Republicans across the party are sounding the alarm about a potential Democratic wave in 2018, but it’s going to be awfully hard for them to do an election-year image change with Donald Trump in the White House. They might know what the problem is, but …
A few weeks before Alabama’s special Senate election, President Donald Trump’s handpicked Republican National Committee leader, Ronna Romney McDaniel, delivered a two-page memo to White House chief of staff John Kelly outlining the party’s collapse with female voters.
The warning, several people close to the chairwoman said, reflected deepening anxiety that a full-throated Trump endorsement of accused child molester Roy Moore in the special election — which the president was edging closer to at the time — would further damage the party’s standing with women. McDaniel’s memo, which detailed the president’s poor approval numbers among women nationally and in several states, would go unheeded, as Trump eventually went all-in for the ultimately unsuccessful Republican candidate.
When you have a president who follows up a warning that he’s hurting the party with women voters by endorsing a child molester, it’s going to be difficult to fix things. Trump’s habit of encouraging infighting among his advisers is also rearing its head. At a recent political strategy meeting in the White House:
[Former Trump campaign manager Corey] Lewandowski aggressively criticized the Republican National Committee, as well as several White House departments, five people briefed on the discussion said. He told the president that his government staff and political advisers at the party committee were doing little to help him, three of the people briefed on the meeting said. He pointed to, among other thinned-out departments, the Office of Public Liaison. […]
After the meeting, Mr. Lewandowski and Mr. Stepien got into an argument outside the Oval Office, continuing the exchange elsewhere on the White House grounds. They eventually reached a cordial place, three people briefed on the exchange said.
But on Thursday morning, Mr. Stepien called a leading official at America First Policies, Brian O. Walsh, and said its counsel needed to be present for future meetings, according to a person briefed on the events.
Yes, they reached so cordial a place that Stepien, the White House political director, wants the lawyer for Lewandowski’s employer present in the future.
Congressional Republicans aren’t being dragged unwillingly into evil by Trump—they got there on their own, as their enthusiasm over Obamacare repeal and tax cuts for corporations and billionaires coupled with their foot-dragging over children’s health care fully shows. But without Trump, they might be able to smooth over their image for 2018, slap a “we care” face on the whole thing and keep more white women in the fold while using dark money and voter suppression to dampen Democratic turnout. Trump, though, mobilizes Democrats and makes it really difficult for Republicans to pretend to be anyone but who they are. And so Virginia. And Alabama. And warning signs for 2018.