Unfortunately for Republicans, when it comes to midterm elections it’s not just the economy, stupid. Yes, a good economy can help the sitting president’s party just as a weak economy can hurt. But even more important is how the American people view the president himself. Never underestimate the power of likeability.
If the economy were the most important single issue in the upcoming elections, there’d be no talk of a blue wave. Republicans wouldn’t be biting their nails, fearing the worst. Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t waste her time dreaming about becoming speaker again.
But Donald Trump, narcissist that he is, has to be the center of attraction, all the time. And as James Carville, the author of that line about how campaigns are all about the economy, recently said about the president: “He’s made himself bigger than the economy. Every conversation starts and ends with Trump.”
The Oval Office isn’t big enough to contain this president’s ego. So the part about how “Every conversation starts and ends with Trump” is just fine with Mr. Trump — and his base. But it’s tough to win midterms if all you’ve got is your base.
Yes, his die-hard fan base loves it when he sticks it to the so-called fake news media; they laugh when he demeans and humiliates his critics; they nod in agreement when he tells them at rallies how wonderful he is … but moderate Republicans and independents hate all of it. The president’s persona makes them cringe. And the GOP won’t hang on to the House – or maybe even the Senate – without support from moderates and independents.
Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster, told the New York Times that, “People think the economy is doing well, but that’s not what they’re voting on – they’re voting on the chaos of the guy in the White House.”
Midterms are also about turnout. And, as of today anyway, Democrats have the wind at their backs. They’ll show up in November even if a meteor hits Earth on Election Day.
But a lot of Republicans – especially the president’s most passionate supporters – think the blue wave is a liberal delusion. Some believe it’s nothing more than fake news. If that confidence leads to complacency in November, there’s only one thing that’s certain: Democrats will be the midterm winners – and President Trump likely will face impeachment.
The election is less than two months off, but that’s still a long way in politics. But if the Democrats do well, it won’t be because of fake news, or moderate Republicans who didn’t have the president’s back, or Robert Mueller’s so-called witch hunt, or the late John McCain contempt for the president, or liberal bias in social media, or Barack Obama on the stump.
But neither will it be because Americans have embraced progressive ideas about abolishing ICE or funding sanctuary cities or a Bernie Sanders fascination with free stuff for the masses.
If there’s anything resembling a blue wave, it’ll be because Donald Trump craves attention and isn’t happy unless he gets lots and lots of it. His base loves that about him. Too many others are turned off by it. And before this is over, the tumult and chaos of the Trump presidency may obscure the booming economy he had so much to do with.
Or to put it another way: Donald Trump’s ego is the Democrats’ ace in the hole.