Trump, Democrats in final midterms push
President Trump embarked on a whirlwind eight-state campaign tour this week, in a last-minute drive to keep the House and Senate in Republican hands in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. As The Week went to press, polling site FiveThirtyEight.com gave Republicans an 85 percent chance of holding the Senate. It also gave the Democrats an 85 percent chance of winning at least the 23 seats they need to regain control of the House of Representatives. “It’s going to be a great night for America,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Early turnout surged in several key states. In Florida, more than 3 million people had cast ballots a week before the vote, a state record. Early voting was also up in Texas, where lines at polling stations snaked around the block, and in Georgia, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was locked in a close race with Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
With the campaign in its final stages, both parties made their closing pitches to voters. Democrats attacked the GOP’s record on health care and tax cuts and the party’s reluctance to defy Trump. Meanwhile the president talked up his crackdown on illegal immigration, vowing to end birthright citizenship, and warned of the dangers of handing Democrats’ political power. The party, he said at a Houston rally, will “take a giant wrecking ball” to the “extraordinary prosperity that we’ve all achieved.” Both parties are expected to spend a total of $5.2 billion on the midterms, making it the most expensive in U.S. history.
What the editorials said
Trump has served up some of his finest demagoguery on the campaign trail, said The New York Times. That’s drowned out his subtler return to the “broadly popular policy themes” of his 2016 campaign. He’s promised to tackle spiraling prescription drug costs and spend big on American infrastructure. If they win the House, Democrats should consider these areas “on which the president and Democratic lawmakers might actually be able to get something done.” Liberals may doubt Trump’s willingness to reach across the aisle. But remember: “The man likes to win.”
“The battle for Congress is the main event this election,” said The Wall Street Journal, but “the fight for control of 36 governorships may be as consequential.” Republicans hold 26 of the statehouses up for grabs, and “the stakes are worth highlighting.” In Michigan, Ohio, and elsewhere, Republicans have slashed taxes; in Wisconsin they’ve brought union monopolies to heel; in Georgia they’ve resisted Obamacare’s costly Medicaid expansion. If Democrats win back those governor’s mansions, it “will mean a dramatic move to the policy left in much of the country.”
What the columnists said
Above all else, “this election is a referendum on Donald Trump,” said David Remnick in The New Yorker. It’s a vote between the GOP’s base and those who think there should be some sort of brake “to slow his disintegration of American life and his despoilment of the national spirit.” No matter what happens on Nov. 6, the GOP “is likely to lurch further rightward,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Should the Democrats win the House but not the Senate, “they will be working with an even more hardened foe.” Moderate GOP representatives are the most likely to lose their seats; those who survive will be the reddest of the red. And if Republicans hold on to Congress, we will see “a Trumpian party that feels invincible.”
It’s also inevitable that this election will deepen America’s geographic and demographic fault lines, said Ronald Brownstein in CNN.com. Democrats’ top opportunities “to capture Republican-held seats are concentrated in well-educated, higher-income, and preponderantly white districts.” Most of these are centered in thriving suburbs where Trump faces resistance, especially from women, “on cultural and personal grounds.” Republican support in blue-collar, rural, and exurban areas, meanwhile, is sure to solidify. This division will shape American politics for years to come.
The big question is how Democrats will handle a divided Capitol if they take the House, said Bill Scher in RealClearPolitics.com, because even “the biggest blue waves can’t wash away Trump’s veto pen.” One thing is clear: Impeachment will likely “not be at the top of the Democratic to-do list.” If the party wins the chamber, it will be because of candidates who triumphed in districts Trump took in 2016. Those Democrats will not want to alienate the very Trump voters who aided their victory.