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 TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction 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 ManafortNew normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Kremlin: No evidence of election interference in Mueller report Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage 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 KildeeDem lawmaker: Barr acting like 'Michael Cohen's replacement as Donald Trump's mouthpiece' Dem rep says Trump 'slow-walking' request for tax returns Dem rep says Trump, GOP will pay a price for GM layoffs in Michigan 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 HeitkampPro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA Biden office highlights support from women after second accuser comes forward MORE in North Dakota, Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySome in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care MORE in Indiana and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate 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 NelsonTrump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances 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'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeSanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Ex-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump MORE to run against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes O'Rourke sweeps through Virginia looking to energize campaign Disney to donate million to rebuild Notre Dame 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) ManchinOn The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections 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 ClintonGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Ex-FBI official: 'Links and coordination' with Russia happen everyday Ex-FBI agent: Americans should be 'disgusted' by Russian interference in Mueller report MORE’s victory there in 2016. Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Prosecutors used FISA warrant to get info on Huawei | Study finds discrimination in Facebook ads | Bezos retains voting control over ex-wife's Amazon stocks More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Dem senators introduce bill to combat sexual harassment in STEM MORE (D) has mounted an aggressive challenge against incumbent Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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 McSallyTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Gallego tapped as national campaign chairman for Swalwell presidential bid MORE (R) as the nominee.

In Tennessee, Democrats have a strong candidate in former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is challenging Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnConservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R), a staunch Trump ally, to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump on tariffs 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 GoreLobbying world 2020 Dems audition for Al Sharpton's support Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE in 1990.