Juan Williams: GOP fears anti-Trump wave

So far, 24 Republicans have announced their retirements from Congress this cycle. This number is the highest of any congressional cycle since 1973.

What was happening in 1973?

The Watergate scandal. It exposed the lies and cover-ups of Republican President Richard Nixon and forced his resignation.

In the 1974 midterm elections, 49 Democrats took House seats away from the Republicans, giving them more than a 2-1 majority in the lower chamber. Democrats also gained four Senate seats, bringing them up to a total of 60 seats.

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Democrats are praying for history to repeat itself with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE in the Nixon role.

 

Incredibly, Republicans seem to agree that 2018 will be a lot like 1974.

In addition to all the other retirements by House Republicans, there is now talk of Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis Ryan Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan California Governor Newsom and family dress as 2020 Democrats for Halloween DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll MORE (Wis.) possibly quitting, too.

Ryan’s spokesman has denied he is considering resigning. But Nevada Congressman Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiTrump's defenders are running out of options Avoiding the snake in the grass: Let's not allow impeachment to divide us GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine MORE, a very vulnerable Republican in the coming midterms, is on the record telling reporters that is what he is hearing from party colleagues.

Talk of Ryan’s departure is significant because lesser-known House Republicans have no reason to think they will survive if Ryan isn’t inclined to try to hold on.

Take a moderate Republican congressman like Pennsylvania’s Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloFormer GOP Rep. Costello launches lobbying shop Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts Lobbying world MORE. He told MSNBC he is not running for reelection because Trump is making it impossible for House Republicans to do their jobs.

“It’s very difficult for me to get [any] message out because we’re talking about Stormy Daniels, or it was [fired FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe, before that it was [fired secretary of State] Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonNikki Haley fires the first shot in the GOP's post-Trump war State Dept. watchdog: Official's firing was case of political retaliation Steve Schmidt: 'Overwhelming chance that Trump will dump Pence' for Haley MORE and where he heard the news that he was fired, and just one thing after another,” Costello, a two-term Congressman, complained.

And that’s not the only sign of dread among Republicans.

Earlier this month, 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-Nev.) offered another clue of Republican desperation. He promoted a baseless rumor that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was getting ready to retire — a naked ploy to gin up the conservative base to come out and vote for him in November.

Then there is Trump’s budget deal. It explodes the deficit he pledged to reduce.

Also, there is still no funding for any wall on the Mexican border.

And don’t forget, Trump’s flip-flop on his promise to push for stronger background checks for gun purchases and to stop the sale of guns to people under 21.

Oh, and keep in mind Trump’s low approval ratings — historically low for a president who has only been in the White House a little more than a year. Such bad numbers are usually reliable signs that the president’s party is in trouble in the midterms.

And who can ignore the resignation of Trump’s chief personal lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd? He announced he was resigning just before the New York Times reported he discussed presidential pardons with lawyers for Michael Flynn and Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGates sentencing set for next month Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations Trump bemoans 'double standard' in Stone conviction MORE — potentially proof of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

That led George Conway, another top Republican legal mind and the husband of Trump aide Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayNBC signs Mueller 'pit bull' prosecutor Andrew Weissman as legal analyst George Conway and Trump Jr. trade personal insults during impeachment hearing Conway: Trump reacted 'pretty well' to impeachment hearing because 'there was nothing new' MORE, to tweet: “This is flabbergasting.”

Want more evidence of trouble? Trump’s White House counsel Don McGahn has had to obtain his own high-priced DC lawyer to defend him in the Russia probe.

This is the dark reality facing congressional Republicans with the midterms now seven months away.

The heart of their peril is fear of energized Democrats producing a big turnout. That fits with the big turnout for recent student-led marches for gun control.

The Democrats will be marching out to punish Trump, but it is Congressional Republicans who will get trampled.

And what about swing voters?

GOP losses in a special House race in Pennsylvania and the governor’s race in Virginia show support falling for GOP candidates among independent voters and suburban Republican women.

Republicans as well as Democrats see no end of talk about extramarital affairs, hush money and the tightening noose of the Mueller probe.

It is no secret that top Republican lawyer Ted Olson and other experienced DC legal powerbrokers have declined requests to represent Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal pit bull lawyer, is radioactive over his role in the Stormy Daniels affair and may face legal exposure of his own.

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in the closing stretch of the 2016 election campaign — money Daniels says was meant to keep her quiet about an affair with Trump. The White House has said that Trump denies the two had a sexual relationship.

The Stormy Daniels lawsuit is a game-changer because Trump could be forced to give her lawyers a deposition about his sexual past — something that has the potential to set off more scandals.

Trump’s silence about Daniels, after her interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” was seen by 22 million viewers, is more evidence that he fears being deposed by her lawyer.

The 2018 elections will be a referendum on Donald Trump. This is not about the Trump presidency but the man himself.

Without Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy 'Too Far Left' hashtag trends on Twitter MORE to demonize, Trump now faces one opponent he can’t beat: Himself.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.