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As we've previously discussed, this week marked Republicans' first big legislative victory in the Trump era— the passage of a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill that is expected to be a huge coup for the mega-rich. Unfortunately for the GOP, however, the bill is massively unpopular. Faced with dismal approval ratings for the tax plan, conservative groups are mounting an aggressive marketing campaign to earn the support of the masses—or, at the very least, make the bill a touch more palatable. But even as they work to tweak the message, Republicans behind the scenes are getting very nervous about next year's midterm elections, Politico explains.
- "Those closest to Trump are bracing for a possible bloodbath in the 2018 midterms, which could obliterate the Republican congressional majorities and paralyze the president’s legislative agenda. The potential for a Democratic wave has grown after Republican losses this fall in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama, and as the president’s approval ratings have plummeted to the 30s."
- In recent weeks, some of the president’s advisers have taken it upon themselves to warn him directly about the fast-deteriorating political environment. White House officials have convened to discuss ways to improve his standing with suburban voters. And on Wednesday, the president met with Kelly, political director Bill Stepien, communications director Hope Hicks, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director in the 2016 campaign, to discuss the political landscape. Lewandowski forcefully raised concerns about the party’s efforts, according to one attendee and another person briefed on the meeting."
WHAT IT MEANS:
- Republicans' efforts to soften the blow of tax bill may do little to change public opinion. In general, most public polling indicates that the majority of Americans just don't think the bill will help them. And that perception could hurt Republicans in the long-term.
- Indeed, add the tax wishy-washiness to Trump's historic disapproval levels, the ongoing Russia investigation, the recent GOP losses in Virginia/Alabama, and whatever craziness is bound to happen in the coming months, and you'll see the GOP could run into a bit of a snag in the 2018 midterm elections. Or, as the pundits have taken to calling it, a "bloodbath."
- NYT: "Officials in both parties believe Democratic gains in the House, where Republicans enjoy a 24-seat majority, could reach as high as 40 seats if the political environment does not improve for the Republicans."
- "And, as of now, it only appears to be worsening.A CNN poll released on Wednesday found that 56 percent of registered voters said they would vote Democratic next November, compared to 38 percent who favored the Republicans, a yawning 18-percentage-point gap that was only slightly bigger than other recent polls. Through that lens, impressions of the new tax law could be warped by partisan feelings."
- "This advantage is showing up in fund-raising, where Democrats are harvesting small-dollar contributions. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced on Wednesday that it raised $6.9 million in November, outraising its Republican counterpart for the seventh month in a row. In November, the National Republican Congressional Committee raised only $3.8 million."
- Vox: "The Republican Party’s polling for the 2018 elections has been looking grimmer and grimmer — and points increasingly toward a possible Democratic wave next year."
- "The latest tests of the generic congressional ballot — essentially, a poll question asking whether people would vote for a Republican or Democrat congressional candidate next year — have shown mostly double-digit leads for Democrats."
- Yes, these articles and polls are compelling. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, or forget about what the pundits and polls were saying in the lead-up to last year's election (anyone remember the NYT predictions?) Instead of obsessing over the polls and the punditry, we should pay attention to what's happening on the ground. In the recent results in Alabama and Virginia, for instance, we have seen shocking and unprecedented Democratic wins. The Alabama victory could be chalked up to a series of errors on Republicans' part, culminating with a deeply divisive candidate accused of molesting teenage girls, but the Virginia win is harder to discount. It could be a fluke, or a harbinger of what's to come. But after last year, we should all get in the habit of taking sweeping political predictions with a grain of salt.