This is not a rose-colored view. The midterm elections are going to be dicey for Republicans in the House. Virtually all of modern American history, regardless of party i power, demonstrates this. Yes, the GOP could definitely lose the House.
First, here are the numbers suggesting GOP vulnerability in the House. In 16 out of 18 post-WWII midterms, the president’s party has lost House seats. Importantly, the average loss for the president’s party is 25 House seats. The Republicans currently have a 23-seat majority.
However, there is a counter case to the media narrative that muddies the electoral waters in a way not normally seen. This is pure political analysis, and things could change. Certainly some of the recent election losses are serious red flags.
First a quick look at the two exceptions to the postwar rule on midterm elections. In 1998 under President Clinton, Democrats picked up five seats. That was a second term president and a booming economy — which is relevant based on the case below. The other exception was in 2002 under President Bush, when Republicans picked up six seats in the House.
Both of those presidents had very high approval ratings; 66 percent for Clinton in a very strong economy and 63 percent for Bush, but we were a nation at war, just a year after the 9-11 attacks and Americans rally behind the president during times of war. In this Gallup chart, you can see how the midterm elections track generally with the president’s approval rating. President Trump’s Gallup approval rating is 39 percent. Reagan’s was 42 percent during his first midterm, and the GOP lost 28 seats.
So just by the numbers, it looks pretty bad for Republicans. And it may be. But numbers are usually driven by underlying factors — which is why Clinton in 1998 and Bush in 2002 bucked the overarching trend.
So let’s look at some of those underlying issues. There are at least seven fairly major areas affecting Americans that should be favorable for the President in power in a midterm election. Here they are in probable order of importance in November.
1) The Economy. Whether measured by GDP growth or job growth or unemployment rates, the American economy is perhaps the strongest it has been this century. This is a pocketbook issue and has always electorally benefitted the party in power. (Clinton in 1998.)
2) Tax Cuts. The tax reform package is putting more money in people’s pockets. It’s as if the GOP Congress and President Trump gave Americans a pay raise. This also is a very positive pocketbook issue. (Bush in 2002, from the 2001 tax cuts and, as stated, the 9-11 attacks.)
3) Obamacare rollbacks. More freedom for millions of Americans who will not be penalized for not buying a product that their betters in Washington were forcing them to buy. Again, a positive pocketbook issue, in addition to a liberty issue.
4) Deregulation. This has been going on steadily through the White House, freeing American corporations to be more competitive and provide more affordable products and services for Americans. This is the hidden gem because it is largely unreported, but it helps tens of thousands of companies and their employees, and will continue to benefit the economy.
5) Jobs and Manufacturing Jobs. President Obama said of declining manufacturing jobs that those are gone and they’re never coming back. Under Trump, American companies have added 222,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Obama was wrong, because Democrats have the wrong policies. This can matter in blue collar purple districts.
6) North Korea. For the first time, North Korea’s psycho leader is talking seriously to South Korea and reached out to meet with an American president. This may still tank given the brutal regime’s history, but just getting this far without giving in to extortion as previous administrations did is an accomplishment. It’s not a big electoral needle-mover, but it doesn’t hurt. Improving Trump’s approval rating could translate into House wins.
7) Hammering Putin and Russia. Despite all the Trump-Russia collusion nonsense, for which there is stil l no evidence at all, Trump has been considerably harder on Russia than Obama, who openly colluded with Russia during his 2012 re-election campaign. He’s bombed Russian allies, extended military cooperation with our Eastern European allies facing Russia and has slapped sanctions on Russia for meddling in 2016.
As demonstrated, several of these mitigating factors have played a role in the two midterm exceptions. They will play a role in this year’s also. Whether they are enough to offset the momentum and excitement of Democrat wins in 2017 and the most recent in Pennsylvania, only time will tell.
The wild card remains, of course, President Trump — his mannerisms that turn off a percentage of Americans who otherwise agree with this policies, if they are aware of them — and whether he will modify those mannerisms. Based on the underlying attitude of people thinking the nation is going in the right direction, it is probably Trump’s mannerisms and the daily drumbeat of negativity in the media that is driving down his approvals.
The media definitely won’t change. Trump probably won’t change them much. However, he already has dialed back the little side-fighting tweet wars with celebrities, athletes and other knuckleheads.
One last wild card is the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If Mueller finds real corruption in the Trump campaign, then a blue wave is assured. But that is seemingly not going to happen. If Mueller finds nothing more on Trump and Russia, or even pivots toward Clinton and the Democrats, that could blunt a lot of Democrat momentum.
Either way, it seems clear that a blue wave is not assured at this point — Democrat fundraising letters and media reports notwithstanding.