With a 41 seat margin in the U.S. House of Representatives and a narrow 2 seat margin in the Senate, Republicans are convinced they will hold both Houses of Congress after the midterm election in 2018. This GOP optimism sounds much like it did after Trump was elected in 2016 when Republicans predicted they would “repeal and replace Obamacare in a matter of weeks. How did that one work out for you GOPS?
There are three important factors missing in the Republican calculation for 2018; First, it’s Trump himself. Second, turnout history. And lastly, Trump’s base. Trump’s unfavorables, (consistent in all major polls), are the highest ever recorded by a first term president in his first year. Midterm elections are “Report Card” elections based principally on the voter’s grade on the president and his party.
Trump’s presidency has been nothing short of a historical disaster thus far. If the economy was in terrible shape and the US was mired in an unpopular war, (think GW Bush), Trump’s polling numbers would make some sense. But the economy is growing and with it jobs; we still have US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, but very few are being wounded or killed; and ISIS is losing territory and fighters daily. But Trump gets little credit because the public knows intuitively that the economic resurgence is mostly due to Barack Obama’s initiatives, and the strategy to defeat ISIS was developed in the latter part of the George Bush Presidency.
So why is Trump so unpopular? Because two thirds of the voters believe he is incompetent, vastly inexperienced, and a bully at odds with not only his Party, but with many of our most important Allies. He knowingly lies, but doesn’t seem to care. He tweets policy positions each week without informing his own administration. He is supported by the alt right, and continues to encourage riots. Every major poll finds that Trump is completely out of touch with the average American. That was supposed to be his major asset. The Russian intervention in our elections is unquestioned, and more evidence emerges each day that the Trump campaign knew and encouraged it.
The second factor haunting the GOP is voter turnout history. Turnout in midterm elections is minimal compared to presidential elections. In the 2004 presidential election, voter turnout was 131 million. In the ’06 midterm, turnout was a dismal 81 million. In 2008 (presidential election),
130 million voters went the polls. The following 2010 midterm, only 80 million voted. This pattern has been repeated in almost every US election going back 50 years.
In the last presidential election, Donald Trump received 63 million votes vs Hillary Clinton’s 66 million for a total of 129 million votes. If history repeats itself, and it always does, approximately 50 million voters who came out in 2016 will stay home in 2018. Numerous studies over the years tells us much about why these voters stay home during midterm elections.
Voters opinions of the sitting President and his party is the most important reason 50 million voters will stay home in 2018. History tells us that the party that controls the White House virtually always lose seats in midterm elections. Even popular presidents lose seats in their first term midterms. Unless something drastic happens like a war with North Korea, Republicans will go into the midterms with the most unpopular president in history.
Who are these people that don’t vote in midterm elections? This question has been asked by major polling firms and hundreds of political consultants using outcomes from previous midterm elections for years. They are white married men, heavily Southern & rural Midwesterners who live in rural counties and far out suburbs, evangelical and born again Christians, independents, middle aged. By education, they have only completed high school or less and some college.
Now lets look at Trumps base vote in 2016. White men (T. 60%, C 38%), rural white men (T.88, C. 12). By region the South (T. 52%, C. 44%), the Midwest (T. 49%, C. 44%) are at the core of his base. Trumps margins in the former Democratic strongholds of Michigan,Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin came mostly from rural voters. Turnout among rural voters blew away turnout records in county after county with many giving Trump historic margins.
What we know from past midterm elections tells us about who will be non-voters in the midterm elections. The following examples do not reflect all voters, but nonetheless were the biggest demographics in the Trump victory in 2016. They are men; (who gave Trump 60% to Clinton’s 37%; rural voters (Trump average 70% to 30%); education; high school or less (51 to 45% Trump); some college (52% to 43% Trump); and evangelical or born again (Trump 81% to Clinton 16%). The only conclusion is that the so called Trump base of 2016 will turn out in much lower numbers in 2018.
What we saw in the midterms of 2010 and 2014 which cost the Democrats both Houses of Congress, will be visited on the Republicans in 2018. In ’10 and ’14 the base of the Republicans, including its far right wing, were energized against Obama’s policies, particularly Obamacare, and strong environmental regulations, came to the polls (in many places in record turnout).
Evidence that the Democratic base is energized against Trump is everywhere. Anti-Trump grassroots groups are springing up across the country; good candidates, including former Democrats who were defeated in ’10 and ’14 have joined the race to send Trump a message; the Democratic money base is showing up in record numbers for a midterm election.
It’s getting very late for Trump and the Republicans in Congress to stop the wave that is coming. They are beginning to panic. They are so desperate that they are rushing to get something, anything passed Congress and to Trump’s desk. The problem is that the GOP bills on medical insurance, immigration (including The Great Wall) and tax reform are bad bills that would impact all Americans negatively including many of Trump’s base, giving them even more
reason to not vote.
The GOP is in real peril, mostly due to Trump. Taking at least one House of Congress away from the GOP was considered a joke a few months ago. Very few are laughing now.