Is Trump an Obama 2.0?

The blue wave continues. This week, Rebecca Dallet, the Democratic-favored candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, defeated Michael Screnock, her Republican rival backed by the NRA, by double digits. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Fireworks on health care expected at Dem debate | Trump FDA pick dodges on vaping ban | Trump to host meeting on youth vaping Friday | AMA calls for immediate vaping ban GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal MORE said, 2018 “is going to be a challenging election year” and “the wind is going to be in our face. We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4 or 5.”

From the looks of things, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE is now on course to become Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Debate gives Democrats a chance to focus on unaddressed issues of concern to black voters Is Joe Biden finished? MORE 2.0 and George W. Bush reborn, a sitting president who presided over his party’s loss of both the House and Senate, with one major difference. It took Obama and Bush six years in office to notch that dubious achievement. Trump, by contrast, may get there well within his first term, only two years after his own election, just like Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage The 2 events that reshaped the Democratic primary race MORE did with the 1994 midterms.

But the thing is that President Trump is no President Clinton. The latter was not hostage to his base and was capable of pivoting. More than that, Clinton knew how to cajole when necessary and reached across the aisle when he had to. But Trump, for all of his self-proclaimed dealmaking skills, appears incapable of forging a consensus without looking like he’s being rolled or reflexively backing down when his own base complains.

The denounced budget deal and Trump’s about-face on guns in the face of pushback from the gun lobby illustrate his shortcomings. Forget former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTillerson: Using American aid for 'some kind of personal gain [is] wrong' Nikki Haley fires the first shot in the GOP's post-Trump war State Dept. watchdog: Official's firing was case of political retaliation MORE and his jabs at the president’s intelligence. When Ann Coulter unloads on Trump as a”shallow, lazy ignoramus,” there is no need to guess what Democrats are saying publicly and Republicans are whispering in congressional cloakrooms.

And all that was before the latest round in the dust-up over China and tariffs. Back in early March, Trump was telling anyone who would listen that “trade wars are good and easy to win.” Not anymore. With the stock market in turmoil, and Trump’s rural base about to catch it in the neck, the White House has suddenly shown a glimmer of recognition that going head-to-head with China over trade is not going to be easy.

On Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “We are not in a trade war.” But this brewing trade brouhaha has painted a target squarely on the face of Trump country, with its bullseye right atop the states with the largest soybean acreage, all of them in the Midwest, and eight of them that went for Trump. It goes beyond the president sticking it to his own voters.

It is also about Trump jeopardizing Republican control of Congress and states. Races in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and North Dakota stand to tip the balance in the Senate. Yet, those four states stand to bear an outsized burden on soy tariffs. Likewise, gubernatorial contests in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota may also turn on how far south trade relations between the United States and China sink.

Not surprisingly, the American Farm Bureau Federation proclaimed that the trade spat between the United States and China “has to stop.” According to Zippy Duvall, who leads the organization, “We have bills to pay and debts we must settle, and cannot afford to lose any market, much less one as important as China’s.” For the record, that’s the heartland talking, not Wall Street.

In a similar statement on the impact of tariffs on farmers, Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Tensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation MORE of Iowa said, “There is a real danger that increased tariffs on U.S. exports will harm Iowa producers and undermine the rural economy. The administration’s action could hurt global supply chains and may lead to higher consumer prices.” To be clear, Ernst is a Republican and a veteran.

While it is doubtful that rural Republicans will be voting for Democrats in November, it is more likely that their enthusiasm will be dulled. With Democrats already fired up, Republicans can ill afford to debate the exact type of storm it will be facing in seven months. What does it matter if it’s a Category 3, 4 or 5?

For the moment, call it a freight train barreling down the tracks, with Republican control of Congress the potential casualty. Yes, we have seen this movie before. The question is whether anyone remembers.

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.