OFF TO THE RACES

Can GOP Candidates Outrun Trump?

The president figures to be a drag in local elections this year and next, so individual Republicans will need a long list of accomplishments to sell back home.

President Trump talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Taormina, Italy, on May 26.
AP Photo/Luca Bruno
June 12, 2017, 8 p.m.

The score is now 2-1: Bri­tain has pro­duced two stun­ning elect­or­al sur­prises in the last year, the United States just one. While there is a danger in read­ing too much in­to the res­ults of in­di­vidu­al elec­tions, par­tic­u­larly one from an ocean away, there are some com­mon threads. Both Brexit and Don­ald Trump’s pres­id­en­tial vic­tory were about pop­u­lism, na­tion­al­ism, frus­tra­tion, and an­ger. The de­cisions by Bri­tain’s Con­ser­vat­ive Party to hold the Brexit ref­er­en­dum a year ago and to call a snap elec­tion for this month were epic mis­cal­cu­la­tions, the former by then-Prime Min­is­ter Dav­id Camer­on, the lat­ter by the cur­rent PM, Theresa May. Demo­crats last year made their own mis­cal­cu­la­tions: The words Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wis­con­sin should suf­fice to un­der­score that point.

Clearly there were a lot of factors that con­trib­uted to the shock­ingly poor per­form­ance by the Tor­ies in last week’s UK elec­tion. Many ana­lysts be­lieve that low and un­even wage growth triggered eco­nom­ic con­cerns and an im­pa­tience that the stand­ard of liv­ing was not im­prov­ing. It also was clear that young­er voters turned out in un­pre­ced­en­ted num­bers, con­trib­ut­ing to the big La­bour Party gains des­pite the un­der­whelm­ing lead­er­ship of Jeremy Corbyn.

Whatever the sim­il­ar­it­ies between the Brexit and Trump elec­tions last year, it would be fool­hardy to ex­tra­pol­ate them to our midterm elec­tions next year. That said, there are ca­nar­ies in the polit­ic­al coal mine that could provide clues to the mood of the elect­or­ate. The most im­me­di­ate is next Tues­day’s spe­cial elec­tion in Geor­gia’s 6th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. Mitt Rom­ney won this dis­trict by 24 points in 2012, but Pres­id­ent Trump car­ried it by just a point and a half. It is an up­scale, col­lege-edu­cated area, sim­il­ar to quite a few oth­ers that Demo­crats will need to carry to pick up 24 seats and a ma­jor­ity in the House next year. Polls show the race very close, with dis­en­chant­ment with Trump the primary reas­on. No Demo­crat has rep­res­en­ted what is now the dis­trict since 1992, so a vic­tory by Demo­crat Jon Os­soff would au­gur a tough road for Re­pub­lic­ans in the 2018 midterms. If Re­pub­lic­an Kar­en Han­del wins, it would be a big blow to Demo­crat­ic mor­ale and boost the con­fid­ence of the GOP.

The next sign to watch is the Vir­gin­ia gubernat­ori­al elec­tion in Novem­ber. Once one of the most com­pet­it­ive states in the coun­try, Vir­gin­ia has be­come in­creas­ingly chal­len­ging for Re­pub­lic­ans. As Uni­versity of Vir­gin­ia polit­ic­al sci­ent­ist Larry Sabato has noted, no Re­pub­lic­an has won statewide of­fice since 2009. Hil­lary Clin­ton car­ried the state by more than 5 points (49.8 to 44.4 per­cent) last year, a bit wider than Pres­id­ent Obama’s 4-point (51.2 to 47.3 per­cent) win in 2012. Demo­crats also have his­tory on their side. The party hold­ing the White House has lost the Vir­gin­ia gubernat­ori­al race in nine of the past 10 elec­tions; Demo­crat Terry McAul­iffe’s win in 2013 while Pres­id­ent Obama was in of­fice was the ex­cep­tion. If Re­pub­lic­ans can man­age to win in Novem­ber, it might ease the bad karma that has been dog­ging the party.

The third factor to look at is the num­ber and loc­a­tion of Re­pub­lic­an re­tire­ments and can­did­ate re­cruit­ing in com­pet­it­ive or po­ten­tially com­pet­it­ive dis­tricts and states. That’s why the polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment dur­ing odd-numbered years and very early in the elec­tion year (for states with late fil­ing dead­lines) is key. If in­cum­bents or oth­er con­tenders are run­ning in­to a head­wind, pro­spect­ive chal­lengers are em­boldened to make the race. Open seats in com­pet­it­ive dis­tricts are usu­ally more dif­fi­cult for a party to hold onto than those in which an in­cum­bent is seek­ing reelec­tion, so re­tire­ments mat­ter.

Giv­en that midterm elec­tions are usu­ally a ref­er­en­dum on the pres­id­ent’s party, Trump’s job-ap­prov­al num­bers fig­ure to be an im­port­ant factor. On Monday, Gal­lup’s three-day track­ing av­er­age gave Trump an ap­prov­al rat­ing of 36 per­cent, with 59 per­cent ex­press­ing dis­ap­prov­al. The Real­Clear­Polit­ics av­er­age of all na­tion­al polls show that 39 per­cent ap­prove and 56 per­cent dis­ap­prove, and the Huff­Post Poll­ster av­er­age shows 39 per­cent ap­prove and 57 per­cent dis­ap­prove. Pres­id­ent Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ings were 45 and 40 per­cent in the fi­nal Gal­lup polls be­fore his midterm-elec­tion dis­asters in 2010 and 2014, re­spect­ively. George W. Bush had a 38 per­cent ap­prov­al rat­ing go­ing in­to his party’s 2006 midterm calam­ity, and Bill Clin­ton stood at 46 per­cent in the days be­fore his party’s col­lapse in 1994.

The oth­er thing to watch on a daily basis is wheth­er con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans are build­ing a port­fo­lio of ac­com­plish­ments that they can sell back home, par­tic­u­larly if they come up short on most of the big-tick­et prom­ises that they had touted so loudly: re­peal­ing and re­pla­cing Obama­care, tax re­form, ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing, and the bor­der wall. If Trump’s ap­prov­al rat­ings are as low in 16 months as they are now, their lists of ac­com­plish­ments will need to be pretty im­press­ive.

What We're Following See More »
SHE IS AMBASSADOR TO CANADA AND A GOP DONOR
Kelly Craft Nominated for UN Post
10 hours ago
THE LATEST
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login