Leaving aside ideology, the make-up of the Supreme Court and legislative actions over the next two years, there is an argument to be made some Republicans should be hoping Trump loses in November, even if it gives Democrats unified control of government for two years. The damage a unified Democratic government could do to the country would be massive (filling SCOTUS seats, repealing the Hyde Amendment, tax hikes and spending like we have never seen before aided by elimination of the filibuster) but Republicans might be wearily looking to 2022.
Considering electoral history, the lack of an effective Biden campaign and how overtly progressive an agenda the former VP is proposing it is easy to see why some Republicans would secretly breathe a sigh of relief if the former VP wins. Plus, Trump has shown he would not help his Republican allies in a second term (he had chances in 2018) which likely means by the time he left office in 2024 Republicans would be in the minority in Congress and Democrats would enjoy unified control regardless.
The first midterms for previous presidents have not been kind. In the modern era, the only President who has seen his party gain seats in his first midterm was George Bush. Those gains disappeared a mere four years later.
Looking at the Senate map for 2022, it is absolutely brutal for Republicans. They would be defending Senate seats in PA, WI, IA, FL, NC and OH. There are other seats the GOP would have to defend but these swing states would cost the party millions and likely go to Democrats in a protest vote against a second-term Trump. By contrast, short of a surprise retirement, the only seats Democrats would be at risk of losing might be Nevada and New Hampshire (though both states have strong Democratic incumbents). Considering it is highly unlikely a Trump win would usher in a Republican house, the GOP is also likely to be fighting to retake Congress and reclaiming the suburbs is a must for the party.
Just looking at past midterms for Presidents offers us a clue of what a Biden midterm could look like for the party. In 1982, Reagan saw his party lose 26 House seats while the Senate composition barely changed. In 1990, Democrats gained a Senate seat and seven house seats but they won the national popular vote by almost 8 percent. In 1994, Clinton’s party suffered the “Gingrich Revolution and lost 54 house seats and 8 Senate seats, ushering in GOP control of the House until 2007. Then, we have the famous 2010 drubbing of 2010 where Democrats lost 63 house seats and 6 Senate seats. Meanwhile, Republicans lost 40 House seats under Trump and only a favorable Senate map saved their Senate majority.
Biden, despite having some pragmatic sensibilities and growing up in blue-collar Scanton, PA, is unlikely to be able to govern as a centrist. He won’t have Trump to run against as a foil and will have to govern a deeply divided country. Meanwhile, as is usual in midterms, a restless base is likely to be disappointed at some of the things he fails to get done and fail to turn out. In turn, Republicans will.
This is to say nothing of how COVID will reshape our society and politics from how we vote to what schooling and local community education looks like. For example, it is widely assumed mail balloting benefits Democrats but tell that to Democrats in CA – 25 amid COVID where a district they won by nine points two years earlier flipped Republican by an identical nine points.
Additionally, there is the matter of the GOP coalition. Without a doubt the Trump Presidency has split the party. Trump has ushered many formerly Democratic downscale whites into the party but he also has pushed many suburban whites away. Ironically, polls show despite liberal claims of Trump racism and white nationalism, he has actually helped the GOP hold par with Democrats among minorities. Republicans cannot win back Congress without the support of some of the college educated whites they have lost under Trump. In terms of continuing to win statewide elections in states like TX, NC and GA, regaining these voters is a must.
Further, considering Biden’s entire campaign has consisted of not being Trump it is highly unlikely Biden has the skills or deftness to manage a financial or political crisis. Short of small town-halls and interviews, Biden’s campaign has largely come out of his basement and been spent uttering platitudes which assure a divided nation everything will be okay. That works, if you are not the one who has to make everything okay.
As we saw with Obama, platitudes only go so far. Personally, most voters will like you, but politically and on policy, there will likely be a blow back effect. Obama was smart enough and deft enough to re calibrate and rekindle the magic which won him the office in 2008 and ushered in a massive Congressional majoritarian. Biden probably does not have the same skill.
Republicans who want Trump to lose (and no, I am not speaking of the wealthy Never Trumper crowd), must acknowledge the damage to the country and the conservative cause would be substantial. From likely repeal of the Hyde amendment (which makes every American subsidize abortion ie. murder), to bloated deficits funding out of control state pension systems to usage of the massive regulatory state by the time the GOP even had a shot at retaking Congress the cliff could be to close to avoid. Sure, you might win Congress back and preserve your chance at the White House in this decade but the cost would be massive.
Indeed, this likely why many high profile Republicans like HW Bush, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and others are having to justify to their party why they are supporting Biden. Most likely they want Cabinet positions and hope he will be bipartisan, which may be his instinct, but most likely he will govern as even more a liberal than Obama. If high profile “former” Republicans ever want to be accepted back into the party they need to lay the groundwork for explaining their defections.
But, Trumpism is not going away anytime soon. The GOP coalition has forever been altered and even the rising stars of the party, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, package their Trumpism in a softer package only. This is yet another reason why a Trump loss might not be a bad thing. Senators like Rubio are up in 2022 and they can put a fresh face in 2024 and beyond on a party largely seen as dominated by white males and appeal to voters along ethnic and demographic lines (which is at the crux of a nationalistic themed campaign).
In the end a Trump loss could look like the end for the GOP and the damage would be extensive from a Democratic controlled government. But, due to efforts Trump and the GOP Senate have taken, the judiciary might restrain the worst aspects of it and a GOP Congress in 2022 at worse could at least cause gridlock until 2024. Biden has promised to be a “transitional president” and nobody is even sure if he would run for reelection which means the battle for 2024 will be unlike anything we have ever seen before.