Saturday, September 8, 2018

Election 2018 Pits Surging Economy Against Polarizing President

This is interesting.

At LAT, "Trump's first midterm pits a booming economy against one of history's most unpopular presidents":

The midterm election now just over eight weeks away is shaping up as a seismic collision between two powerful and competing forces, a rip-roaring national economy and a deeply polarizing and unpopular president.

At stake on Nov. 6 is not just control of Congress but the fate of President Trump as he faces a special counsel investigation and a series of scandals that Democrats, given the power on Capitol Hill, would eagerly exploit.

Polling and turnout in a raft of primaries and other elections suggest Democrats are highly motivated — more so than Republicans — and the party seems poised to gain strength in Washington as well as capitals across the country.

GOP hopes of forestalling a November debacle rest mainly on the strength of these boom times.

Economic growth has hit the fastest clip in nearly four years. Consumer spending is brisk. Unemployment is near an 18-year low, and average hourly wages are climbing — 2.7% in July, compared with a year ago.

“History tells you there should be a big blue wave,” said Scott Reed, a political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but he sees prosperity acting as a breakwater. “People feel good.”

The chamber and other GOP allies are spending millions of dollars in hopes of translating those upbeat sentiments into Republican votes, airing advertisements like one praising Rep. Steve Knight — who faces a tough reelection fight against Democrat Katie Hill in the high desert outside Los Angeles — for supporting the tax bill Trump signed into law.

“It’s not cheap to live here,” says a narrator, as a scene of the L.A. skyline yields to a bird’s-eye view of the U.S. Capitol. “So when Congress cut taxes for working families, that made a difference.”

If a wave is coming, California will probably feel it for the first time in decades. Indeed, the state that beats at the heart of the Trump resistance is central to Democratic hopes of seizing control of the House.

There are six Republican-held districts in addition to Knight’s — threading through Southern California and the Central Valley — that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried. Half a dozen appear to be in play, owing not just to anti-Trump attitudes but political lines drawn to enhance competition. (Voters saw to that in 2010 by creating an independent redistricting commission.)

Still others in the Central Valley, east San Diego County and the Sierra Nevada could flip in the event of a strong Democratic tide.

Winning just a few of those contests would go a considerable way toward giving the party the 23 seats needed for a House takeover; Republicans are counting on a ballot measure repealing a state gas tax hike to boost GOP turnout and cut its California losses.

The Senate presents a different picture. Democrats face a much steeper path to take control, even though the party needs just a two-seat gain...


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