In the span of a couple of months the media narrative surrounding Republicans has flipped from the “Majority is safe” to “Danger Will Robinson.” Likewise, in the Senate, Republican gains have now been downgraded to one or two seats. Don’t even get me started on gubernatorial and legislative races.
Democrats are watching with glee as they see the formation of a wave and watch the media parrot the narrative. Candidate recruitment in the party is off to a “record” start. Meanwhile, Republicans are doing themselves no favors falling over themselves to distance their candidacies from Trump.
But, as last year showed us, the conventional narrative is not always true. Worse, the polls end to parrot the conventional narrative meaning that instead of polls leading the way the narrative leads the polls. Since most candidates and the media fixate on polls that leads to candidates following along. So, perhaps the question should be asked not how badly Trump is hurting the GOP but is he?
Historically, it is hard to argue a President with middling approval ratings will not hurt his party in the midterms? Only a Bill Clinton and GWB saw their party gain seats in Congress in midterms since the 1960’s. Both Clinton and GWB were vastly more popular than Trump currently.
But history is not the only barometer to consider here. Money, the quality of the candidates running and the national environment all play a part. For example, when Clinton was rebuked in 1994 and GWB in 2006 and 2010 the national political environment was toxic for the party due to a tepid economy. This go-round, the economy looks solid.
Republicans are on solid ground on the fundraising front. For example, the NRCC raised $10 million last month for its best haul in an off-year election for April. Ever!
Despite cries of Trump’s scandals (like firing the FBI Director first hated than loved by Democrats James Comey) the GOP is not struggling to recruit solid candidates. Of course, the media narrative is far different. But then again, it always is.
Republicans recently recruited two rock-star candidates to run in the West Virginia. Congressman Evan Jenkins who actually comes from the most Democratic part of the state and AG Patrick Morrisey. Both are running to take on West Virginia Senator Jim Manchin.
Worse for Democrats are the number of candidates piling up to run in other races. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, despite raising millions, has not scared off Congresswoman Ann Wagner. In Pennsylvania, multiple Republicans are running against Senator Casey and Democrats still have not been able to find a candidate to run against endangered Nevada Senator Dean Heller.
So far, despite the “successes” of the “Resistance,” the special elections landscape has not given many cues about what 2018 holds. For example, Democrats came close in KS-4 and the GA-6 primary but no cigar. In the recent Omaha mayoral race Democrats lost and it is safe to say because it is because their national brand became an issue. Early voting numbers for Democrats in Montana do not look promising and polls diverge on a narrow race in GA-6. None truly suggest a wave is forming.
It is true a series of polls have come out showing endangered Republicans in Iowa and Minnesota’s suburbs in danger. But, these polls come at a low point for Republicans and the polls are almost meaningless in they test Republican incumbents against generic Democrats. Generic candidates can be whatever voters visualize them to be as opposed to the flawed human beings that turn into actual candidates.
Of course, if a wave does form it will largely be due to Trump and carry many subpar candidates to victory. Generally, incumbents pick up on if a wave is forming and retire. So far, few House Republicans feel so endangered they have opted not to run for reelection.
It’s early and Trump’s poll numbers are atrocious but we have been here before. Republicans were supposed to suffer in 2016 due to the Trump campaign and instead they benefited down-ballot. Likewise, evidence shows that Republicans who ran from Trump probably suffered because of it. So, perhaps Trump is hurting SOME Republicans.
That won’t matter if the party runs en masse from the Commander-in-Chief. But, right now, Republicans are fidgety around Trump and dodging jumping on his policy bandwagon but they have not abandoned him. Yet!