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Washington Examiner: “Leading GOP pollster: Trump’s focus on immigration sunk House majority”

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David Drucker of the Washington Examiner writes a new piece with the headline neither Donald Trump or Stephen Miller wants to see and White House enablers are afraid to repeat.

The headline: “Leading GOP pollster: Trump’s focus on immigration sunk House majority.” Drucker quotes findings from leading Republican operative David Winston, who explains how the GOP’s focus on divisive immigration policies cost Republicans the House in this year’s midterms.

Winston asserts that independents broke heavily for Democrats in the final weeks of the campaign, and that Trump’s focus on immigration and the caravan ignored voters’ concerns for jobs and the economy.  

The piece is excerpted below and available online here.

President Trump’s relentless focus on immigration in the midterm elections cost the Republican Party control of the House of Representatives, according to a blistering after-action review produced a by leading GOP pollster.

The findings from David Winston raise questions about Trump’s political position heading into 2020. That’s because the issue he most often discusses on the stump, border security and the migrant caravan, were big losers with critical voting blocs, and largely responsible for the late-breaking Democratic wave that swept Republicans from power in the House, according to Winston.

Winston’s data is influential because he is a longtime polling and policy analyst for Republican leaders in Congress. In the House, at least, Republicans could rely significantly on his report as they attempt to chart a path back to the majority. Winston, a veteran strategist who advised Newt Gingrich during his tenure as speaker of the House in the 1990s, produces a postmortem after every major election.

“The closing focus in the final days of the campaign was on the immigration/caravan message, popular with the base and those at President Trump’s rallies but also controversial and divisive, particularly with independents,” Winston wrote in his report, a combination of exit polling and a national, post-election poll conducted on Election Day before the outcome was known. “The people who made their decision over the last few days voted Democratic by a 12-point margin.”

… His report found that voters broadly were 59 percent less likely to back Republicans after hearing from them on immigration and 63 percent less likely to support them based on the issues of border security and the migrant caravan. Yet, voters were 76 percent more likely to vote for Republicans after hearing about jobs and the economy.

… Meanwhile, the Winston report found that Trump wasn’t the only Republican who erred in messaging. House Republican leaders also fumbled the ball in choosing to make House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a primary issue in the midterm elections, according to Winston.

Armed with polling showing weak support for Pelosi across the country, House Republicans campaigned on a platform of denying her the gavel. In suburban districts and rural districts, whether Tea Partier or suburban pragmatist, virtually every House Republican warned voters that Armageddon would ensue with Pelosi back in charge (she served as speaker from 2007-2011).

The strategy appeared sound enough. Several Democratic challengers promised in their campaigns to oppose Pelosi for speaker. But Winston said this approach was a mistake. By focusing on Pelosi, Republicans spent less time pitching a positive economic message that might have tied the booming economy to their accomplishments in Congress, especially the $1.3 trillion tax overhaul.

… Winston said a major problem with the Pelosi strategy was that a majority of voters didn’t believe that people like them were going to receive a tax cut from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed nearly 12 months ago along party lines. So, when Republicans on the trail raised the specter of Pelosi taking away voters’ tax relief, the message fell flat.