I said it before, but it's time to say it again. Watch the exit doors. | THE POLITICUS

I said it before, but it's time to say it again. Watch the exit doors.

     It struck me at the time as almost prophetic, and noteworthy enough to create a diary over. It was about 8 weeks into the fledgling, and already fumbling administration of El Presidente Pendejo when Michael Steele, the former RNC Chair, and one of the few but growing number of honest Republicans raised a point of professional concern to I believe it was Chris Hayes.

     At that early stage Steele already foresaw problems brewing for Trump and the GOP. He noted that in the last 4 Presidencies of both parties, in the first six months all four of them, Obama, Bush Lite, Clinton and the prototype Bush enjoyed popularity support in their own party of between 92-95%. Trump was stuck firmly between 88-89%, he could not crack the 90% barrier. Steele stated unequivocally that this should be a worrisome factor for GOP leadership and elected officials. If it got below 85% in the first 6 months it would be a flashing red ambulance light, and if it dipped below 80% you would see the GOP scrambling for life vests and lining up in front of the rafts.

     If I’m a GOP woman or child, I’m wearing a football helmet to protect my head from all of the flying elbows of the GOP men on the way to the lifeboats. I told my wife Teri on the night of the Trumpcare failure one week ago today that I would be watching the polls in the next three weeks to see that this Waterloo would do to Trump’s popularity. The first couple of results are in, and they ain’t pretty. There is a diary  out today telling us that Trump finally dipped below his core 38% support level in 538.com. But the news is even worse in the Quinnipiac poll that came out yesterday, it shows his overall support at a breached bulkhead level of 33%. Another couple of polls like this, and it looks like the stampede for the exits will officially be on.

     But the Quinnipiac poll had an even more important number to my eye, and it has to do with the Steele warning I revisited above. Quinnipiac shows Trump’s GOP support at a more than alarming 76%! Barely 6 months into his term, and already 1 in 4 Republicans have soured on their legendary Messiah. Steele’s doomsday scenario is beginning to play out. It was gleefully pointed out that for the last four Presidents, two never reached this level, and the other two were well past 1200 days before dipping that low. Der Gropinfuror has accomplished it in 190 days, and I don’t believe the full impact of the healthcare failure has been measured yet.

     In that long ago diary, I opined that there was one thing I was going to be closely watching for in the next 6-8 months, one simple word. Retirements. Politicians don’t like to lose, it dents their fragile dignity, especially if they’re long established incumbents. Besides, there’s a limited number of paid contributor jobs at Fox and Sinclair, and who wants to waste their time and money on losers. So far there have already been two Republicans in the House who have read the tea leaves, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida could feel the sands in her district shifting under her feet and bailed a few months ago on a reelection bid. And embattled or not, Utah GOP darling Jason Chaffetz voted with his feet and reportedly got a cushy Fox gig instead. I don’t believe this is the end of the parade by a long shot.

     This could be critical in flipping the House in 2018 because of another tried and true political axiom. An entrenched incumbent is harder to dig out than an Alabama tick. Polls reliably show that everybody religiously hates congress, and wants to throw all of the bums out, but somehow or other the respondents own congresscritter is one of the few actually worth keeping. Congress may suck, but the House retention rate for incumbents is normally in the 90% range. It’s just a strange fact of political life, every single member of congress blows chunks except yours.

     This could be a critical factor in retaking the House in 2018, for two reasons. First, it will not be a painless transition. Every star struck political GOP wannabe who didn’t have the guts to run against the incumbent will be chasing their dream, and the primary opponents will be clawing each other like a pack of civet cats fighting over the last nummers morsel. Whoever wins will come out battered and bruised, and will first have to turn to stabilizing the GOP base before attacking their Democratic opponent, who will have oodles of stuff to throw at them from the primary. Second, the incumbent aura of invincibility will be shattered. Entrenched incumbents seldom have serious primary challenges. They roll into the election cycle with universal district name recognition, and a donor base built over time ready to tap into. This will not be true of the newbie, they will be starting on more or less level ground with their Democratic challenger, and the challenger will have a laundry list of Trumpian and GOP sins ready to hit them over the head with.

     This is why the upcoming Virginia off year elections for the state legislature are so important. A strong Democratic showing in November could send a cold wind across the country, alerting the Republicans nationwide that a political winter is a-coming. The primary race that Kimberly Anne Tucker just ran was a thing of beauty. She and her opponent went out and helped each other gather petitions to run against each other. And the losing candidate immediately pledged full loyalty to Ms. Tucker. This kind of healthy competition with complete unanimity shows a solid sense of purpose and resolve, we need that in every race.

     These are the two things I will be watching from now until the end of the year. I’ll be watching the national polls on Trump’s popularity, especially for the next 2-3 weeks, as the full impact of the healthcare debacle on Republican support for their party sinks in. For every point that Trump drops, that just puts more downward pressure on GOP House candidates going into reelection, especially candidates running in districts in a state that went for Hillary in 2016. And I’ll be closely watching the exit door. Does the richest man in congress, Darrell Issa, really want a rematch against Colonel Doug Applegate, whom he barely survived the first time? Wouldn’t Darrell rather voluntarily go back to being a full time pain in the ass in his district instead of just a weekend canker sore? Or would he rather risk an inglorious end to his legislative career by going down in flames? That is a question a lot of incumbent GOP House members will be asking themselves over the next few months, and it will be interesting to see what the answers are.

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