It seems like almost every week things get worse for Republicans. The 2018 Senate map is the most lopsided map in modern history, but even with Democrats having far more at-risk seats than Republicans, it’s hard to find good news for the GOP.
Yes, GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s announcement Monday that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida is good for Republicans, giving them a roughly 50-50 shot at picking up the seat. But nationally, if the election were held today, Republicans would very likely lose the House; the chances of a turnover are probably 60-65 percent at this stage. And notwithstanding Scott’s entry in Florida, I am beginning to wonder whether my estimate of a 25-35 percent chance of the Senate flipping may be a little low. Just less than seven months out, this wave looks pretty formidable.
So what could turn this around? What could build Republican intensity and turnout to something comparable to what seems to be forming for Democrats? There seems to be three possibilities: guns, impeachment, and a Supreme Court vacancy.
Right now, the energy on the gun issue is on the side that supports gun control, a real switch from where it has been for the past 25 years. With Republicans holding the White House, House, and Senate together for the first time in a decade, the gun-rights folks had started to breathe a bit easier than during the Obama years. But a spate of mass shootings has tipped the intensity scales toward the gun-control side. It would be unrealistic not to expect gun-control opponents, starting with the National Rifle Association, to do everything they can to counteract this shift and reengage their backers. The key question is whether the historic strength of the NRA and its allies can overcome this newfound passion on the anti-gun side.
As for impeachment, one of the best reporters on the political beat, Jonathan Martin of The New York Times, wrote Sunday that GOP leaders see the issue as a potentially potent one to energize the Trump base on behalf of the Republican Congress. It isn’t a revelation that Trumpeteers have not been that enthusiastic about the congressional GOP’s performance. Martin reported on a February presentation by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers to party strategists arguing that the threat of impeachment could fire up the party base.
Pollster Fred Yang, who works the Democratic half of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (with Bill McInturff doing the Republican side) points out that in their survey last month, President Trump’s job approval among Republicans and independents who lean Republican was 84 percent, with a disapproval of just 15 percent. And Yang tells me that 58 percent of Republicans and leaners strongly approved the job Trump was doing. Personal attitudes towards the president were only slightly less glowing; 78 percent of Republicans and leaners viewed the president positively, 55 percent strongly so. For the electorate as a whole, Trump today is a net liability, but to the extent that the Left pushes impeachment and Republicans can amplify that threat to conservatives, we could see the energy levels of the two sides come more into balance, something that can make a real difference, particularly when pollsters screen down to sample just likely voters.
The third issue that could animate conservative voters would be a Supreme Court vacancy. Democrats are already motivated, and an opening on the Court might well trigger a corresponding stimulus with the Right.
Since the Supreme Court is composed of four liberals, four conservatives, and one swing vote, it almost doesn’t matter too much politically which justice steps down—any vacancy would trigger warfare. It’s worth noting, though, that at 85, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal, is the oldest member of the Court; the swing vote—81-year-old Anthony Kennedy—is the second oldest; and another liberal, Stephen Breyer, is third oldest at 79. You have to go 10 years younger than Breyer before you find a conservative, Clarence Thomas at 69. Any seat could become vacant for a variety of reasons, but with two of the three oldest on the liberal side of the bench, the other being the swing vote, one doesn’t have to be either a lawyer or a math whiz to see the importance a vacancy would mean to the Court.
Things could still change before Election Day, but change is the operative word. To save the GOP majority in the House, something would have to change, while in the Senate, the GOP majority looks legitimately in real danger for the first time this cycle—all the more reason for the party to hope something emerges to fire up the base.
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"North Korea says it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the suspension of nuclear and ICBM tests went into effect Saturday." The announcement comes shortly before Kim Jong Un "is set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a border truce village for a rare summit aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang."
"Republican megadonor Foster Friess has told party leaders in Wyoming that he plans to run for governor," and is expected to make an announcement this afternoon. Friess has donated "millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes over the last decade, according to federal campaign finance records," including over "$1.7 million to boost Santorum's [presidential] campaign" in 2016. Gov. Matt Mead (R) is term-limited, and "a handful of Republicans are running in an open primary to succeed him in one of the reddest states in the country."
Four Palestinian protestors have been killed by Israeli fire near the Gaza-Israel border, bringing the death toll to 38, in what marks the "fourth consecutive week of Gaza's March of Return mass protests." The marches are part of a "month-and-a-half-long protest organized by Hamas near the border fence," which organizers have said will not stop before May 15. The marches are intended to emulate anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, and to commemorate the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948, during the establishment of the State of Israel.
"Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is looking to sue for defamation, wrongful termination and other possible civil claims, his lawyer told reporters Friday." McCabe's attorney Michael Bromwich said that his team "hasn't managed to find any witnesses to corroborate McCabe's version of the story," although they have not had enough time to do so. "McCabe’s lawyers are also seeking ways to release the emails between McCabe and Comey, which would offer insight into their communication about the leaks to the Wall Street Journal."
"The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there." The DNC is seeking "millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks," and is arguing the cyberattack" undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats."