The political environment mutes the scandal

by | Oct 13, 2020 | 2020 election, Editor's Blog, Polling | 5 comments

A poll released yesterday indicates that the scandal Republicans hoped would sink Cal Cunningham has had little impact on the race. In fact, Cunningham’s margin over Tillis increased by a few points over the past month. The WRAL/Survey USA poll conducted since the scandal broke shows Cunningham leading Tillis by ten points, 49-39. In September, the poll showed Cunningham leading by seven, 47-40. Clearly, voters have more on their minds than a candidate’s sex life. 

The poll shows that Cunningham has taken a hit with women and older voters, but, overall, people shrugged. Cunningham improved with younger voters and men. Women shifted toward Tillis by seven points while men shifted to Cunningham by 13. Among younger voters, Cunningham expanded his margin from eight to twenty points. 

The poll notes that the political environment must be taken into account to understand the movement toward Cunningham. While they have not released the results of the presidential survey, they indicate that Republicans are facing stiff headwinds that are getting stronger. As the pollster noted, “An ebbtide sinks all boats, and Tillis’ fight for a 2nd term in the USA’s quintessential battleground state cannot be judged absent the larger context of how Republicans are faring nationwide in the final weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s first term. Movement in the Presidential contest between Trump and Democrat Joseph Biden and movement in the election for Governor of North Carolina, poll results from which will be released over the coming 48 hours, provide context to interpret Tillis’ failure to thrive.” In other words, Republicans can expect more bad news today and tomorrow. 

The forces driving the electorate are bigger than any one campaign and far more powerful than any ads being produced. Voters are moving quickly against Trump and the Republicans. The Rose Garden COVID party that Trump and the GOP leadership hosted seems to have been the last straw. People want a government that takes their fears and concerns seriously instead of one that mocks experts, cavalierly holding rallies and events that could spread a deadly virus. 

A lot of people point back to 2016 to say that this race is far from over. However, this cycle is not much like 2016. Back then, we were a country in relative calm with a solid economy with no significant hotspots on the world stage. Trump’s reality show campaign seemed interesting and refreshing compared to Clinton’s staid establishment operation with all of its ties to what Trump dubbed “The Swamp.”

Now, we are a country in crisis with a clearly incompetent administration. Trump’s rallies don’t look entertaining anymore. They look foolish and dangerous. Republicans don’t want to contain COVID; they want to spread it. Trumpers may love it, but most Americans see hubris and irresponsibility. 

We have three weeks to go and, right now, an anti-GOP movement is swelling. While polls provide one bit of evidence, money and votes give more. Democrats are watching an unprecedented amount of money flow into campaigns from low-dollar donors. South Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison raked in $57 million in the third quarter with an average donation below $40. Democratic Congressional challengers are outraising incumbent Republicans. In early votes returned, Democrats lead Republicans by more than two to one in many states. Signs point to building wave of huge proportions and Trump and the Republicans are running out of time to divert it.


  1. (Mrs.) Cary Johnston

    I will hold my nose and vote for Cunningham, but I am disgusted with his behavior. He might cosr Dems The Senate!

  2. Gingerina

    Cunningham will win this election, but as is common with this seat, he’ll be a one-term Senator. A far better candidate will come along eight years from now.

  3. j bengel

    I sincerely hope you’re correct in your analysis, because the only response to this theater of the absurd is a crushing defeat in defiance of all attempts to restrict access to the ballot box. It isn’t enough to defeat them. We need to “dominate the battle space”, to terminate with extreme prejudice, to annihilate them, to reduce them to irrelevance, a footnote in the annals of history, and consign them to the same dustbin as the Whigs. That only BEGINS with wiping them out November 3. What comes after hat is at least as important. The guard rails that kept the corruption of our democracy at bay need to be reinstated, and the outsized influence of money brought into proportion. Truth needs to be established as the basis of political campaigns, and there need to be consequences when that path is not followed. All of the rot of the Citizens United era of politics needs to be burned out, so that we can get down to the business of putting “government for the people” back to work for the people — all of them, not just those who can afford to buy influence.

    I Don expect some kind of Utopian workers’ paradise to come out of this. Just a fair deal for the people who actually produce something, and not just those who feed on them. The day traders and hedge fund managers add nothing to this economy. Nothing. And yet the wage earner whose income is taxed as W2 income (also known as EARNED Income) pays an effective tax rate double that paid by the fund manager who buys and sells equity in the company he works for. Make no mistake, there are jobs that desperately need doing, and a workforce literally starving to do them. It is not a lack of capital that prevents this union from being realized. It is not a lack of work ethic, intelligence, or ambition. It is a lack of political will on the part of our putative leaders, and a distaste for investment that doesn’t show a return by the end of the quarter on the part of their paymasters. And to believe that either cohort will amend their self-serving ways for the greater good is utter foolishness. Nothing is deflected from its path absent a motive force. And the mass of the greed and avarice among the rich and their slavishly devoted political handmaids will require a good deal more energy and force than a single election to deflect it.

    We cannot repeat the mistake of 2009/2010, which was to take a breath and lift the throttle foot off the floor. In that brief, disastrous moment (as understandable as it may have been) we ceded everything we won at the polls in 2008. The forces of evil are playing the long game, And they never stop moving forward. We needed all them a crushing blow in this election, yes. But we must not mistake a single battle for the larger war. Because our enemies certainly will not.

  4. Jay Ligon

    With Trump in the White House as defendant in lawsuits for rape and sexual assault and his bragging about where he is allowed to grab lady parts, Republicans strain credulity when they criticize anyone for sexual indiscretion. Trump’s payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money to his love interests, the pending criminal cases that resulted from his payments and his dozens of complainants make moralisms by the Republicans sound hypocritical and ridiculous. North Carolinians have some serious practical reasons to disregard the GOP smoke screen of sex. Half a million Tarheels do not have health insurance through the ACA because of Thom Tillis. He brags about killing the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of benefits to North Carolina even though we had paid for it. He has been a Trump clone and adopts whatever policy or non-policy that comes from Washington. Tillis is a recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug and medical companies, money paid to stifle competition in the drug market and coverage for preexisting conditions. Cunningham supports a competitive drug market, expansion of Medicare to cover North Carolina and saving the coverage for preexisting conditions. Which is more immoral – leavings the sick to fend for themselves and to file for bankruptcy or flirting with a woman? Voters have approved of flirting, and molesting, young women. I didn’t approve of it, but the voters gave overwhelming support to a thrice-married philanderer in 2016. It appears that their drug and medical costs are a higher priority to North Carolina households in 2020.

  5. cocodog

    Only a scandal in the minds of those who regard politics as transactional.

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