Almost since the admittedly hilarious reactions of stunned media unfolded during the shocking 2016 election returns, Democrats have been talking about the 2018 midterms. Every special election since that November night has been obsessively covered as a “bellwether” for what was coming in the 2018 Congressional races. And it’s all been good news for Democrats. Even when Republicans won or held seats, like Karen Handel’s defeat of Jon Osoff in Georgia, the mainstream press reported how narrow the victory was and how that portended good things for the left.
The New York Times has, of course, been right in the middle of this anticipating fervor. And they aren’t letting up:
Republicans in Congress, including several powerful committee chairmen, are rushing to retire rather than face re-election in the fall, a clear recognition that President Trump’s low approval rating will be a heavy weight on the party even with an improving economy.
Remember that last line. The Times went on to discuss the recent retirement announcement of Republican Ed Royce in California, as well as the upcoming decision from Republican representative Martha McSally to leave vacant her House seat for a run at the Senate. To hear the Times tell it, these open seats not only put in jeopardy the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, but all but confirm a Democrat tidal wave.
I’m not a pollster and I don’t claim to be following the 435 races around the country with any diligence whatsoever. But I think there are a couple things to note about Democrat optimism.
First, it sounds eerily familiar to the same optimism that preceded the 2016 elections. Even on that fateful election night, as chronicled in numerous YouTube media compilations, the talking heads were discussing a probability that the Democrats would take Congress AND the White House. The latter was regarded a fait accompli. The polls all said it was done and over. No reason to even have a vote.
But it didn’t happen, and Democrats were left reeling.
Second, for all the number crunching and predictive analysis that certainly could prove true this time, it is January. That’s 11 months away from the elections. Go back to that last line of the Times’ article above – “even with an improving economy.”
“Trump hits Democrats on tax reform: Every single D in Congress voted against tax cuts for working and middle class families. Fact check: True.”
If Republicans can focus and make this the issue of the 2018 midterms, with as ham-fisted and disorganized as they have been throughout the first year of Trump’s presidency, it is way too soon to write their political epitaph.
Yes, people are annoyed. Yes, people are fed up with Washington. Yes, that almost always portends midterm losses (many times substantial) for the party that holds the White House, not to mention both houses of Congress. But there’s a reason Bill Clinton’s cheerleaders popularized the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Because right or wrong, when it comes to voters demanding change in Washington, it’s usually the economy that dictates their actions.
The bitter partisanship of D.C. and the Trump derangement on the left led the Democrats to oppose these significant tax cuts. If Republican messaging on that is solid, coupled with the expected economic boom tax cuts usually produce, Democrats could have another disappointing election night on the horizon.
And they’d have themselves to thank for it.