Jhe early May before the midterm elections marks the start of the primary season and six months of fall campaigning. The conventional view this year is that the Democrats will be beaten in November. Why? Because midterms are usually referendums on a president’s performance, and Biden’s approval ratings are in the cellar.
But the conventional view might be wrong because it ignores the Democrats’ secret sauce that gives them a chance to retain one or both chambers: Trump.
According to recent polls, Trump’s popularity continues to decline. He is only loved by 38% of Americans and hated by 46%. (12% are neutral.) And this isn’t your normal “kinda like, kinda like not at all” poll. The feelings are intense, as they always have been about Trump. Among voters ages 45 to 64 — a group Trump won in 2020, 50% to 49%, according to exit polls — barely 39% now view it favorably and 57%, unfavorably. Among voters 65 and older (52% of whom voted for him in 2020 vs. 47 for Biden) only 44% now view it favorably and more than half (54%) unfavorably. Perhaps more importantly, independents give it even less consideration. Only 26% view it favorably; 68% unfavorably.
Republican lawmakers had hoped — and assumed — that Trump would now have disappeared from the scene, allowing them to launch full-scale attacks on Democrats as the midterms approached. No chance. In fact, Trump’s visibility is increasing day by day.
The media portrays this month’s major Republican primaries as being all about Trump — which is exactly what Trump wants them framed. But this framing is disastrous for Republicans. The Republican primary in Ohio, for example, became a giant proxy battle over who was the most Trumpiest candidate. Candidates have outdone themselves trying to emulate him – swearing at undocumented immigrants, coastal elites, “socialism” and “revivalism,” while regurgitating the big lie Democrats stole in the 2020 presidential election .
Whether Trump’s endorsements pay off in wins for his chosen primary candidates is beside the point. Running these errands all around him, Trump and the media portray the midterm elections as a whole as a referendum on Trump’s continued power and influence. This is exactly what Democrats need.
The House Committee’s June televised hearings on Jan. 6 will likely detail how Trump and his White House orchestrated the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and rekindle memories of Trump’s threat to withhold military aid to the United States. Ukraine unless Ukrainian President Zelensky brings dirt on Biden. But the real significance of the hearings won’t show up in Trump’s approval ratings. It will be in heightened reminders of Trump’s reign in Washington, as well as Trump’s closeness to Putin. The result is an almost certain shift in fringe voter preferences toward Democrats in November.
The Supreme Court’s leaked decision to uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks and overturn Roe v Wade — courtesy of Trump’s three court nominees — will give other Republican states the green light to they are enacting similar or even stricter bans, and will spur Republicans in Congress to push for national legislation to ban abortions nationwide. Republicans think it will inflame their base, but it’s more likely to spark a firestorm among the vast majority of Americans who think abortion should be legal. Score more Democratic votes.
There’s also the possibility of criminal trials over Trump’s business and election fraud – like his brazen attempt to change the vote count in Georgia — the importance of which will be less about whether Trump is found guilty than additional reminders, in the months leading up to the midterms, of Trump’s brazen anarchy.
Meanwhile, Trump will offer America more rallies, interviews and barnstorming to convince voters that the 2020 election was stolen from him, as well as relentless demands that Republican candidates reiterate his big lie. More help for Democrats.
Somewhere along the line, and also before the midterms, Elon Musk is likely to allow Trump to return to Twitter. This decision will be bad for America – fueling more racism, xenophobia and division. But it will serve as an additional reminder of how dangerously incendiary Trump and Trumpism continue to be.
All of this will be accompanied by the continued antics of Trump’s goofy surrogates – Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Steve Bannon, Madison Cawthorn, Trump Junior, et al – who emulate Trump’s bravado, bigotry, division and contempt. for the law. . All are walking billboards for Trumpism’s heinous impact on American life. All will push wavering voters to the Democrats in November.
I’m not suggesting that Democrats seeking election or reelection center their campaigns around Trump. Rather, Democrats must show voters their continued commitment to improving the lives of voters. By November, Democrats are expected to enact laws to help Americans pay for child care costs, lower prescription drug costs and stop oil companies from jacking up prices, for example.
But Democrats can also count on Americans’ awakened awareness of the hatred and chaos that Trump and his Republican enablers have unleashed. And it’s that combination — Democrats picking up a few more victories for average Americans, and Trump and others doing all they can to remember his wickedness — that may well overturn conventional wisdom about midterms and keep the control of the Democrats.