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 TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments 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 RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (Wis.) possibly quitting, too.

Ryan’s spokesman has denied he is considering resigning. But Nevada Congressman Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiBillboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Trump's defenders are running out of options Avoiding the snake in the grass: Let's not allow impeachment to divide us 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 TillersonReport: Trump UK ambassador fired deputy for mentioning Obama in speech Overnight Defense: Ex-Navy secretary slams Trump in new op-ed | Impeachment tests Pompeo's ties with Trump | Mexican president rules out US 'intervention' against cartels Pompeo-Trump relationship tested by impeachment inquiry 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 ManafortGiuliani meets with fired Ukrainian prosecutor who pushed Biden, 2016 claims: report Top State Department official tells senators he has not seen evidence of Ukrainian interference Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe 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 ConwayOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 White House adopts confident tone after Pelosi signals go on impeachment Conway: Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping issue 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 ClintonTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Saagar Enjeti ponders Hillary Clinton's 2020 plans Political ad spending set to explode in 2020 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.