Is Brand Trump toxic for the Republicans in the midterms?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Donald Trump is the campaigner-in-chief. The unprecedented president seems more at home at rallies of his fanatic supporters, rather than in office, and the 2018 midterm election suits his style. He can be loud and brash, insult his opponents and sing his own praises. It could, however, suit the Democrats' electoral hopes, too.
He will be at the front and centre of the midterm campaign trail for the Republicans, and could be problematic for the party. So far this year, he has visited 15 states, in various capacities as president, up for grabs in the congressional contests.
In the last five months alone, Trump has visited each of the 10 states with incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election that he captured in the 2016 presidential election, according to ABC News.
On Friday, in a radio interview with Sean Hannity, he said that he intends to campaign "six or seven days a week during the final two months of the campaign season. Trump has also agreed to donate a portion of his re-election fund to the 100 GOP candidates running in the congressional contests in November.
The Democrats could be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect. The Hill calls Trump's command of the spotlight a "high risk strategy". His low approval ratings may play a factor - standing on average at the 41 per cent mark - even though they have slowly ticked up in recent weeks. Trump may be able to drive up the Republican turnout, but equally his involvement will "juice Democratic turnout, a factor that they think will outweigh any beneficial effect on GOP voter enthusiasm".
Trump is causing "constant headaches for Republican candidates, and fodder for their Democratic challengers", ABC News argues. He is a "destabilising and unpredictable force" for the midterms, and this has resulted in an uptake in Democratic primary turnout. They are hoping that a blue wave will rise to fuel the party's hopes of potentially retaking the House of Representatives.
There is even an argument that Trump is trying to throw the election. Over the past week, the president has belittled conservative donors, attacking the "globalist Koch brothers", threatened a pre-election shutdown and talked about slashing the taxes for the wealthy. Trump is obsessed with blaming everything on his enemies. However, after 18 months in office, he can no longer blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, with his attacks becoming tedious.
The Roll Call argues: "But a Democratic House and Senate would allow Trump to blame everything from North Korean nukes to Chinese tariffs on Congress. In Trump’s telling, if a dinner steak at the White House in 2019 were served medium rare instead of well done, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would somehow be responsible."
His presidency is resulting in mini-Trumps contesting the House and Senate seats up for grabs in the fall. There are GOP candidates who are both embracing his populist agenda and his abrasive campaign style. They have taken on his insults, reducing Democrat candidates to one or two-word unflattering monikers, and attacking the so-called "fake news" media. According to the Guardian, several imitators have already fallen by the wayside in Republican primaries, and others are struggling in opinion polls against their Democratic rivals.
"It is a sign of Trump's cult-of-personality dominance of the Republican party that candidates are now falling over each other to demonstrate their ideological fealty. All are aware that his endorsement can make the difference between victory and defeat among primary voters," they write. It may be an effective tactic in the primary races, with Trump's 88 per cent approval rating among Republicans, but it is a different matter for the general American public where his standing is not so high.
Donald Trump, as always, will be making the headlines as he casts himself as the star of the midterms. This may not be good news for the Republicans, who are hoping to keep hold of control over the House and the Senate. Democrats, meanwhile, are more than happy to let the chaotic president do his thing on the campaign trail, motivating their voters to turn out against him.