The key job for Republicans is maintaining grip on Congress

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With President Trump’s approval ratings hovering in the 40 percent range and the generic congressional ballot polls favoring the Democrats by six points or more, many Republicans at both the national and the local levels are pondering their strategies to avoid a wave election in midterms this year and maintain legislative control of Congress.

The issues are critical both in key local areas like California, Minnesota and the mid-Atlantic region, and those that have national significance. There are many issues at play, including immigration, state taxes and North Korea. But among those issues in play in the 2018 midterms it is clear that, with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, “one ring rules them all,” and that is the issue of the impeachment of President Trump.

{mosads}The Democrats, and especially their educated liberal base, have been obsessed since even before the election with the arcana of the thus far nonexistent Trump-Russia collusion, the supposed obstruction of the Robert Mueller investigation, and more recently, with the Mercer family, the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook axis and Stormy Daniels.

With a zealotry that would put your typical Area 51 fanatic to shame, they seek to sell middle America on all of their fevered psychodramas with the obvious objective being to nullify the results of the 2016 election and, in a word, bring Trump down. Every Republican in America should run to set the record straight on this issue.

Imagine Republican candidate X in state Y in a congressional debate saying, “My opponent talks about the progressive ideas he wants to bring to Washington. He plans to shake hands across the aisle to work for our district and this great country of ours. But what he really wants, and what his supporters are screaming for every day, is for he and his Democratic colleagues to go to Washington and undo the results of the 2016 election, to thwart the lawfully expressed wishes of the American people, and to impeach the president of the United States.”

He would continue, “My opponent talks about the future, but he is living in the past. He’s not fighting this election. He’s fighting the last one. We all have our differences with the president, especially when he says something like [insert recent appalling tweet here and chuckle]. Yes, I know. But if you voted for the president, and even if you did not, is this the kind of democracy that you want? Is this all that that flag stands for now? Sour grapes and guerilla warfare when the elites aren’t satisfied with the choices of ordinary Americans? I don’t think so.”

There are several advantages to this strategy. First, casting the election as a referendum on impeachment does not bind the candidate to any of the president’s policies. This appeal is to basic fairness and democracy, not specific issues. Second, even if you believe some mainstream media polls showing the percentage of voters who think “there is enough reason for Congress to hold impeachment hearings” is as high as 41 percent, that is still far less than Hillary Clinton’s percentage of the 2016 vote.

For Trump voters, it is outrageous people are trying to undo their votes. But beyond that, most Americans believe deeply in fair play and still view impeachment as an extreme expedient. Those not specifically poisoned with Trump derangement syndrome are becoming increasingly difficult to convince that his presidency represents the apocalypse.

While Trump himself, with his abrasive way of vocalizing common sense ideas, is a genius at backing opponents into hysterical defenses of highly unpopular causes — think kneeling for the National Anthem, a lottery for immigrants from developing countries or having anchor babies to gain a foothold in America — average mortal congressional candidates may not be so adroit. But even if opponents don’t fall into a full-throated defense of impeachment, they will at least then be forced to disavow any such intention, which will rattle and reduce enthusiasm from their base.

Statistically, the Republicans still have a clear advantage. Over the past seven midterm elections, Republicans have picked up an average of 13 House seats, and they currently have an advantage of 23 seats. If the economy remains strong, if there is a glimmer of hope on North Korea, and if the president never again utters the word “dreamers,” the party should be in good shape. Finally, if liberals and their champions can be prompted into exposing to broad daylight their secret inner impeachment delirium, 2018 could be a continuing celebration of 2016.

Michael Stopa (@MikeStopaMA) served as a delegate for Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland. He hosts a political podcast with radio host Todd Feinburg for the Harvard Lunch Club.

Tags campaign Congress Democrats Donald Trump economy Election Government Hillary Clinton Immigration Republicans Robert Mueller Washington

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