2018 midterms: The passion differential

The Republican Party has passed some signal legislation but allowed Democrats to seize the higher ground on dominant issues of taxes and the economy. So, what can the GOP anticipate in 2018?

1. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act has passed both houses of Congress and will soon be signed into law. What can Republicans now expect will happen to them in the 2018 midterms?

2. Will they be rewarded for this new tax law by minimizing their historically-expected-for-the-“in”-party losses, and thus keeping control of Congress?

3. Or will they be punished by an anti-GOP, anti-Trump “wave election” that again — as in 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2014 — flips control of at least one house of Congress?


4. 2017 has seen the diminution of the image of both the GOP and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE;

5. This has happened not because of the so-called “mainstream media” opposition — although that certainly exists — but through hubris, ineptitude, arrogance and self-delusion in the White House, and internal division and incompetence inside both GOP conferences up on the Hill;

6. Despite one-party control of the federal government, the Republican Party has played to the stereotype often painted by the Democrats: a party of rich, old white men who rig the system to help themselves and don’t give a damn about anyone else;

7. That is the image Democrats have always tried to paint of Republicans;

8. And for some inexplicable reason the Republican Party — now, in effect, the Trump Party — has fulfilled the Democrats’ description of them!

9. The ill-named but analytically accurate GOP “autopsy” after the 2012 presidential loss focused on this exact stereotype: that the GOP was facing a Demographic Doomsday wherein the country was turning less white and more racially diverse with Millennials replacing Baby Boomers as the dominant voting bloc.

10. So, true to form, the GOP ignored this analysis and went ahead anyway and picked Donald Trump, the personification of the uncaring, uber-rich white guy who talks disparagingly of women and repeatedly picks fights with people of color, including immigrants. The result? The Republican Party is heavily underwater among women (20 percent), minorities and Millennials (48 percent!);

11. This is the prescription for long-term political disaster — maybe even the death of the GOP;

12. Let’s take a political look at this tax plan and its political ramifications: It is not popular. Only 53 percent of Republicans support it; overall, 41 percent of Americans think it is a “bad idea,” while only 24 percent think it a “good idea”;

13. Only 7 percent think this plan will benefit the middle class; 63 percent think it favors corporations and the wealthy;

14. And that NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was taken before the Corker Kickback was revealed — a clause inserted specifically to help rich real estate developers like Corker and, oh, yes, Donald Trump. Can’t you just see the commercials coming in 2018 highlighting these self-enrichment schemes in this tax plan?

15. “Drain the swamp?” Whose swamp?

16. The President and the GOP leadership keeps touting that this is a “massive middle-class tax cut.” But how many middle-class people own golf courses, wineries and real estate projects? Yet, this bill has goodies in there to lessen the tax burden on all three. (By the way, Trump owns golf courses, wineries and real estate projects.)

17. For some inexplicable reason, Republicans have allowed Democrats to seize the higher ground on issues we Republicans used to dominate — specifically, the handling of the economy and taxes. Now, after one year of unified GOP rule and in the midst of a recovering economy, the nation prefers Democrats 33-29 to “handle taxes” and favors Democrats by a 35-30 margin to handle the economy;

18. This is gross political malpractice by Trump and the Republican Party. To fritter away our long-term advantage as the “adults in the room” on the economy is disgraceful. But they’ve done it;

19. What has happened here is that, in the midst of an improving economy, Trump has injected his ultra-dominant — and highly unpopular — persona. Thus, in an economy that 63 percent admit is good, Trump’s handling of it is viewed positively by 44 percent but negatively by 51 percent;

20. In fact, more people credit Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHow Obama can win back millions of Trump voters for Biden Biden taps Obama alums for high-level campaign positions: report Democrats debate Biden effort to expand map against Trump MORE for this recovery (45 percent) than Trump (43 percent);

21. And then you add Trump’s support for Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreTrump to hold rally in Sessions's hometown for opponent in Senate runoff: report Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate MORE, or the 17 women who have accused him of groping and grabbing and the MeToo Movement;

22. And the fact that 62 percent of Americans say Trump is not honest;

23. And the 70 percent who say he is not level-headed;

24. As an astute political observer said recently, “With 3 percent economic growth, low unemployment and no inflation, the president should be at or close to 50 percent but Trump is at 36 percent. Why? Because of his toxic personality.”

25. And that personality has become the Republican Personality;

26. Thus, 51 percent of Americans now favor the Democrats to take over Congress in 2018, while only 39 percent want the GOP to maintain control;

27. And, in the all-important “Passion Differential,” the Democrats have the intensity advantage, with 59 percent of them saying they have a “high interest” in the 2018 midterm elections while 49 percent of Republicans say the same thing;

28. Trump’s support is also heavily negative: 48 percent of Americans “strongly disapprove” of him while only 24 percent “strongly approve”;

29. Looking at the off-off-year elections in Virginia, New Jersey, New York and New England — and then the Special Senate election in Alabama on Dec. 12 — we saw the same pattern: The passion was among women, minorities and young voters, who came out to vote in unprecedentedly high numbers — and they voted against the Republicans;

30. So, with 11 months to go before the crucial 2018 midterms, it is way, way too early to predict the outcome. But the odds today are more in favor of a big anti-Trump, anti-Republican Wave Election than they are in a pro-GOP election.

John LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is co-host of "Revolution — The Podcast," available on Soundcloud and iTunes.