Trump is the Democratic secret weapon

Democrats have a wafer-thin majority in Congress, which will be difficult to maintain in the midterm election. But President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE and his party have a secret weapon to deploy next year and his name is Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE.

A new president’s party has fared badly in the midterm elections. In 2010, after Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMillennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Biden's Cuba problem: Obama made a bet and lost Democrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory MORE became president in 2008, Democrats endured massive losses and lost control of the House. Two years after Trump became president, Democrats won big and regained control of the House. 

This pattern places Biden and Democratic-controlled Congress in jeopardy next year, but there are factors that work in his party’s favor.

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The biggest Democratic advantage is the contrast between the 46th and the 45th president. 

Trump is the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats. During his presidency, the GOP lost the White House and both houses of Congress, and his continued prominence in the hearts and minds of many Republicans could undermine GOP hopes of taking back Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024. 

The latest Real Clear Politics average indicates that most Americans have favorable opinions of Biden, while more than half of the public dislikes Trump.  

Even though Trump is unpopular, Republicans just can’t bring themselves to let him go.

Republicans are focused on relitigating the outcome of the 2020 election rather than moving forward to fight the 2022 campaign. Almost six months after the presidential election, Republicans in Arizona are still recounting ballots in a futile effort to prove that Trump won the state he lost to Biden.

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Democrats in the Grand Canyon State should be pleased that the Republicans there are devoting all their energy on a pointless effort to reverse the 2020 election, rather than on a focused campaign to defeat the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Mark KellyMark KellyHarris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Poll: Two-thirds of AZ Democratic voters back primary challenge to Sinema over filibuster MORE, who is running for a full six-year term in 2022.

Republicans are so obsessed with Trump that they are willing to abandon their ideological commitment to conservatism. Last week they unceremoniously dumped Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPhotos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris Jordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 Stefanik calls Cheney 'Pelosi pawn' over Jan. 6 criticism MORE (R-Wyo.) from her caucus leadership position to rebrand the party of Reagan as the party of Trump.

Cheney is a very conservative Republican, but the House minority caucus jettisoned her anyway because of her refusal to accept the Big Lie that Trump had been cheated out of a second term in the White House. The caucus replaced her with Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikStefanik calls Cheney 'Pelosi pawn' over Jan. 6 criticism GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto MORE (R-N.Y.), who has only a moderately conservative voting record but does support the failed former president. 

The GOP is caught between a rock and hard place. Trump is bad for the party, but his popularity with GOP partisans hinders his party from reaching out to the many Americans who don’t like him.

Rank and file Republicans cherish the former president and his approach to policy and politics. They ferociously cling on to the fantasy that Trump won the recent presidential campaign, and they believe that Republican politicians should emulate his leadership example that led the nation almost to the abyss. 

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Trump’s trials and tribulations also could create trouble for Republicans. The New York attorney general just announced the start of a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization. This inquiry could open a can of worms that creates legal problems for the ex-president and political problems for the GOP. 

On the flip side, most Americans like Biden, and GOP attacks on his liberalism have fallen on deaf ears.  

The pandemic has started to recede, and the economy has begun to revive. If the improved health and wellbeing of the body politic continues, Biden should be in a better position than Obama and Trump were late in the second year of their presidencies.  

Heading into their first midterm elections, Trump and Obama had Gallup Poll job ratings that were underwater. If Biden maintains, or even increases, his ratings as the nation recovers, Democrats will prosper next year instead of suffering.  

That would mean Democrats would reverse the historical pattern and the president’s party will gain seats instead of losing them in 2022. Republicans are prepared to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory while they blindly follow Trump. They are making a big bet on the bad boy of American politics.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.