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 nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ 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 RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE (Wis.) possibly quitting, too.

Ryan’s spokesman has denied he is considering resigning. But Nevada Congressman Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiRevitalize our defense industrial base with mine permitting reform To reduce China's leverage, rebuild America's minerals supply chain GOP staves off immigration revolt — for now 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 CostellloOvernight Energy: Park Service closing Joshua Tree after shutdown damage | Dems deliver trash from parks to White House | Dems offer bills to block offshore drilling | Oil lobby worries about Trump trade fight Ex-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch 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 TillersonHeather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation 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 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-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 ManafortTrump has publicly criticized Russia probe more than 1,100 times: NY Times Judge orders Stone to appear in court after he shared photo of her with crosshairs Roger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case 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 ConwayTrump, Harris, Ocasio-Cortez, Charlie Kirk among Twitter's most-engaged users White House seeks to clarify Trump remarks on emergency Trump says he 'didn't need to' declare emergency but wanted 'faster' action 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 ClintonSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Roger Stone invokes gag order in new fundraiser 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.