DonkeyHotey / Flickr Donald Trump Portrait...
DonkeyHotey / Flickr

and the results are not encouraging to them.  The New York Times has a story up for Sunday’s paper, written by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, titled Republican Governors’ 2018 Dilemma: What to Do About Trump? 

The piece opens with how buoyant and joyous previous gatherings of Republican governors after elections have been recently, but in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs we read

But a sense of foreboding hung over the group’s gathering in Austin this past week, as President Trump’s unpopularity and Republicans’ unexpectedly drastic losses in elections earlier this month in Virginia, New Jersey and suburbs from Philadelphia to Seattle raised the specter of a political reckoning in 2018.

“I do think Virginia was a wake-up call,” said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who took over here as chairman of the governors association. “There’s a pretty strong message there. When Republicans lose white married women, that’s a strong message.”

One key seems to be that the Repub governors don’t want Trump involved except in states where his presence is welcome -and might be helpful (something not said explicitly in the article).

That is one message communicated to the Vice President, who used to be one of their members.  Another can be seen in this paragraph:

A larger group of governors from agricultural and auto-producing states warned Mr. Pence that Mr. Trump’s proposed withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement could damage them badly.

The results in Virginia — both the size of Northam’s margin and the number of seats lost in the House of Delegates (and almost control) have shocked Republicans, as were results in suburbs around the country, including in places like suburban Philadelphia.  Now these Republican officeholders worry that 2018 could be far worse than they had anticipated (something currently being indicated in generic polls for House races showing the Dems with a double digit lead).  And there is a one-sentence paragraph that makes clear a major reason:

Voters appear eager to punish Mr. Trump.

It is interesting to read the thoughts and words of Republican governors, ranging from some who were strong supporters of Trump (Scott of Florida, for example) as well as others who were at best lukewarm (Haslam of Tennessee).  There is real concern especially in states where Trump’s approval is at best in the low 30s.  Next year is key for governor’s races, which are most often in the off-year Congressional cycle, where serious losses could mean Democratic control of the next round of redistricting in 2021, even if Republicans hold on to majorities in state legislatures —  and all of this before either the Pennsylvania or US Supreme Courts weight in on current cases about gerrymandered districts which have largely been how Republicans have maintained majorities in the House of Representatives and some state legislatures when Democrats have drawn more votes.

After seeing how badly Gillespie was swamped by Democratic turnout, some of the Governors worry about what they may need to do to prevent that from happening in their states, with Chris Christie saying that the Republican Governors Association

should prepare to raise an unprecedented sum of money — the figure he floated was $130 million — to fund political rescue operations in the crucial final months of the 2018 campaign.

I urge you to read the entire article.  Yes, I know November 2018 is still very far away, and a lot can change between now and then.  What, for example, will be the results of the Alabama special election for US Senate and how will that play?  Will the Republicans actually pass a tax “reform” bill?  Could they be more damaged by passing a bill that hurts a lot of people — for example, trying again to gut ACA (by eliminating the individual mandate), or imposing taxes on grants of free tuition to graduate students — than they might be hurt with their funders by not passing the”reform” bill?  what if Moore is elected — are the Republicans worse off having him become, along with the President, a major face of their party:  two serial abusers of women if they allow him to stay in the Senate?  Or might they hurt themselves with their evangelical base if they vote to remove him from the Senate (which since it will require 67 senators to agree to the expulsion must have the support of the Democrats)?

Allow me to return to the article for one more snip, if I may.  It is the final two paragraphs, and features the words of Asa Hutchinson, a former Congressman and head of the DEA (among other positions) who got elected Governor of Arkansas on his 2nd try:

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican seeking a second term in 2018, said the party had to communicate in a tone “that’s respectful of diversity, that’s respectful of trying to find solutions in a civil manner.” Catering to fiery activists, he said, would be a recipe for ruin.

“If we don’t convey the right tone, we might energize a small percent of our base, but we still need to have independents,” said Mr. Hutchinson, who is facing a primary challenge from the right. “We still need to have those that are not traditional Republicans, that are joining in our coalition. You don’t want to turn those voters off.”

Trump MAY have a base equal to 1/3 of the American electorate. While that might enable him to win renomination against any opponent should he want to, it is far from enough to win reelection, even with a flawed electoral college system by which he won (with a margin of 78,000 votes total in MI, PA, and WI).  And that base is insufficient in many states to elect Republicans to Governor’s mansions, state legislatures, and the US Congress, and could also threaten control of the US Senate.

Just remember that one sentence paragraph I quoted above, which I now repeat:

Voters appear eager to punish Mr. Trump.

Exit polls in Virginia showed over 1/3 of those participating in the gubernatorial vote doing so primarily to vote AGAINST Trump, a proportion twice as large as the proportion voting primarily to support Trump.   Numbers like that should be downright frightening to Republicans.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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