Politics Analysis

Donald Trump doing it tough down in Dixie

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

Time is starting to run out for Donald Trump in his war against the opinion polls, getting on for just one month before the U.S. Presidential Election on 3 November.

Trump tussling with trends

Commentary everywhere says to be careful of the polls because in 2016, Donald Trump got an unlikely victory against their forecast with small wins in a list of strategic states. Commentators are saying his “base” is solid and the figures support that, with his approval rating poor but always staying above 40%. It is true also that in some of those strategic states, the Democrat nominee Joe Biden is just a few percentage points ahead, pointing to a close ending.

But the overall weak figures for the Republican nominee have not budged for over six months. They show most minds look to be made up with not too many undecided and the overall margins have been steady against him.

Out of many readings on the very detailed information available, here is a treatment of the way Donald Trump is polling in one important “Trump zone” — the old Confederacy. On this read, the famous “base” might be as shaky as any other part of the electorate.

The 11 Confederate states in the “deep South” dropped their old Democrat allegiances from 1968 onward, rejecting civil rights legislation in Washington, becoming solid Right-wing territory.

Weakening in the South

The balance sheet in 2020 shows the weakening for Trump is there, too, with a range of swings from 3.5% through to 13.5%. The polls used are the three mainstream aggregators, Real Clear, 538 and 270 to Win.

  • Alabama: Trump won it by 14% in 2016, now down 4% on that (to 10%).
  • Arkansas: Won by nearly 16% in 2016, now down by 13.5% to a 2.5% lead. What is going on there?
  • Florida (possible change): Trump won by nearly 1.5% in 2016, with a swing so far close to 3.5%, he is 2.3% behind.
  • Georgia: Volatile this week. Trump won by 5% in 2016, with a swing of 3.5% he holds on 1.5% in front.
  • Louisiana: Won by 20% in 2016, now down 4% on that.
  • Mississippi: Won by 18% in 2016, now down 8% on that.
  • North Carolina (possible change): Won by 3.5% in 2016, with a swing so far of 5.5%, he is 2% behind.
  • South Carolina: Won by 18% in 2016, now down 12% on that.
  • Tennessee: Won by 26%, now down 17% on that.
  • Texas: Volatile this week. Won by 9% in 2016, with a swing so far of 8%, he is holding on 1% in front.
  • Virginia: The only former Confederate state carried by the Democrats in 2016. Lost by Trump by 5.5%, with a swing of 8.5% he is trailing now by 14%.

If even the corn crackers, post-segregationists, Ku Klux Klan and lynch mobs down South are tiring of him, Trump needs to so something — watch this space.

His chief chance is an “October surprise”, traditionally some sudden initiative by an incumbent president to get attention. Another would be a turnaround in the three televised debates scheduled for 29 September and 15 and 22 October. As the theory goes, old Joe Biden might blow it — he might “corpse”, freeze up and go zombie, or even go to sleep.

On 20 September, CNN political analyst Harry Enten decided to take a risk and suggest it could be a Biden blowout’ on 3 November. His argument was based on a treatment of the statistics as statistics; that the scores for the candidates are close enough and the trend has been clear enough. It could fall Biden’s way and if it did, it would be like dominos across the states.

Partisan war over Ginsburg post

The election campaign in America has been charged up with arguments about the replacement of the late, greatly lamented liberal jurist, Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate in 2016, headed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, declared that an incumbent president, Barack Obama at the time, could not nominate a Supreme Court judge during the last year of his term. They used numbers to delay an appointment by 11 months and when Trump got in, made sure a conservative thinker got the job. This year, they are backing Trump to fill the Ginsburg vacancy in the closing weeks of his term.

Democrats want revenge?

The blatant partisanship of it is seen as containing some electoral risks for the Republicans. It has also stirred up notions that the Democrats, so far sticking to convention for the sake of democratic government, might get angry and reciprocate with divisiveness of their own.

Jeffrey Toobin, lawyer and legal analyst with CNN and the New Yorker, says that might start if the Democrats should capture the Presidency and a majority in the Senate:

...there are four major possibilities for retribution — which all happen to be good policy as well. The first is the abolition of the filibuster, which should have happened decades ago. Even in the minority, McConnell will do everything he can to thwart Biden and the filibuster will be the tool… Second, statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, with two senators apiece, would be another appropriate rejoinder. Third, Congress should pass a law expanding the number of lower-court federal judges; that number has not increased since Jimmy Carter was President.


Finally, the greatest and most appropriate form of retribution involves the Supreme Court itself. The number of Justices is not fixed in the Constitution… If Republicans succeed in stealing two seats – the Scalia and Ginsburg vacancies – the Democrats could simply pass a law that creates two or three more seats on the Supreme Court. To do so would be to play hardball in a way that is foreign to the current Senate Democrats. But maybe, in light of all that’s happened, that’s a game they should learn to play.


If Democratic legislators did get in the position to cause trouble in 2021, along with statehood for DC and Puerto Rico, they might give some oxygen to the movement for a new, small state in Northern California — the proposed state of Jefferson. California is polling 58% for Biden, so even rural Jefferson might well produce another two Democrat senators. There is one precedent for carving a state out of an existing state. When Virginia joined the Confederacy, West Virginia did not have slaves and an “assembly” applied successfully to join the USA and fight against the Southern insurgency. It’s had an ironic follow-up after 160 years: the “free” state is giving 66% support to Donald Trump, by far the most conservative in the country.

Media editor Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.

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