Buckle your seatbelts for 100 days of political drama before midterms

Buckle your seatbelts for 100 days of political drama before midterms
© Greg Nash

The economy hums while storm clouds darken the White House. Welcome to the final 100 days before the 2018 midterms. Even as the economy is experiencing is highest rate of growth since 2014, the electorate is angry. Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE has taken command of center stage, and the public is not thrilled with what it sees. When the president is underwater in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, it is time for Republicans to worry.

The real question is how large a bite Trump extract from Republican candidates this fall. Real Clear Politics shows the Democrats leading on the generic congressional ballot by more than seven points. No, that number does not reflect a blue wave. However, it provides Republicans with little room for error, and even less reason for comfort.

ADVERTISEMENT
The cacophony emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days has turned off independents. It has dampened enthusiasm among voters who cast their ballots for both Trump and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBill Maher, Isiah Thomas score over the NFL's playing of 'Black national anthem' Democrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE. These voters are almost as displeased with Trump’s tariffs as they were with Obama’s commitment to global trade. Among independents, nearly three in five disapprove of the president, 45 percent strongly so.

Although Trump revels in the attention, and his supporters grow ever more enthusiastic, the headlines have limited his ability to maneuver, assuming he has any desire to play to less caffeinated Americans. However you slice it, Trump battling Michael Cohen on Twitter is not what the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee want to be staring at.

Regardless, Trump’s approval numbers are stuck in the low 40 percent range, and for the “in” party that is definitely a problem. From the looks of things, the Republicans hold on the House is in jeopardy, and their control of the Senate is in doubt. When Sean Trende tweets, “I think we’re probably back to considering Democrats no worse than 50-50 to take the Senate,” that is certainly news that both parties should consider.

It is key to note that November will be more about dueling bases and their resentments. For Republicans, nuance is an outdated concept. Despite the fact that more than a handful of Republican seats are up for grabs in districts that voted for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE, the party at large appears incapable of appealing to voters who are not partisan diehards.

During the past week, the firebrands over at the House Freedom Caucus introduced an impeachment resolution targeting Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE, the deputy attorney general, only to retreat in haste after Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE voiced his opposition to the move. Meanwhile, Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanAllies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments MORE launched his not so quixotic bid to replace Ryan, despite reports that Jordan ignored allegations of sexual abuse during his time at Ohio State. House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE may well be long in the tooth and a lightning rod in her own right, but Jordan inhabits a different universe. Owning the liberals may be a sentiment, but it has its limits as a strategy.

As for the political center, the Democrats have demonstrated some chops. They backed Conor Lamb, a cultural moderate, in his successful effort to wrest a Republican held seat in Pennsylvania. A recent poll shows Lamb up by double digits in a race that pits him against Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusConor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania CNN's Tapper tried to talk GOP candidate out of running against Democratic incumbent: report Lobbying world MORE, another incumbent and a Republican, the only such contest in the country.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the Democrats can stick to the script. Democratic calls for the abolition of ICE may make the activist base of the party giddy, but the position has few takers in most of the country. Only a quarter of voters support ditching ICE, while a majority favor retaining it. Most Americans oppose separating children from their parent at the border. At the same time, however, they favor border security.

Already, Democrats eyeing 2020, such as Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' The Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review MORE, Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCIA chief team member reported Havana syndrome symptoms during trip to India: report Harris booked for first in-studio talk show appearance as VP on 'The View' Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE, Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees The FBI comes up empty-handed in its search for a Jan. 6 plot MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE, have embraced the siren song against ICE. If their views become dominant between now and November, the Republicans may yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and later served in the U.S. Department of Justice. He is now the managing member of research and analytics firm Ospreylytics.