barack obama

Trump Supporters Are the Ones Living in a Bubble in Michigan


After Donald Trump’s surprise victory last year, it became almost gospel with beltway pundits that liberals were living in a bubble. That’s been followed by a never-ending stream of profiles of Trump supporters (aka Real Americans) who — wouldn’t ya know it? — vowed to stick with him no matter what.

Now given the fact that Trump’s win shocked most observers, myself included, it makes sense for analysts to look at what they got wrong and who they ignored. But often times, the course correction is riddled with false or overstated assumptions.

By any standard, Trump’s victory was not a landslide. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million — which means the majority of the country wasn’t overcome with #MAGA fever. Trump won the Electoral College by flipping three states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — by 80,000 votes, which is roughly the population of Farmington Hills. It’s an impressive strategic win, but a mandate it is not.

For some perspective, consider the fact that Barack Obama’s 2008 win isn’t considered a landslide, even though he won by 7 percentage points, almost 10 million votes and 192 votes in the Electoral College. The Democrats won big majorities in both houses of Congress, achieving a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

In 2016, Republicans lost seats in both chambers of Congress in 2016. Democrats picked up six seats in the U.S. House and two seats in the U.S. Senate. That wasn’t enough to gain a majority in either house and fell far short of expectations. But it certainly doesn’t indicate a Trumpian wave crashing over the entire country.

Of course, just pointing out basic facts like this nowadays is enough to get some Trump supporters to shout, “Fake news!” Talk about living in a bubble.

They’ll probably want to close their eyes to new polling from NBC/Marist in the three key Trump states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The Michigan poll of 795 votes was conducted Aug. 13 to 17 and had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

Here in the Mitten State, 36 percent of voters approved of the president’s job performance, with just 19 percent strongly approving. Meanwhile, 55 percent disapproved, with 40 percent saying they strongly do.

And 64 percent said that Trump’s conduct embarrassed them. Six in 10 voters said the United States’ role on the world stage has been weakened under Trump.

The best numbers for the president were on the question of whether the U.S. economy has been strengthened by his decisions. Voters by a 42 percent-to-39 percent margin gave him props, within the poll’s margin of error.

The Wisconsin and Pennsylvania numbers are very similar — Trump had a 35/54 job approval in Pennsylvania and was at 34/56 in Wisconsin.

Given the fact that Trump’s numbers are so dismal in the three states that propelled him to victory just nine months ago, it would seem that his vastly outnumbered supporters are the ones living in a bubble. Might be something to mention in any future pseudo-sociological studies of Trump voters.

Watch the National Review shift the goalposts in the SCOTUS confirmation debate

Thanks to my former MLive editor, Jen Eyer, for directing me to this. 

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death has triggered a furious debate whether President Obama should appoint a successor.

The idea that a president with more than 10 months left in his term shouldn't do so is curious, but let's not pretend this is a serious tussle over constitutional intent. 

This is about Republicans, who have a majority in the U.S. Senate, flexing their political muscles to prevent a Democratic president from reshaping the High Court, as is his right. And yes, Republicans have the right not to confirm a nominee. 

But it is breathtaking that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent out a statement shortly after Scalia's death decreeing that "the vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President." He's not arguing Obama's nominee is unqualified –– there is no nominee yet, of course. McConnell has declared that the Senate shouldn't confirm anyone, presumably even if Ronald Reagan came back to life armed with a law degree.

McConnell's stance is particularly questionable when you consider a 2007 piece in the National Review, the conservative journal of record. After the Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate in '06, there was great Republican consternation that then-President George W. Bush couldn't get a SCOTUS nominee confirmed.

National Review judicial columnist Edward Whelan argued thusly:

"Briefly put: Under long-established Senate practice, every Supreme Court nominee is afforded an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. A departure from that practice would threaten to impose severe political costs on Senate Democrats. In a competently run confirmation campaign, a strong proponent of judicial restraint will win majority approval in the Senate, with votes to spare."

In 1988, the Senate followed the Whelan rule and voted confirm Reagan's Supreme Court nominee, Anthony Kennedy, on a 97-0 vote. This was during Reagan's last year in office, and yes, McConnell was one of the 97 votes.

But things change. Now a Democrat is president with a Republican Senate. And so has Whelan's argument. Not long after Scalia's death, he posted this:

"Senate Republicans would be grossly irresponsible to allow President Obama, in the last months of his presidency, to cement a liberal majority that will wreak havoc on the Constitution. Let the people decide in November who will select the next justice."

Whelan seems vaguely aware that this might contradict his previous position, so he throws this in here:

"There has never been an election-year confirmation that would so dramatically alter the ideological composition of the Court."

Gotcha. Keep moving those goalposts, sir.

Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found Follow her on Twitter.