By MARSHA MERCER
As the midterm elections draw closer, prospects are improving for Democrats to retake the House.
If that happens, Democrats can thank President Donald Trump in part.
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball political newsletter at the University of Virginia said this week Democrats now have a better than 50-50 chance of regaining control of the House.
It was the first time Sabato has gone above 50-50 this cycle, though other political analysts have said a Democratic win of the House is likely. It’s still possible something could happen before November to change that scenario, but the trend favors Democrats.
Historically, the party out of power does well in midterms, as the Crystal Ball summarizes:
“The president’s party has lost ground in 36 of 39 House midterms since the Civil War with an average loss of 33 seats. In the more recent past, since the end of World War II, the average seat loss is 26 seats, or right on the borderline of the 23 net seats the Democrats need to elect a House majority.”
Trump is making the minority party’s task easier by energizing Democrats. To borrow a phrase from the past, they’re “fired up,” motivated to contribute to campaigns and to vote.
More significantly, Trump is losing favor among independents. Trump’s job approval among independents was just 40 percent and 36 percent, according to the most recent Fox News and NBC-Wall Street Journal polls.
He’s unpopular overall as well. His approval rating languishes in the 40s, and a record number of voters see this election as a vote for or against Trump, a survey by the Pew Research Center found.
Many analysts expected him to track toward the center after he took office but instead he stayed in campaign mode, attacking Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats.
He reneged on his promise to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare with something better and cheaper. Instead he used his executive power to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s coverage for tens of millions of Americans, raising costs and presenting Democrats with a potent issue.
With “Medicare for all” no longer a fringe idea, the Trump administration has revived charges of socialized medicine. Worried House Republicans passed several measures that would rein in health-care costs, but none is expected to pass the Senate.
Trump’s ongoing war with his own Justice Department and his embarrassing behavior with Russian President Vladimir Putin make him appear guilty of something involving Russia.
He continues to prop up straw man foes for his culture wars, such as the NFL players’ protest of taking a knee during the National Anthem.
And he has nominated a slew of conservative judges to lifetime appointments, further inciting concern among Democrats and independents about the future of Roe v. Wade.
Democrats need Senate control to stop Trump’s judicial juggernaut, but with Democrats defending more than twice as many seats as Republicans, so many things have to go right for Democrats, change is unlikely.
Trump’s constant pandering to his base is paying off – with his base. His job approval among Republicans is sky-high -- 84 percent and 88 percent in the Fox and NBC-Journal polls, respectively.
“Stick with us,” he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention Tuesday. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people – the fake news,” he said.
Trump may think he can hold the House by turning out his die-hard supporters, but polls suggest that’s unlikely, because of independents.
Independents by more than 20 points now favor a Congress controlled by Democrats, 48 percent to 26 percent, the NBC-Journal poll reported. That’s up from 7 points in June, when the spread was 39 percent to 32 percent.
And so the election approaches, and day by day Trump becomes more shrill, a tactic likely to turn independents away even more.
“Just remember,” he told the VFW. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Trump probably had no idea Orwell wrote in “1984”: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was the final, most essential command.”
You can be sure social media will let voters know about such eerie Orwellian echoes. Democrats may well may say, keep talking, Mr. Trump, and thank you.
©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.