when the question is Paul Ryan’s master plan to voucherize Medicare:
“Paul Ryan wants to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Peter King voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Mike Sax believes Medicare should be preserved and expanded. Does this make you … more likely to support Peter King? More likely to support Mike Sax? Or make no difference?”
On this one, they choose Mike Sax 57-25. Not even close. This survey was before the CBO’s gruesome findings about Tryancare: 24 million to lose coverage.
The best way to frame this is to make the point that this represents huge cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Paul Ryan focuses on the point that some of those who lose coverage will be fine with losing it-they only had coverage to avoid a penalty. But the meat of the losses are 14 million who will lose their Medicare under the expansion.
Again-Obamacare or even ACA remains polarizing-but there is a very large consensus in favor of Medicare. While I only win 46-44 in taking King on regarding ACA I win 57-25 by taking him on regarding Medicare.
Tryancare will also cut Medicaid to the tune of $880 billion dollars.
And Trump promised not to cut a dime from SS, Medicaid, and Medicare.
4. Trump’s tax returns.
Of course, Rachel Maddow put this in the news again last night. I will write about this later but I will say off the bat, it seems quite plausible that Trump himself leaked this one as it seems to put his 2005 tax returns in a pretty good light. Don’t forget those little words seems to. More on that in later posts.
“Peter King voted against a bill to require Donald Trump to release tax returns to Congress. Mike Sax wants Trump to release his tax returns. Does this make you … more likely to support Peter King? More likely to support Mike Sax? Or make no difference?”
Mike Sax wins 47-26. Remember back in January when Trump sneered: ‘Only you people care about this. The people don’t care about my taxes. After all, I won?’
That was another example of Trump not telling the truth. In fact all polling shows that this is an issue that Americans care a lot about and this even largely transcends party lines. Many Republicans and even Trump supporters think he should release his tax returns.
In Question 20, I won among Democrats 71-11, among unaffiliated voters 46-24, and only lost among GOP voters by 17 points (26-43).
Takeaway: this is a very potent issue, I believe, not just for any challenger of Peter King in the 2nd district but anywhere across the country. As Republicans almost unanimously have, like Peter King, voted against bills to make Trump’s taxes public, every Democratic challenger of a GOP incumbent should hit them on their votes to keep Trump’s tax returns private.
It’s an unambiguous winner. So far then-defending Medicare and Medicaid, and demanding Trumps’ tax returns-attacking GOP incumbents who voted against releasing them-they all have-should be very good politics in 2018.
Number 5 is also a very good issue that is going nowhere:
5. The Trump-Russia probe. Question 21:
“Peter King opposes appointing a special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mike Sax supports appointing a special prosecutor. Does this make you … more likely to support Peter King? More likely to support Mike Sax? Or make no difference?”
Mike Sax wins 46-33. If anything I think ideally, we want and Independent Counsel and not Special. David Frum has argued that a Special Prosecutor can only look at crimes.
I believe very strongly that we need a joint Select Committee that is public to really get to the bottom of this. Lindsay Graham seems to be getting there. Maybe.
The key for the campaign is that we need a Democratic Congress to really get anywhere. Devin Nunes is a Trump transitional official, for Cripes Sake.
Dems controlled Congress during Watergate impeachment hearings. Why it is so important to take back Congress; corrupt Rs won't police GOP. https://t.co/2OSfsLfLSC
— RileyRae (@RileyRae58) March 14, 2017
Basically Democratic challengers should attack early and often about Trump-Russia and demand a real investigation that’s public. Make the argument that you can’t trust Repubicans to have a real investigation of Trump. After all, Rand Paul said; ‘It’s no fun when Republicans investigate Republicans.’
6. Finally, town halls. Question 30:
Should Peter King hold town-hall meetings? Or not?
This is as close to unanimous as you get in a polarized electorate. 84% say he should, only 7% say he shouldn’t.
The followup question in 31 asks respondents about King’s-rather peevish-response for the demand for town halls:
“Peter King says he will not hold town hall meetings because he believes they would just devolve into a “screaming session,” and that angry town halls “trivialize” and “diminish” democracy. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree?”
Only 15% strongly agree with that, with 22% somewhat agreeing. So only 37% only somewhat agree with him on that.
On the other hand 24% somewhat disagree and 36% strongly disagree so 60% at least somewhat disagree with him on that and a full 36% strongly disagree on that.
So this is very fertile ground to attack him or any other GOP Congressperson refusing to do town halls. Any challenger of an incumbent GOPer should attack him vociferously on the subject as this reticence is something that most Americans find disrespectful to the voters.
Honestly, any GOPer who won’t meet his/her constituents hands a challenger a gift that keeps on giving.
So what have we learnt? As far as the Muslim ban and immigration raids, I found the respondents views somewhat disappointing though I think part of that is framing the issue. Pollsters have to be more careful than candidates do.
It also may well be an issue that has a different resonance in different districts/areas.
However it seems clear that most any Democratic challenger has very fertile areas against any GOP incumbent on:
1. Healthcare cuts. Again frame it more as cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and remind voters Trump broke his promises not to cut them.
2. Demanding Trump’s tax returns. As almost all Republican Congress critters have voted against bills to demand Trump’s tax returns, no matter what race a challenger is in, in what district, this is a wedge issue they can hit the incumbent with again and again.
3. The Russia probe. Voters are very concerned about the question of whether or not Trump coordinated with the Russia subversion of our elections. Make the case that so long as it’s a GOP House, no serous investigations will ever happen.
4. Town halls. Basically if there is an incumbent GOPer ducking town halls-as many of them are-this is the ultimate layup.
Overall, the results are pretty encouraging. While King is a juggernaut once respondents were informed of my own views and contrasted with King, I gained 27 points.
Even before they had any idea of who I was-when I was Anonymous Mike Sax I still got 22%. This shows that any challenger of King’s has a hard floor. And that there are a number of issues-like the four I highlighted above-that King, and any GOPer will be vulnerable.
The challenge for King will be to do what he always does-make it a local race. I can imagine him saying something like ‘Long Islanders are about Long Island’ as a rebuke to my attempt to nationalize it.
The strategy for Dem challengers not just in King’s district but across the country is to make it about Trump and Ryan. Point out they voted against releasing his tax returns. And if they won’t do a town hall hit them on that early and hit them often.
One final point: while 50% have a favorable view of King and only 27% see him negatively it’s basically a tie on whether he should get another term or someone else should get another term: 46% say he deserves another term, 44% say give someone else a chance. This is Question 33.
So while NY 2 constituents seem basically to like King and approve of him, they are open to given someone else a shot.
P.S. Whew! This is by far my longest post ever! Again I will appeal to my readers:
Dems controlled Congress during Watergate impeachment hearings. Why it is so important to take back Congress; corrupt Rs won't police GOP. https://t.co/2OSfsLfLSC
— RileyRae (@RileyRae58) March 14, 2017
This what we are playing for my fellow Democrats. So please help me in my fight to help make this a reality for us in 2019 to unseat Peter King.