The failure of Donald Trump to repeal and replace Obamacare, as he repeatedly claimed he would do as soon as he took office, has led to a further deterioration in public perceptions of Trump’s job performance, and risks hurting the entire Republican Party. I have previously looked at predictions that a low approval rating for Trump could cost Republicans control of the House. National Journal has another prediction that Dems Could Take House in 2018:
Democrats now have a realistic shot at retaking the House in 2018. Each of the past three midterm elections have swung wildly against the party in power—reflective of the longstanding dissatisfaction of voters towards political leadership, no matter who’s in charge. Trump’s job approval rating is hovering around 40 percent, a toxic level for the dozens of Republicans running for reelection in swing districts. Republicans would be foolish to assume that President Obama’s coalition of millennials and nonwhite voters—many of whom stayed home in past midterm elections—remains disengaged given their aversion to Trump.
Politically speaking, the health care bill couldn’t have been more damaging for Republicans. In a disciplined Congress, safe-seat Republicans would be more willing to take risky votes so those in competitive seats could maintain some independence from the party. But this time, hard-line conservatives in the Freedom Caucus declared their unstinting opposition early on, forcing some vulnerable Republicans to go on record in support of the unpopular legislation—which didn’t even come to a vote. Adding insult to injury, Trump bragged on Twitter that the health care exchanges would collapse as a result of his inaction—the worst possible message to send to anyone who viewed Trump as a can-do executive…
There are already signs that Trump’s sagging approval rating is raising the possibility of a stunning upset in an upcoming congressional election in suburban Atlanta. The race, to fill the vacant seat held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, couldn’t be more relevant to the health care debate. One public poll shows the Democratic front-runner, Jon Ossoff, narrowly leading several of his GOP opponents in a runoff—this in a conservative district that has elected Republicans to Congress for over four decades. Fearing an embarrassing defeat, the party’s leading House super PAC is spending over $2 million on attack ads connecting Ossoff with Nancy Pelosi.
Of the 36 at-risk House Republicans, according to The Cook Political Report’s ratings, 28 represent urban or suburban districts where Trump isn’t particularly popular. In last year’s election, most of these GOP representatives significantly outperformed Trump as voters distinguished between the presidential nominee and the record of their own member of Congress. But with Trump as president, that distinction is harder to make…
Democrats need to net 24 seats to win back the House majority, which sounds a lot more imposing than it actually is. As political analyst Nathan Gonzales noted in a recent column, the president’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterms, with an average loss of 33 seats in those 18 losing cycles. Two of the most important big-picture factors—presidential approval and partisan enthusiasm—are now pointing against the GOP.
Under normal circumstances, Republicans would experience some early governing successes and rally behind their president. With Trump, Republicans have come up empty-handed so far. We’re more than a year away from the next big elections, but there are already signs that a Category 5 hurricane is building.
The Republicans risk further losses following their defeat on health care. Trump continues to lose credibility, and is losing in his attacks on the press. Many sources, including The Wall Street Journal, have discussed the difficulties they will have on rewriting the tax code. Trump’s executive order to reverse Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change could also turn out to harm Republicans. The New York Times, in an editorial describing the harm which Trump’s actions will do, concluded in noting the possible public opinion backlash:
And then there is public opinion. It punished the Republicans severely in 1994 when Newt Gingrich and his allies tried to roll back environmental laws. It punished them again in 2008 after eight years of denialism and prevarication on climate change under George W. Bush and his fossil fuel acolyte, Dick Cheney. There is time enough before Mr. Trump’s ignorance translates into actual policy for the public to make its opposition to this anti-science agenda felt again.
It is possible that the Democrats might benefit from Trump’s unpopularity regardless of what they do, but it must also be kept in mind that the Democrats did lose to Trump in 2016 despite all the blunders from Trump during his campaign. That might be written off as the consequence of the Democrats fielding a weak candidate against him, but it also must be kept in mind how the Democrats also lost badly in 2010 and 2014 when they ran as a Republican-lite party. The Democrats need to have the courage to stand for something, giving voters a positive reason to vote for them rather than counting on dislike of Republicans to be enough.