Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Far-Left Democrats Can't Count on Trump's 'Toxicity' in 2018

Put me on record for Republicans retaining congressional control next year. Things could change, and midterm elections are usually bad for the president's party, but I'm skeptical far-left Democrats can retake control, especially of the House.

I could be wrong, so I'm not betting money on it.

But see Cathleen Decker, at LAT, "There's only one Trump — that's a key challenge for Democrats targeting GOP seats in 2018":

Democrats have hoped that President Trump’s deep unpopularity would propel them to gains in next year’s midterm election as they fight to take control of the House and improve their position in the Senate.

But last year’s contests and this year’s special elections suggest a complication: Trump is so distinctive a politician that it’s hard to persuade voters that other Republican candidates are carbon copies of the president. Trump’s outsized persona makes even those Republicans who share his views seem more moderate, an important attribute to swing voters.

That presents a problem for the party out of power.

Midterm elections traditionally serve as referendums on the president, but voters’ complicated views of Trump may give Republicans more running room than his popularity figures suggest. The votes cast by individual Republican incumbents may be more important to their survival than any linkage with the president.

The first of those key votes is scheduled for this week, as senators confront the GOP healthcare measure, which closely resembles a House-passed bill that is widely unpopular.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday, only 16% of adults supported the House plan. Three times that percentage thought it was a bad idea. Yet it is far from clear how powerful the issue will be in 2018, given the fast pace of political events.

Warning signs emerged for both parties after the spring series of special elections. Four of the races picked successors to Republicans elevated to senior positions in Trump’s administration; Republicans won all four. A fifth race, to replace California Democrat Xavier Becerra, the state’s new attorney general, was won by Democrat Jimmy Gomez.

In each of the four races in GOP districts, Democratic candidates came far closer to the Republicans than their party has in the recent past — but they did not succeed.

Implicit in the contests was a Democratic effort to repudiate Trump. Yet in the races which attracted more attention and money, Democrats may have suffered from a backlash as the virulence of their opposition pushed more Republicans to the polls.

In the aftermath, Democrats have offered as a partial excuse the Republican voting strength in those districts. But winning next year will require succeeding in Senate races in states that voted for Trump and in House contests where Republicans have the power of incumbency, something they did not enjoy in the special elections this year.

Tuesday’s results in the 6th Congressional District in Georgia, the most expensive House race in history, demonstrated what candidates next year face. There, as elsewhere, Trump loomed over the race even though the candidates seldom talked about him directly.

Republican Karen Handel barely mentioned the president, although members of his administration served as reinforcements for her. Her campaign spent much of its time casting Democrat Jon Ossoff as in league with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “San Francisco values.” Handel won by just under 4 percentage points.

Ossoff backed away from criticism of Trump in the latter part of the race, but began it by contending that his victory would “make Trump furious.”

Connecting the Republican president and Republican candidate did not work there, suggesting it may not work elsewhere, Republican and Democratic strategists said.

“Voters have very complex feelings about Donald Trump,” said California-based strategist Katie Merrill, citing polling from swing districts around the country. “He’s wildly unpopular, but they still want Congress to try to work with him — and Congress is more unpopular than he is.”

“Simply going into the district and trying to tie them to Trump is not going to be enough to defeat them,” said Merrill, who is working for a super PAC seeking to defeat seven Republican House incumbents in California districts won last year by Hillary Clinton...