Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms

Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms

Fifty days out from the November elections, Democrats are widely seen as favored to retake the House majority and are increasingly seen as having a real chance at winning back the Senate if a series of close races break in their direction.

The party enjoys a healthy lead in the generic House ballot, and a seemingly unending series of bad headlines for President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE has battered his approval ratings and served as a drag on his party.

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The latest negative news came Friday with former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortREAD: Hannity, Manafort messages released by judge Manafort, Hannity talk Trump, Mueller in previously undisclosed messages FBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway MORE’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE’s probe.

It’s a potentially pivotal moment in the Mueller probe that could put prosecutors in the room of a much-talked-about 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and figures associated with the Kremlin.

Manafort was one of three key Trump associates who participated in that meeting.

The White House and Republicans argue the growing economy will bolster GOP defenses and save their majorities. Democrats would need to gain a healthy 23 seats to take back the House.

“I think we'll lose some seats, but I think we keep the majority,” Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today CPAC attendees say Biden poses greatest threat to Trump Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill last week ahead of a weeklong recess for the House.

Yet Republican leaders have also put out warning signals, highlighting the reality that their party is playing defense with 50 days to go.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-Ky.) warned last week that the midterms will be “very challenging” for the GOP, acknowledging that the party is facing a “storm” in its quest to hold its majority in the Senate.

McConnell’s quandary can be seen clearly in the nature of the battleground states.

Republicans have a favorable map, with Democrats defending more than twice as many Senate seats as the GOP, with 10 of them in states won by Trump in 2016.

But Republicans face competitive battles in Tennessee, Arizona and Texas, three dependably GOP states.

Close races have not emerged in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three states won by Trump where Democrats are defending Senate seats.

In the House, 11 GOP seats are considered "likely Democrat" or "leaning Democrat" by the Cook Political Report, compared to one seat held by Democrats that is considered likely to be won by Republicans.

The one Democratic seat, in Pennsylvania, is likely to be won by a Republican candidate because of newly drawn district lines.

Another 28 GOP-held seats are considered toss-ups, compared to just three for Democrats in Cook’s tally.

Democrats left for the recess sounding confident.

“The mood is we wish the elections were Tuesday,” said Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeCracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Democratic lawmaker says Trump isn't 'leaving us any choice' on impeachment MORE (D-Mich.). “The Republicans are in political quicksand, and the more they struggle the harder it is for them.

Republicans warn that a Democratic takeover of the House would lead to impeachment for Trump — a message intended to fire up the president’s base.

They also are warning of a leftward tilt to the Democratic Party seen in a few primary upsets, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York over Rep. Joseph Crowley.

Democratic leaders, as they have done for much of 2018, are seeking to tamp down impeachment talk while focusing on healthcare and other pocketbook issues.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Thursday that healthcare will be the top issue for voters this year.

“Many of our Republican colleagues have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, not just once but as many as 60 times,” Luján said.

Trump is likely to play an outsize role in the midterms even with Democrats downplaying impeachment.

Deep dissatisfaction with the president has helped boost Democratic turnout throughout the primaries. Democrats have also been raising more money than their GOP counterparts, another factor pointing to greater enthusiasm on their sides.  

There is still time for Trump to turn some news cycles to his advantage.

How the White House responds to Hurricane Florence will be a test of the president’s leadership and the administration’s preparations. Trump insisted last week that federal, state and local officials were “absolutely prepared” for the hurricane.

Sitting presidents typically see their party lose congressional seats in their first midterms, putting history squarely on Democrats’ side.

Trump’s approval rating currently sits just below 41 percent, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.

That’s lower than former President Obama’s approval rating in 2010, the same year that Republicans took the majority in the House and gained six seats in the Senate.

But the concentration of Democratic voters in more urban and suburban areas of the country means that the party will need a larger share of the midterm than the Republicans, whose voters tend to live in more rural and exurban areas.

And in the battle for the Senate, the map could save the GOP’s majority.

Democrats need almost all of the close races to break their way to win back the Senate majority.

That means that Democrats Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE in North Dakota, Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE in Indiana and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE in Missouri will need to win in states that Trump won in 2016 by wide margins.

Republicans also see a pick-up opportunity in Florida, where they recruited Gov. Rick Scott to run against Democratic Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE.

While Florida has emerged as a piece of good news in the Senate race for the GOP, they have reason to worry a bit about Texas, where Democrats recruited a telegenic candidate in Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' Overnight Energy: Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution | Poll finds Biden top choice for climate-minded voters | Trump USDA reportedly buried climate warnings Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution, ban fracking MORE to run against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage 2020 Democrat Bennet releases comprehensive government reform plan GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (R).

Cruz is favored to win reelection, but the mere fact that Texas is a close race is a victory of sorts for Democrats, potentially forcing Republicans to spend money in a state they’d hope would be in the bag.

In West Virginia, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinRepublicans, Trump Jr. signal support for embattled West Virginia governor Critics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments MORE (D) is proving resilient in what may be Trump’s strongest state in the nation.

Democrats long saw Nevada as their most likely Senate pickup opportunity in 2018 given Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to debate for first time as front-runner Top Trump ally says potential Amash presidential bid could be problematic in Michigan Chaotic Trump transition leaks: Debates must tackle how Democrats will govern differently MORE’s victory there in 2016. Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenKey endorsements: A who's who in early states Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Lawmakers introduce legislation to improve cyber workforce funding MORE (D) has mounted an aggressive challenge against incumbent Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R).

But the party is also eyeing seats in Arizona and Tennessee, where polls remain tight.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) made inroads in her Arizona Senate bid throughout the summer as three Republicans duked it out in a bruising primary that eventually yielded Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyHispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' McSally on Moore running for Senate again: 'This place has enough creepy old men' MORE (R) as the nominee.

In Tennessee, Democrats have a strong candidate in former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is challenging Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHorse abuse for ribbons and prizes has to stop YouTube may move children's content to separate app Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills MORE (R), a staunch Trump ally, to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump MORE (R).

If he wins in November, Bredesen would be the first Democrat elected to the Senate from the Volunteer State since Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreDowney: Why I returned stolen campaign material — a lesson for Donald Trump Trump campaign considering making a play for blue state Oregon: report What I saw at the last impeachment: Rules are for little people MORE in 1990.