AMAC Exclusive – by Shane Harris
Since President Trump effectively broke traditional polling models in 2016, perhaps no pollster has understood the new direction of the country – and as a result the most effective ways to measure public sentiment – better than Robert Cahaly, the CEO of the Trafalgar Group. The firm was the most accurate in predicting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, called DeSantis’ narrow victory in Florida in 2018 after most other pollsters got it wrong, and was among the most accurate in 2020, particularly at the state level.
AMAC Newsline interviewed Cahaly earlier this year to break down some of the trends seen in the 2020 election cycle, and we recently caught up with him again to get his perspective on how he sees the 2022 midterm race developing, as well as a few key races that are happening around the country this year.
Cahaly noted generally that, throughout the country, “Biden is dragging the Democrat brand down.” Specifically, he pointed to the ongoing effort of Biden and Democrat governors to continue imposing COVID restrictions — even as more than 182 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — as a major reason for Democrats’ sinking poll numbers. “Anybody who is pushing any restrictions is going to be met with resistance… and they [voters] think people aren’t going to work because the government is paying them to stay home, and they don’t like it.”
Cahaly pointed to Trafalgar’s recent poll in Michigan, which showed incumbent Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer trailing Republican challenger James Craig, the former Detroit Police Chief, by six points—a major shock. Whitmer has infamously imposed some of the most draconian lockdown policies anywhere in the country. “Anyone who doubts that Michigan is fed up [with Whitmer’s policies], sit outside one of the football stadiums and tell me how many people are hesitant to come in because of COVID,” Cahaly added.
Cahaly also mentioned Craig as one of a number of rising African American stars within the Republican Party, including other names like Larry Elder, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Candidate Winsome Sears. “What black voters are telling us,” Cahaly said, “is all the violence during the protests last summer, that isn’t me. If that’s what it means to be a black Democrat, count me out.” He added that “CRT and cancel culture… people are saying enough is enough, it’s all kind of coming together. It’s a total racialization of everything, and that upsets black voters as much as white voters.”
One campaign where the controversy over CRT has taken center stage is Virginia’s upcoming election for governor, one of only two gubernatorial elections this fall. After Democratic dominance statewide in Virginia in recent years, the Republican nominee, Glenn Youngkin, has slowly closed the gap with his opponent, former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, and is now in the lead according to some polls.
When asked if Youngkin’s success thus far is more about his strength or McAuliffe’s weakness, Cahaly suggested it was both. “Youngkin is still taking advantage of the fact that people want outsiders. For an outsider, he did an outstanding job at the debate. If Youngkin wins this race, he was so exceptional as a candidate and a leader, if he’s not on everybody’s shortlist for VP in 2024, that would shock me. He is an immediate national player because of his skill as a candidate.”
Republicans are hopeful that, should they win back the Governor’s mansion in Virginia, it will prove to be a bellwether for GOP success in next year’s midterm elections. But, as Cahaly emphasized, Republicans would be wise to better understand where they may have missed opportunities to reach more voters in 2020 in order for the GOP to capitalize on the opportunity currently before them. Specifically, he pointed to what Republicans could learn from how voters responded to messaging during the 2020 Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
“Don’t make voters choose between money and voting their conscience,” Cahaly advised, referring to the promise of larger stimulus checks from Democrats prior to the 2020 election cycle. “The biggest lesson that the national media missed in the Georgia runoff is that when you make voters pick between money in their pockets and voting their ideology, they’re going to pick money in their pockets.”
As far as other issues where Republicans may be missing an opportunity heading into next year, Cahaly pointed to the environment as something that “Republicans are not positioning themselves correctly on.” As he explained, “We have a whole generation of young people who have been brought up to be very conscious of protecting the environment, and dismissing that is stupid.”
But, he went on, Republicans should not embrace authoritarian climate policies pushed by the radical left, but rather point out who the real global polluters are: China and India. “People know that America is not the major country dirtying the planet,” he said, pointing to polling data released from Trafalgar yesterday showing that a bipartisan majority of Americans believe China is most responsible for harm to the environment.
Moreover, “Republicans are not talking about the fact that even outside of the Paris Climate Accord, America met the standard that would’ve been in that. Day by day, we get cleaner air, clearer water, and we don’t get credit for it.”
Cahaly suggested that a good question for Republicans to ask Democrats on the climate is, “If this is really your concern, why aren’t you addressing the biggest polluter in the world? Why are we going to destroy our economy if China isn’t going to do anything?”
Ultimately, 2022 may be Republicans’ last chance to halt President Biden’s agenda until they can try to retake the White House in 2024. Congressional Democrats are already attempting to pass more than $4 trillion in spending, which economists say could have devastating long-term effects on the American economy. The Democratic effort to massively expand the welfare state also has Republicans concerned at the unchecked expansion of federal government power over the lives of ordinary Americans.
With another two years of total Democrat governance, it seems likely that the left would continue down this path and renew its efforts to end the filibuster and pass disastrous legislation like H.R.-1, the Green New Deal, restrictive gun laws, and a host of other radical policies increasingly becoming mainstream in today’s Democratic Party. For the sake of the country, Republicans would be wise to heed all the advice they can, particularly from a pollster like Mr. Cahaly who has repeatedly proven to have his finger on the pulse of the American electorate.
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