Donald Trump’s unexpected victory and the retention of majorities in both houses of Congress in 2016 led many Republicans to believe the GOP would not only hold the U.S. House. The more hubris among them even believed that the GOP might increase their majority.
It appears that all punditry and prognostication could have been dispensed with if everyone had followed Sean Trende’s analysis at Real Clear Politics, again based on history.
“If President Trump is not at 50% for the midterms then the GOP will be in a world of hurt”.
If the party faithful had faced this reality, then Republicans increasing their majority in the U.S. Senate would have been seen as the triumph it was, one which President Trump rightly hailed.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt lost 71 seats in the U.S. House and 6 in the U.S. Senate during his second term. Bill Clinton lost 52 and 8, respectively, during his first term. Barack Obama was “shellacked” and lost 63 and 6, respectively.
Since 1934, the average number of House seats lost is 33. At 40, President Trump doesn’t fit in the shellacked category, particularly considering the number of seats lost in California due to Election Day vote collecting and harvesting.
A gain of U.S. Senate seats has only happened five times previously since FDR.
Cooler, more experienced GOP heads knew this and guided by internal polling placed their resources correctly. President Trump stumped against vulnerable red state and swing state Democrats in Indiana, North Dakota, Florida and Montana, while trying to shore up vulnerable House Republicans.
This strategy paid off with a net gain of two U.S. Senate seats.
Of course, losing control of the U.S. House is not a blessing. But it was historically inevitable.
Has any good come from it? Yes, most certainly.
The Democratic Party swung sharply to the left after 2016, as would be expected. In their enthusiasm, they brought in a number of inexperienced, publicity-seeking radicals who have dubious anti-Semitic connections and make bizarre comments.
“The Democrats’ new street fighters‘ attacks have “taken a large degree of the media spotlight off the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and any hint of a legislative program.”
If this continues unabated and Speaker Pelosi seems to have no control over this radical posturing, which is cheered on by similarly naïve “progressives’ and the media, then it will present a major challenge to whomever earns the 2020 Democratic nomination.
If the Dem’s choose an overt leftist like Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris, then the GOP has a made-to-measure message: “would you trust the country to high tax, anti-capitalist, radical Islam aligned radicals and undo all the hard won gains in employment and industrial growth?”
If by 2020 major peace overtures in North Korea have borne fruit, the “trade wars” are settled and disengagement from the endless wars in the Middle East results in American troops returning home, then it is hard to believe the voters would opt to negate it all for a radical administration.
Conversely, if a centrist candidate is the nominee, the question will be how much the progressive tail will wag the dog. These questions have significant bearing on the down-ballot elections in the U.S. House.
Even with an “unprecedented turnout of over 50% for a midterm,” 36 sitting Republican Congressmen not seeking re-election, massive Democratic enthusiasm and a relentlessly anti-Trump media, the GOP only needs to flip 19 seats to regain control of the lower chamber.
In 2018, the Democratic Party flips were tenuous, at best. Two districts were won by less than 1%, nine by less than 2%, three by under 3%, two by under 4% and four by under 5%.
Given the expected 2016-size Republican turnout in 2020, it is clear the return of the House to GOP control is more than feasible. Such feasibility is substantially enhanced if the Democratic “class of 2018” continues to flaunt their progressive attitudes and policies at the same level as now, which given the nature of the newcomers, seems likely.