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Donald Trump is losing the culture wars

The culture wars aren’t working for Donald Trump.

His law-and-order rhetoric isn’t registering with suburban voters. One of his leading evangelical supporters, Jerry Falwell Jr., was just photographed with his zipper down. Immigration isn’t provoking the response it did in 2016, and NASCAR has spurned the president.

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Even an attempt by a New York Democrat to take down the National Rifle Association — a lawsuit announced Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James — looks unlikely to juice Trump’s reelection hopes.

“America has changed,” said Frank Luntz, the veteran Republican consultant and pollster. “Every person who cares about the NRA is already voting for Trump. Suburban swing voters care about the right to own a gun, but they don’t care about the NRA.”

A brawl between the NRA and New York state once would’ve been turnout gold for a Republican president. And some Republicans and Democrats alike on Thursday suggested that Republicans could use the episode to stoke turnout among Trump’s base.

But the NRA is not the institution it was in American politics even four years ago, when it spent heavily to help Trump win election. Beset by financial problems and infighting, public support for the NRA has declined during the Trump era, falling below 50 percent last year for the first time since the 1990s, according to Gallup. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of Americans want stricter gun laws.

That’s when voters are even thinking about gun control. Three months before Election Day, they mostly aren’t — it’s all about coronavirus and the economy, stupid. That’s a problem for Republicans even the NRA has acknowledged.

Frank Miniter, editor in chief of the NRA publication America’s First Freedom, raised the alarm for members in a column last week. Citing research by a firearms trade association, he lamented that “only 17% of gun owners in the survey said ‘gun-related issues’ were one of their three top policy areas going into this election (15% did say ‘crime’ and 18% said ‘civil rights’).”

The culture wars of old, said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, seem “miles away from where this election is right now.”

Gun control and other cultural issues, he said, “are always a backdrop and a way for Trump to maintain his base. But again, his base is 42 percent. Where’s the other 5 to 6 percent he needs going to come from?”

If Republicans have an opening in the developing feud over the NRA, it will likely have less to do with gun control than with a broader effort to paint Joe Biden as beholden to the progressive left. The former vice president, a moderate Democrat, remains ill-defined in many voters’ minds, pollsters of both parties say. Republicans are spending heavily to depict him as an extremist, and the filing of the NRA lawsuit in New York, a heavily Democratic state, helped Republicans to advance their cause.


Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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