Republicans will need more than the economy to hold the House

Republicans will need more than the economy to hold the House
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE recently injected some reality into his 2018 “red wave” talk. He acknowledged at the Ohio Republican Party’s annual dinner that it will be “probably tougher” for Congressional Republicans to hold the House than the Senate in this year’s midterm elections. 

Trump would be correct. 2018 is a tale of two different midterm elections with control of the Senate currently favoring Republicans and control of the House approaching nightmare status for the Grand Old Party.

History suggests that Republicans will lose the House. In midterm elections between 1934 and 2014, the president’s party lost, on average, 27 House seats, with the average first-term loss being 25 seats. Given that Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats for a majority in the House, this statistic alone is an ominous sign.

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Adding insult to injury for the red team is the fact there are 43 open Republican House seats now without an incumbent on the ballot; a modern record. When combining these two items, it is easy to see why The Hill’s Reid Wilson contends that Republicans could lose anywhere from 72 House seats to as few as 10 or that election prognosticator FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Democrats a better than 71 percent chance to win control of the House.

There is still time for Republicans to flip the script, but the clock is ticking. Yes, Republicans could conceivably hold the House but one thing is pretty certain, they are going to lose seats in the lower chamber of Congress.

The primary issue for House Republicans is staring them right in the face. They have an enthusiasm gap problem. Democrats are beyond fired up. For them, 2018 is personal, and they are focused on one thing – taking down President Trump. This is best evidenced in a recent Fox News poll. According to the survey, 76 percent of Clinton voters are certain they will vote this fall. Among Trump voters that figure is only 67 percent. 

So what do Republicans need to do to improve their fortunes in the House? They need to close the enthusiasm gap and match the Democrats’ voter intensity at the ballot box this November.

Given that 65 percent of Americans rate the economy as “good,” Republicans should certainly tout the economic achievements of the past year; from record low unemployment across every major demographic to millions of new jobs created to more money in people’s pockets.

But it is not enough to focus only on the economy. Voters don’t usually show up to vote to keep a party in power out of sheer gratitude. House Republican candidates will also need to rev up voters emotionally, especially among those who cast ballots for Donald Trump in 2016.

This is best done by reminding voters in the nearly 70 House districts currently in play of the consequences of giving power back to the Democrats in the House.

Namely, that their taxes will certainly go up, that the benefits of the Trump economy will be rolled back, that unending illegal immigration will continue, and that while many House Democrats aren’t saying it publicly – they will seek to impeach President Trump, essentially overturning the results of the 2016 presidential election. They will launch so many Congressional investigations that not only will the economy likely come to a grinding halt but so could the country. It will be every Republicans’ own political hell. Even worse, it will be Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act MORE spearheading the effort.

If Republican candidates fail to put their constituents on alert and are unable to convince them of what is in store if Democrats take back the House, then the lower chamber is already lost. But if they are able to effectively remind them of the consequences, then Republicans might just have a slim chance of holding the House.

Ford O'Connell served as director of rural outreach for John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE’s 2008 presidential campaign; he runs a political consulting business, is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, and is a regular commentator on FOX Business. He has also appeared on CNN. Follow him on Twitter @FordOConnell.