The Associated Press headlines: “In swing districts, voters vent over health care, fear Trump.” A more accurate headline would be, “A handful of rabid Democrats hate President Trump.” But that wouldn’t be news. The AP begins:
Skeleton in hand, retired biology teacher Jeannie Scown delivered a message to her Republican congressman at his office northwest of Chicago.
“Killed by Trumpcare Plague, May 4, 2017,” her poster read.
In a nod to House Republicans’ recent vote to gut the health care law, Scown had no intention of sparing four-term Rep. Randy Hultgren with subtlety.
“He has to understand that sick people vote, too,” Scown said, “and we are going to go get them and take them to the polls if they can’t get there themselves, because we are tired of being used.”
AP reporters attend Democratic Party demonstrations, interview one of the participants, and report the interview as news. Who is Jeannie Scown? Judging from her Twitter feed, she is a crackpot left-winger who devotes a good portion of her day to tweeting to her 60 followers.
Is Congressman Hultgren in trouble? It wouldn’t seem so. He was re-elected six months ago by a 59%-41% margin, a whopping 18 points.
The AP moves on to New Jersey, where we hear from a dentist named Sam Weissbard:
“He did this as Comey wanted to get closer and closer,” said Sam Weissbard of Westfield, New Jersey. A dentist who practices in Manhattan, Weissbard said he has no ill-will against his five-term congressman, Republican Leonard Lance, who voted against the health bill. Nonetheless, Weissbard will oppose Lance to send a message to the White House.
The AP offers no hint as to how it selected Dr. Weissbard as somehow representative of national sentiment in swing districts. Maybe he is the brother-in-law of one of the reporters. In any event, Congressman Lance was re-elected in 2016 by 11 points, 54%-43%.
The AP tries to explain why these more or less random Democrats are important:
Trump maintains a hold on his core supporters — about 40 percent according to many polls — but the intensity of voters like Scown and Weissbard offer encouragement for Democrats.
It’s going to take a lot of intensity to overcome 18 and 11 point margins. Next, the AP attends another town hall, this one in New Jersey, and interviews a Democrat who says she is nervous about health care:
New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur spent five hours last Wednesday fielding intense, sometimes angry inquiries.
Vicky Van Wright, 69, who had never attended a town hall, said she was worried about Trump leading the U.S. “back to a darker time in our history,” but identified the health care bill as her driving concern. She argued it could threaten Medicaid insurance programs for her 35-year-old son with Down’s syndrome.
The AP headline referred to “swing districts,” but so far no such district has been mentioned in the story. MacArthur won in 2016 by 20 points, 59% to 39%. The fact that the Democrats can turn out a few hundred of their faithful for a town hall tells us nothing about the 2018 election, and certainly doesn’t suggest that the Democrats can mount a 20-point turnaround.
The AP turns to one more Democrat to wrap up the story. That makes a total of four voters who are supposed to represent a groundswell of opposition to Congressional Republicans.
In 15-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s nearby district, Patricia Hilaiel-Miller is the kind of voter at-risk Republicans must win over, despite any misgivings over Trump or health care.
A registered Democrat, Hilaiel-Miller, praises Rohrbacher as “proactive.” But the 60-year-old said she and her husband, who is self-employed, benefit from the law and she’s unsure about potential changes.
“The whole thing is a joke,” she said. “I’m just going to move to France.”
But wait! Is Congressman Rohrbacher an “at-risk Republican”? It wouldn’t seem so. He was re-elected in 2016 by 57%-29%. Since when is a registered Democrat “the kind of voter” that a Republican who won by 28 points “must win over”? This is pure wishful thinking on the part of the Associated Press.
The AP holds out hope for the Democrats in 2018:
The party needs to flip 24 seats to seize control of the House. Democrats’ top targets are some two dozen GOP-held seats around the country in places such as Arizona, Florida, California and Colorado where Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump. Of the 217 Republicans who backed the bill, 14 come from districts carried by Clinton.
That is a surprisingly small number. And, of course, the Republicans will pick up some seats, too. Here in Minnesota, for example, the GOP could well have a net gain of three seats.
It is far too early to make any intelligent predictions about what will happen in 2018, but one thing we can say for sure: a handful of loyal Democrats denouncing the Trump administration and the Republican Congress aren’t news. They are, however, part of the Associated Press’s agenda.