Impeachment, immigration: Two topics to help the GOP hold the House

Impeachment, immigration: Two topics to help the GOP hold the House
© Greg Nash - UPI Photo

Now that President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE and the Republican Party have dodged a bullet in the West Virginia GOP Senate primary and the primary voters have delivered solid Republican senatorial challengers in Indiana and Ohio, it is time shift focus back to the Grand Old Party’s quest to hold the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.

Democrats would need a net pick up of 24 seats to take over, and some experts put as many as 50 House seats in play. But President Trump has expressed confidence Republicans will retain control, and he may be on to something.

Voters’ top issues for this election are the economy and security, and by Election Day, President Trump could be able to point to significant achievements in both areas.

He already can on the economy.

Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since Trump took office; unemployment has dipped to 3.9 percent, the lowest since 2000; wage growth is at its highest point since President Bush left office; the number of job openings nearly matches the number of job seekers; and two-thirds of Americans say the economy is “good.”

These numbers have buoyed the president’s standing among voters — 57 percent overall, and 40 percent of Democrats, now say things are “going well” in the U.S. And Democrats have noticed.

Pollster Celinda Lake says the party’s inability so far to mount a counterargument is a “very big concern. The economy is the No.1 issue out there for people and right now Trump has a very aggressive economic message that seems to cross traditional party lines to voters.”

Lake said Democrats “just assume that people will view us as better on this issue and they don’t, and you can’t win elections when you’re behind on the economy. To produce a real blue wave, you need to have an economic message.”

But as bullish as Trump and others may be on Republicans’ chances, some think he has provided his supporters a false sense of security.

CNN’s Harry Enten says Republicans could lose as many as 50 seats in the House — more than double what they would need to retake control. The economy may be improving, some Democrats say, but the tax legislation itself is not all that popular.

Moreover, midterm elections are called base elections because they are about turning out the base. About 125 million-135 million vote in presidential elections; somewhere between 80 million and 95 million participate in mid-terms.

That means core supporters are more important than occasional observers, and there is some evidence Democrats’ base voters are more inspired to work for candidates and vote for them in this year’s midterms than during either of the midterms during President Obama’s two terms.

CNN pointed out last week that 46 Republican are in the likely Republican or leans Republican categories — meaning they are at least somewhat vulnerable to strong Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, just 18 Democratic candidates are in that position, and of the true toss-up districts, more were won by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLewandowski says 'womp womp' at story of young girl being separated from mother at border Giuliani: FBI asked me about tease of a 'surprise' before election Republicans tear into IG finding on Clinton probe MORE in the 2016 presidential election than by President Trump.

So the question becomes: How do Republicans fire up their base and win over the independent voters necessary for a winning coalition? Two issues that could turn the tide are impeachment and immigration.

There is a reason House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiMadeleine Albright slams Trump over immigration Pelosi: GOP is 'complicit' in separating families Conservative groups outline new ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (D-Calif) wants her colleague Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMaxine Waters to Giuliani: I join Yankees fans in saying 'BOO!' Giuliani challenges Maxine Waters to keep calling for Trump ouster: 'Say impeachment, sweetheart’ Juan Williams: Midterms will be referendum on Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and others to muzzle talk of impeaching the president. Among Democrats, 71 percent want to see Trump impeached if Democrats win control of the House. But 54 percent of independents and 92 percent of Republicans oppose impeachment.

President Trump has noticed this and begun urging people to vote Republican specifically to stave off impeachment. House Republicans would be wise to follow Trump’s lead.  

As for the other issue Republicans should use to retain control, according to Gallup, in 2018, “the strongest countervailing issue determining Republican turnout may be immigration.”

Democrats can bemoan Trump’s rhetoric on immigration all they want, but polling indicates Trump’s immigration proposal — amnesty for 1.8 million illegal aliens in exchange for ending chain migration and the diversity visa lottery and funding for a border wall — “encompasses the popular position on every major immigration issue.”

Republicans, especially those outside of Democratic strongholds, should remind voters constantly that amnesty for illegal aliens without real border security is a non-starter — and that it is not the GOP that has shifted radically on immigration but Democrats.

Given there are nearly 50 at-risk House Republican seats in 2018, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for holding the House. And all Republicans have to hope the Trump economic renaissance continues and educate voters on the progress being made.  

But they also would be wise to focus on the Democratic “impeachment fetish” and the left’s radical views on immigration. A midterm election is different than a presidential, and in 2018, these are the issues Republicans can use to fire up and turn out their base now before casting a wider net again in 2020.

Ford O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, worked on John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families McCain, Coons: Trump should withdraw controversial refugee nominee MORE's 2008 presidential campaign, and authored the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery." Follow him on Twitter @FordOConnell.