2018 midterm defeat will be even worse than Republicans let on

There are seven months before the November 6 midterm elections and the media and political observers are frothing over “The Coming Blue Wave”.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Ky.) last week in a Q&A in Kentucky forecasta Category 3, 4 or 5” coming at the GOP in November. So, let us look at this question: Will the Democrats win back control of one or both houses of Congress? And is the blue wave so big that it might hurt GOP control of state houses and governorships? Seven months is still too far way to predict anything, but there are preliminary indications that should deeply worry Republicans.

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We all know about the special elections in the past year and the disproportionate Democratic and Independent turnout in these races. Even in the races the Democrats lost — Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina, among others — they significantly closed the gap as compared to 2016 or other recent GOP victories.

And there is the fundraising gap as Democrats are far outraising Republicans. Vox reports:

“At least 55 Democratic candidates in competitive House races are raising more than the Republican incumbents they’re challenging.

“More than 80 Democrats running in Republican-held districts had at least $250,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2017, according to the FEC data.”

Other concerning factors for Republicans include:

  1. The Pennsylvania redistricting mess, which might give 2-6 GOP seats over to the Democrats;
  2. The 38 GOP retirements, so far;
  3. The persistent rumor that Speaker Ryan might not run again;
  4. And then there is the highly-energized “Me Too” movement and the Parkland shooting aftermath – both of which energize women and young voters to vote in the midterms, when usually their participation rate is decreased;

Countering all of that is an improving economy — with the GOP able to take credit for it through the tax cut and deregulation but can the economy overcome all this Trump-induced negativity?

Let’s cut to the chase: just as every political discussion at dinner or at the water cooler or anywhere else centers around The t-word — Trump — so, too, every political campaign in 2018 – whether they want to admit it or not — will be a referendum on Trump and his Republican Party. Here is how that will play out in the midterms this fall:

1. Trump’s omnipresence nationalizes the midterms;

2. No Republican candidate can separate him or herself from Trump; they just can’t do it and few are even trying. The only elected GOP candidates who publicly criticize the president are those who are not running again;

3. Trump fascinates many people; he repels many others; but he dominates everything political and that is why he will be the only issue in 2018;

4. And here is where it goes badly for the Republicans:

5. The passion differential is a template I use to predict elections. It is quite simple: which side is more ticked off? That is the side who will win;

6. Happy, contented voters don’t come out in off-year or mid-term election at the rate they do in presidential years; but angry voters are dying to vote;

7. Example: last November in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, suburban voters stood for hours in the rain to vote. Why? Because it was their first chance since November 2016 to weigh in on Trump; and the anti-Trumpers propelled a lackluster Democrat to a 9-point wipe-out of the Republicans;

8. Go back to 2010, the first midterm election year of the Obama presidency. There was the passage – in a sneaky, smelly, rigged way with dirty-sounding deals in the Senate – of ObamaCare. And then there was the rise of a from-the-bottom-up new movement: the Tea Party, which arose inside the GOP and began to transform it;

9. In that November mid-terms the Republicans won a whopping 63 seats. Why? The passion differential favored all those voters who were ticked off over ObamaCare and excessive federal spending. They streamed out to vote — while some Democrat voters, content that they had elected Obama and implemented the first-ever iteration of national health insurance, stayed home;

10. It doesn’t take much: if 5 percent more Democrats bother to vote while 5 percent fewer Republican vote, then there is your passion differential;

11. Along with regaining control of the House, that 2010 election saw statehouses and governorships flip from blue to red; and this was crucial as the 2010 census led the way to the 2012 redistricting in which GOP statehouses re-drew districts more favorable to GOP candidates;

12. By the way, it happened again in the 2014 midterms: a still-unpopular ObamaCare was the ONLY issue and, despite widespread predictions to the contrary, the Republicans won back control of the Senate;

13. 2018 is going be the exact same thing: anti-Trumpism is virtually the only energizing force. Trump himself only makes it worse for the GOP; his obsession with his “base” precludes an effort to reach out to Independents, the crucial swing voters who determine election outcomes;

14. Trump is in the process of handing the House – and maybe even the Senate (the recent poll in Tennessee worries GOP leaders) – to the Democrats; in fact, Trump has single-handedly resuscitated a moribund Democratic Party;

15. Forget all this hand-wringing about what the Democratic “message” is; they don’t have — or even need to have — a message;

16. The message voters are sending is simple: Trump is a disaster and has to go. That means his party has to go too. Period.

17. Thus the 2018 passion differential: big Democratic gains up and down the ballot. A huge rebuke to Trump and to his Republican Party.

John LeBoutillier, a former U.S. congressman (R-N.Y.), is the co-host of REVOLUTION — The Podcast, available on Soundcloud and iTunes.