Former GOP, and now independent operative Steve Schmidt was blunt and to the point last week. He foresees nothing short of a blue wave in November. One of his strongest points was the results of the 2017 special elections. Not even including the Democratic wins in the Alabama Senate race and the PA-18 congressional race, the outlook is dim. Even in losing, on average, the Democrats polled +21 in each race, mostly in reliable GOP districts. Schmidt’s point was that in November, any district that had gone less than +25 for Trump in 2016 was now an at risk district. Flipping 24 seats is a lot easier when you have a pool of 100+ districts to work with rather than 35-50.
Normally, when The Tiny Thumbs Diktator wants to make everything about him, that’s fine with the GOP. When he makes a horses ass out of himself, it gives the GOP candidates and incumbents cover. They can just shrug their shoulders, give an Opie Taylor grin, and say, “Hey, wadda ya gonna do? That’s just the Prez being the Prez, nothing to do with us.”
But Trump just blew holes through that cover, like the morning sun burning through thin overnight clouds. On Saturday in Ohio, Trump not only ridiculed the idea of the 2018 midterms being a referendum on him, he welcomed the idea of the upcoming election being all about him, he even prophesied a big “red wave” in November if that happens.
This is the true nightmare scenario for the GOP. What Trump is trying to do here is simple and clear. Trump has heard the contention that his base may not show up in November because they are monolithic, and His Lowness is not on the ballot. Trump is pushing for his supporters to vote like his name is on the ballot. But the problem for the GOP is that Trump’s base is not the GOP’s base. One of the indicators in the primaries this year is that in many states, Democratic turnout is rivaling, if not surpassing Republican turnout. It is starting to look like the GOP base, especially the non Trump base is just no that into this cycle.
One of the benefits of the Democrats having so many new, fresh faces running this year, is that they are not falling into the trap of running against Trump alone. They are clobbering the GOP incumbents by running on local issues, issues that are important to their constituents, but which the GOP incumbents know nothing about, since they only listen to their deep pocket donors. They are not only running on incredible Democratic enthusiasm in their district, they’re offering food for thought to independents, and even “soft” GOP supporters, by actually listening to these people, and offering intelligent answers to intelligent questions, without the attendant Trump insanity. They don’t need to slam Trump.
And what is it that Trump wants to do? He wants to make the Democratic challengers contrast arguments for them, in places where it will hurt the most. The Democrats originally targeted 25 districts where GOP incumbents won the district in 2016, but Clinton won the state. Most of these are GOP suburban strongholds close to urban centers that Clinton dominated. GOP support from younger voters is at a historic low for the party, and the special election results of 2017 show that he is bleeding white suburban women. Both of these categories are a good chunk of these districts, and Trump wants to saddle these incumbents with overt racism, family separation on the southern border, and a piddly ass tax cut, on pain of death. GOP incumbents across the country are desperately trying to separate themselves from the actions of their unstable President, and now Trump wants them to do the bunny hop with him.
And one more thing to consider. I’ve hammered this point before, and I’m going to hammer it again now. Whether through retirement, or in order to run for a higher office, the GOP has an inordinately high number of House vacancies this year. Several of these retirement vacancies are in districts that were already at risk to the incumbents. Traditionally, being an incumbent is one of the safest jobs in the country, the retention rate is north of 90%. Incumbents have several advantages, including an experienced staff and campaign structure, an established donor base, and most importantly, constituent familiarity and universal district name recognition. They’re a known quantity. The new GOP candidates will lack all of those things, but most importantly, they will lack the enthusiasm that the incumbent held, of being the only choice GOP voters had, and the cohesion that brings. And with at least one larval Trump swamp creature running, this is not likely to bring the GOP constituency together.
The GOP was already climbing up a steep slope in trying to maintain their majority in the House this year, but with Trump’s sudden insistence that the election be all about him, he just started a mudslide for the GOP candidates to fight through as well. I just alluded to it yesterday, when the prosecutors best witness is the defendant himself, the defense is in trouble.