The Midterms Will Be a Referendum on Trump

Trump Maladministration

At least, that’s what Trump seems to want — he wants the midterms to be all about him. I suspect Democrats agree. Republicans, maybe not so much.

President Donald Trump‘s strategy of becoming aggressively involved in the midterm elections is prompting concern among some Republicans who worry he’s complicating the political calculus for GOP candidates trying to outrun his popularity.

Those Republicans worry their statewide candidates may rise or fall based on Trump’s standing, muddling their path to maintain control of Congress.

But Trump has no plans to step out of the spotlight. …

The president is casting himself as the star of the midterms, eagerly inserting himself into hotly contested primaries, headlining rallies in pivotal swing states and increasing his fundraising efforts for Republicans. Last week, Trump agreed to donate a portion of his reelection fund to 100 GOP candidates running in competitive House and Senate races.

He’s expected to be even more aggressive in the fall. White House officials say he’s reserving time on his schedule for midterm travel and fundraising likely to surpass that of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“This is now about Donald Trump,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican chairman. “It’s a high-risk, high-stakes proposition.”

There’s a special election for a U.S. congressional seat in Ohio on Tuesday that may give us another clue how the midterms will go. It’s in a district that’s been reliably Republican for a long time, and even more so since it was gerrymandered into a mostly white exurban district in 2010. Trump won the district in 2016 by 11 points. But Monmouth says the special election is a toss-up between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor.

Trump just held one of his signature unhinged rallies in a high school auditorium  — with no air conditioning; someone on the staff will be in trouble —  about 17 miles north of Columbus. It appears this was arranged on Trump’s initiative, not Balderson’s.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said Sunday that an Ohio House candidate did not invite President Trump to appear at his campaign rally on Saturday.

The governor and former GOP presidential candidate, who has been critical of Trump, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that GOP hopeful Troy Balderson told him that he didn’t have anything to do with inviting Trump.

“I asked him the other day ‘Why are you bringing Trump in,’ he said ‘well, I don’t have anything to do with it,’ ” Kasich said, referring to Balderson, who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Danny O’Connor in a district Trump won by double digits.

“I think Donald Trump decides where he wants to go, and I think they think they’re firing up the base,” Kasich added.

It’s also possible that Trump’s appearance in Ohio fired up the other base.

Ahead of the Saturday evening rally, some party strategists worried that it would do more harm than good for Balderson, who has campaigned as a mainstream figure. Their concerns were illustrated by a Monmouth University survey released earlier this week showing Trump’s approval at just 46 percent in Ohio’s 12th District, which stretches from the traditionally moderate Columbus suburbs to more conservative rural areas.

Indeed, at many points at Saturday, Trump seemed more focused on revisiting his greatest hits than on Tuesday’s special election. He slashed the media (“MSNBC is so corrupt, is so disgusting”), went after political rivals (recently ousted South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, he joked, “likes flamingo [sic] dancers from Argentina”), and ripped the Russia investigation.

Well, we’ll see on Tuesday how it turns out.

Some other factors that could impact the midterms:

Brent Budowsky, writing for The Hill, predicts that there will be an “obstruction of justice bombshell” before the midterms. “… odds are very high that Mueller will offer a declarative public statement before the midterm elections, and very likely before Labor Day, that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice,” says Budowsky.

The gender gap is huge and possibly historic, according to the nerds at fivethirtyeight.

See Jennie Neufeld at Vox: Republicans have begun to sever ties with the Koch brothers. It isn’t just Trump and Steve Bannon; the RNC itself is souring on the Kochs. “Republicans have won more elections at every governmental level than they have since the 1920s partly due to the Kochs’ immense support,” Neufeld writes. “The Kochs were going to donate $400 million to various GOP campaigns in the midterm elections; it’s unclear if this feud will change those plans.”

For your reading pleasure, see David Atkins, Does Trump Even Understand What He Did Wrong?

Even the briefest observation of Donald Trump is adequate to confirm that he is not a man of profound intellect. He certainly possesses his share of social intelligence, a knack for salesmanship and an obsessive drive to dominate and humiliate others stemming from a yawning maw of overlapping insecurities. But in terms of how we traditionally measure intelligence in the modern developed world–the acquisition of knowledge over time and the ability to process, digest and act cogently in response to complex information–Trump probably doesn’t even reach the 50th percentile of Americans. And that is being generous.

This basic fact is difficult to keep in mind when assessing his decisions because we have never had a president like this. Society tends to dramatically overestimate the talent and intelligence of those fortunate enough to be rich and powerful, but rarely are they as objectively ignorant and lacking in basic competency as Trump. Far too often we look for a schema or strategy behind Trump’s actions, only to discover that his decisions were precipitated by the dumbest of reasons: because he saw a Fox News segment that made him angry, or because he heard that Barack Obama had originated a policy, because some extraneous person mentioned some falsehood to him that he was credulous enough to believe, or because he was openly bribed. This principle has become known as “Trump’s Razor“: when seeking to understand the president’s behavior, look for the stupidest possible reason.

Atkins argues that “it’s entirely possible that at a moral level and, crucially, at a legal one, he simply isn’t smart enough to grasp the enormity of the crimes he and his associates seem to have committed.” If so, we can count on Trump continuing to make one blunder after another to “defend” himself.

Update: See also emptywheel on why Trump’s conspiracy trial is going to be awesome.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. moonbat  •  Aug 5, 2018 @1:45 pm

    Trump has gotten through life through lying about himself, hiding the fact that nearly everything he touches has 1) turned to crap and 2) others are left holding the bag.

    After multiple bankruptcies, American banks began refusing him in the 2000s. The only thing that's kept him afloat is the Russian need to launder their money, and their insight into our weaknesses as a country, and their complete willingness to exploit these weaknesses to their advantage.

    The issue isn't how dumb he is, the issue is how dumb we are / his base is to accept this. How soon will enough people wake up to this?

    It's easy to jigger an economic boom if you're willing to put unwarranted tax cuts on the national credit card, or to gut regulations that protect us all. The stupid among us buy this cotten candy and think Everything's Great, and they bring down the rest of us who know better.

     

  2. Swami  •  Aug 5, 2018 @2:37 pm

    This one goes out to Donny Jr.  With all the innocence and obliviousness to the dangers that surround him— just like Little Red Riding Hood — he might have inadvertently wandered into legal jeopardy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GgJHe0bC34

    I hate to sound cynical, but, it seems to me that Trump is prepping Jr. for a toss under the bus..Fear not, though. There'll be a pardon waiting on the other side. Nothing touches my heart like a father and son bonding moment.

  3. priscianus jr  •  Aug 5, 2018 @2:43 pm

    Atkins’s thesis is that Trump literally doesn't understand he did anything wrong. Although he couches the thesis in such terms as "difficult to believe" and "less likely," I see this is as essentially a self-protective rhetorical strategy. Even if it is difficult to believe or seems less likely to the "reasonable" person, this framing allows Atkins to present it in full. 

    But to me, quite frankly, the thesis is extremely likely and not at all difficult to believe, considering (as Atkins clearly points out) the bizarre individual that Trump is. Atkin's thesis is consistent with everything we have seen from Trump, including his otherwise puzzling tendency to incriminate himself before millions.

    It is also consistent with Trump's extreme narcissism. Ultimately I don't think the man is capable of conceiving that he can ever do anything wrong. That's why investigations affecting him are witch-hunts BY DEFINITION.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/how-trumps-witch-hunt-tweets-create-an-illusory-truth/566693/

    In addition, Trump has zero understanding of even elementary civics. As Atkins points out, he has never had to be concerned with it, and in any case he’s not interested.

     

     

     

     

  4. Bonnie  •  Aug 5, 2018 @2:43 pm

    Trump is a baby stealer, a kidnapper, puts babies in cages.  As long as Republicans support him, they, too, are baby stealers, kidnappers, and put babies in cages.  Trump and his Republicans are no longer the party of family values, they are the party that tears families apart.  That should never be forgotten.  It is as big a stain on America as the Nazis were on Germany.  Never forget that.

  5. goatherd  •  Aug 5, 2018 @2:49 pm

    Hey Swami, my sixth grade teacher taught us that one in German. I think I still remember a few verses.

  6. Swami  •  Aug 5, 2018 @3:20 pm

    goatherd ..I remember you had made mention of that song by it's German title in a previous post. I like the spirit of the song,  a care free and happy go lucky tune that kinda hearkens back to my youth.  Don't encourage me,,next thing you know I'll be posting a link to Sweet Betsy from Pike.

  7. csm  •  Aug 5, 2018 @4:16 pm

    Where once the Trump brand was luxury, it is now synonymous with corruption and racism, and Trump himself is becoming synonymous with stupid.  Which likely explains why he inserts himself into campaigns not realizing he will hurt them more than help.

    Trump constantly crows about his high approval rating among republicans and the base, and appears to believe he is more popular overall than he really is, because of it.  He doesn't seem to get that an 82% approval rating among a group that amounts to maybe 26% of the electorate means nothing when the other two voting groups, democrats and "independents" clearly do not approve of him.  He sees the crowds at his rallies and thinks that's proof of his popularity — "Obama never had crowds like this," he's lied to himself.

     

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 5, 2018 @5:26 pm

    OT.

    It finally occurred to me last week just who Donald tRUMP reminded me of since he began to run, and hold rallies:

    Rodney Dangerfield!

    Now, before you stone me, give me a chance to explain:

    – Both stand-up when addressing crowds.

    – They both know what their audiences want to hear.

    – They both know how to build to s punchline.

    – And finally, they both deliver as a (whiney) message that they "don't get no respect…"

     

     

  9. doug  •  Aug 5, 2018 @6:09 pm

    Trump is freaked out about what's coming. He seems to have some certainty that something big is imminent. I say that because of his call to Sessions to shut down the Mueller probe and increasingly vitriolic attacks on the media with the demand his followers to refuse to listen to what the media says about Trump.

    I do wonder if the next shoe to drop will be indictments – which is Mueller's version of a press release. I don't think Trump will be the target – yet, but are Don Jr. and Jared at risk for false statements coupled with an overt crime, conspiracy to accept something of value from the Russians possibly in exchange for "xyz". I don't know anything for sure, but Trump's reaction and rumors from within the castle are that Trump is scared for Don Jr. 

    IF Mueller does drop criminal charges on Don Jr. and Jared, Trump might pardon them at once. That seals Obstruction for Trump. Let's say Trump doesn't pardon them at once – that puts their destiny in the hands of the jury or a possible future Trump pardon, which will clear them but certainly put Trump in jail later. The only way Jared can be certain he won't spend time in a cage with someone named "Bruno" is if Jared gives evidence on Trump and the Russian connection. 

    If Mueller thinks he has the evidence to make a criminal case stick. look for those two to be next. If it happens before the mid-terms, it will have a massive effect on Trump instability and turn up the heat on Trump.

  10. aj  •  Aug 5, 2018 @6:16 pm

    What will Republicans do if Koch brothers give no money and nra is broke? Getting interesting on the money side.

  11. Swami  •  Aug 5, 2018 @8:22 pm

    "I went to the fights the other night.. and a hockey game broke out." – Rodney Dangerfield

     I saw Trump's stand up comedy routine in Pennsylvania and it was really depressing to watch him wallowing in the self satisfaction of having a captive audience while he delivered a really sick routine. The realization of what I was seeing bummed me out. I'm all for a little light heartedness and a touch of humor in connecting with other people, but Trump's brand of connectedness by supposed humor is more to a stoking of fears and a feeding of insecurities. I don't see the humor in him. I do sense a spirit of cruelty in his nature. 

  12. Tom_b  •  Aug 5, 2018 @8:33 pm

    “What will Republicans do if Koch brothers give no money and nra is broke?”

    The GOP can probably scare up a fountain of dark money from Putin/Salman/Asssad, but biting the Koch you suck on certainly does not inspire donor confidence.

    They could have fixed this. The electoral college could have declared The Idiot “mentally impaired” and put in Romney. Guaranteed the GOP would be in FAR, FAR better shape right now. But, no, they dropped the ball.

  13. Swami  •  Aug 5, 2018 @9:07 pm

     I don't know anything for sure, but Trump's reaction and rumors from within the castle are that Trump is scared for Don Jr. 

     And rightfully so, doug. At this point it's beyond clear that all those in attendance at the Trump Tower meeting conspired to defraud the United States. Their understanding going into that meeting was that they were going to receive information from a foreign source that was to be used in our electoral process. The law on that is clear.. that's a no no.

     I'm thinking that Mueller just wants Manafort verify the scheme before he indicts so that there will be no doubt to be had when Trump is forced to issue his pardons. It's like playing chess… losing your queen in exchange for a guaranteed checkmate.

  14. uncledad  •  Aug 6, 2018 @10:34 am

    "It's easy to jigger an economic boom if you're willing to put unwarranted tax cuts on the national credit card, or to gut regulations that protect us all. The stupid among us buy this cotten candy and think Everything's Great, and they bring down the rest of us who know better. "

    Amen Moonbat!

  15. uncledad  •  Aug 6, 2018 @10:34 am

    Back in the twit filter, I was doing so well?

  16. uncledad  •  Aug 6, 2018 @12:17 pm

    "Where once the Trump brand was luxury"

    That may have been the facade but Trump has always been a second rate- conman from Queens, unless of course you equate, second rate wine, cheap steaks, fraudulent Universities and bankrupt casinos with luxury?

  17. Anonymous  •  Aug 6, 2018 @12:37 pm

    Most seem to accept that "nothing happened" at the Trump Tower meeting over, "Russian Adoptions". Why do we assume that nothing happened? Because Trump says so? First, "Adoptions" is code for the Manniski Act. Repeal of sanctions is what Putin wanted. 

    The Russian "dangle" was deceptive to the degree that the stolen DNC documents were not released to Trump – they were released to Wikileaks. I suspect the Russians had to draw a cartoon picture with stick men to explain to Don Jr. The emails are stolen property. We (Russians) stole them. If we give them to you, then you have stolen property. This is bad thing. 

    The Russians wanted something – "Adoptions" suggests the thing was a release from sanctions. The Russians were in the process of helping Trump win and Trump had to be out of the loop regarding stolen DNC files. Did the Russians negotiate specifically that they wanted Team Trump to do something, possibly related to voter propaganda, Cambridge Analytica, and targeting of the Twitter & Facebook stuff?

    If so, we are talking quid pro quo with a hostile foreign power to use foreign influence to affect a US election. (Was $20 million funneled into the NRA from Russian entities for Trump electioneering?) Getting Don Jr. or Jared to tell if there was a conspiracy with the Russian government could seal the case of Treason.

    Man, I'd love to know what cards Mueller is holding. 

  18. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 6, 2018 @12:59 pm

    Last night, the "Twilight Zone" rerun on MeTV was "He's Alive."

    It's about a young Authoritarian who tries to build an American Nazi movement in the early 60's.

    And it stars a very young Dennis Hopper.

    You should see this rerun. 

    Very apt. 

  19. Billikin  •  Aug 6, 2018 @2:24 pm

    Making the midterms a referendum about Trump may be his best bet to avoid impeachment by the House of Representatives. Trump may have jumped into the midterm races anyway, because he loves the adulation he gets at his rallies. Republican representatives who don't owe Trump anything may well vote to impeach. But if he got his base to turn out for them, they may not.