President Trump’s approval ratings are low. Democratic voters are motivated like never before. And the GOP has struggled to put away a trio of special election House races in districts where it won easily just last November.
For some Republicans, it all leads to a simple conclusion: The party should start worrying about the 2018 elections
Less than three months after taking control of Washington, the Republican Party has already been put on the political defensive -- thanks primarily to House races in Kansas, Georgia, and Montana that have proven unexpectedly difficult.
Rather than coast to easy wins in these contests, the party has been forced to respond with last-minute phone calls, visits from top party leaders, and millions of dollars in TV ads. Even President Trump has had to weigh in.
The first of the three special elections, a race in Kansas on Tuesday, was too close to call hours after the polls had closed. But even if the Republican nominee Ron Estes wins, he’ll have only barely defeated a candidate in a heavily Republican district.
Last year, the Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo (now the president’s CIA director) won re-election by more than 30 points.
“We should be concerned whether we win these races or not,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist closely watching another special election taking place next week in Georgia. “They’re far more competitive than they should be.”
With 19 months before the midterm election, Republicans are not yet close to panicking about their majority in either the House or Senate. And they point to a host of extenuating circumstances in these upcoming races that, they say, won’t affect November 2018 battles.
But parties that hold the White House traditionally lose seats in midterm elections. And GOP operatives say those losses could be significant if Trump and congressional Republicans don’t turn it around by then.
“At the end of the day, the national environment has to get better for us not to lose the House,” said one House GOP strategist, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “The way things are headed, we would lose the House.”
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