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If Trump winds up firing Rosenstein, Republicans face midterm disaster

If Trump winds up firing Rosenstein, Republicans face midterm disaster
© Anna Moneymaker

It’s not that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorsi sues Mueller for alleged leaks and illegal surveillance Comey: Trump 'certainly close' to being unindicted co-conspirator Trump pushes back on reports that Ayers was first pick for chief of staff MORE plays with electoral fire, it’s that he seems to wallow in napalm. The latest incendiarism involves Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGraham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey McCabe, Rosenstein opened obstruction probe after Trump fired Comey, before Mueller was hired: report MORE and how his dismissal might impact the midterm elections. A bit of perspective: The 2006 Democratic wave elections were about “corruption.” The 2010 Republican wave elections were about “ObamaCare.” Republicans know the 2018 elections aren’t breaking their way when the message is “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.”

No episode of “The Apprentice” approximates the drama, suspense and likely ratings of tomorrow’s “woodshed moment” between the president of the United States and the guy who may or may not have tried to fire the president through the 25th Amendment, which now vies with that old favorite, the 5th Amendment, in popular recognition.

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Just 41 days before the midterm elections, the conventional wisdom is that Trump can’t afford to let Rosenstein leave. But haven’t we learned that “conventional” and “wisdom” aren’t exactly overused to describe this White House? For midterm mavens, here’s the prognosis: Every midterm is a referendum on the sitting president’s party.

According to the Gallup Daily tracking of support for Trump since his inauguration, Democrats have gone from a negligible 13 percent to a barely discernible 6 percent. A Rosenstein adieu won’t have much impact there. In the same tracking, Republican support has held steady at about 88 percent. The “he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue” crowd won’t drift if Trump cuts him loose.

With the poles frozen, this is a fight for the middle. These are the independents whose support for Trump has declined from 42 percent to 33 percent. These are the swing voters and the nonpartisans. Nothing swings them more than partisan abuse of power. Like, say, when the boss fires the guy in charge of the guy investigating the boss.

Now Republicans stand aghast at another squandered and shocking news cycle. Two things at the tip of every pundit’s tongue this week are Rod Rosenstein and Christine Blasey Ford. Meanwhile, news of a successful economy seems to hover irrelevantly above the heads of most voters.

In a typical environment, a Rosenstein departure from the Justice Department would light a match to the midterm elections. It would feed the narrative of chaos, drown out messaging on the economy, and pull independent voters away from Republican candidates. But this is “Make America Hysterical Again” … and again … and again.

Today it’s Rod Rosenstein. A few weeks ago it was Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBarr turned down defense attorney job with Trump: report Paul calls Trump's pick for attorney general's views on surveillance 'very troubling' John Kelly to leave White House at year's end MORE. Last season, it was Colin Kaepernick. Once, Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine, was in Trump’s crosshairs and spilling from the wagging tongues of cable news experts. Remember her? President Trump hasn’t exactly demonstrated a highly strategic approach to the midterms, other than screaming into an echo chamber. Sure, he doesn’t want to risk a Democratic majority in Congress using subpoenas to poke around his business dealings.

But there’s likely a higher strategic imperative in the Rosenstein drama: Continue to muddy the waters and numb the electorate. Blow up the special counsel investigation even if it leaves House and Senate Republicans as collateral damage. Discredit the very institution of justice so he can mock justice. Because the one true thing Donald Trump has sworn to protect and defend is Donald Trump.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelA father and son unite the nation How Nancy Pelosi won more votes for Speaker than anyone expected GOP sits back and enjoys Dem fight over Pelosi MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is “Big Guns.” You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and on Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.