Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-meddling and collusion investigation of the Trump administration is proving to be something of a dud on the campaign trail, with pollsters saying they see few voters following the probe or saying their vote will be affected by it.
That’s proving a blow to some Democratic operatives who hoped the 18-month investigation would prove a drag on President Trump and Republicans on the ballot this year.
The Mueller investigation “is much more important to liberals and Democratic voters, and there has been some frustration on their part that they have not been able to make [the probe] more of a broad-based concern,” said Myra Miller, senior vice president of the survey research firm Winston Group and longtime consultant to Republican campaigns, on Tuesday.
History is a poor guide, pollsters say, because it is rare for a major active investigation into a president to coincide with a midterm election. Predicting the overall impact of Mr. Mueller inquiry, which has conducted virtually all of its work behind closed doors, is especially challenging.
But outside of a small handful of Democratic Party linked-PACs raising the probe in political ads, the vast majority of candidates across the country from both parties are generally avoiding the Russian-meddling scandal altogether, especially in races where they are fighting to win over independent voters.
“Politics is really about who shows up and motivating your base and galvanizing swing voters to move your direction,” said Tom Davis, the former Virginia congressman who once headed the GOP’s campaign committee, who spoke with Ms. Miller at an American Enterprise event Tuesday. “I don’t see Russia doing either of those.”
Voters are not tuning out all foreign policy issues this midterm season, Mr. Davis said, noting that GOP base voters have coalesced around President Trump on such topics as trade war with China and immigration, especially the migrant caravan now traveling through Mexico to the U.S. southern border.
AEI senior research fellow Karlyn Bowman said Mr. Trump has shown an ability to frame foreign policy issues as a means to protect the U.S. national interest. Polls show voters list the Russia probe well behind domestic issues including the economy, job growth and health care, as their priorities in deciding how to vote.
The political calculus could change drastically after election day, depending on what Mr. Mueller and his investigative team uncover.
And if Democrats take control the House of Representatives, they are widely expected to reopen the bogged-down House probe into alleged collusion between Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Kremlin.
“It will then be investigate, investigate, investigate,” Ms. Bowman said.
Mr. Mueller is widely expected to observe his media silence until after November’s contest. Until then, polls consistently show Republicans overwhelmingly believe his probe is a “witch hunt,” while Democrats think the Kremlin has something on Mr. Trump.
Ms. Miller, who also co-founded the Winston Group, noted that in 2016 25 percent of all voters said they decided on their candidate in the last month of the campaign.
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