It appears that the 2018 mid-term election is finally over. Tuesday night Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was returned to the Senate. The result was not surprising and her margin of victory (54-46) was about what I guessed it would be (55-45). The biggest questions: Was this Trump’s last political win and will the majority of Congressional Republicans – especially in the Senate – now stop enabling him? Let’s explore.
Especially considering that this was a runoff in deep red Mississippi a few days after Thanksgiving Hyde-Smith should have won by about 20 points, not eight. She underperformed no doubt about it. Trump made two appearances with her in Mississippi on the eve of voting in an attempt to get out the base for her. That appears to have worked and it also appears she needed much of that “shot in the arm”.
The conventional wisdom is that Hyde-Smith suffered from self-inflicted wounds as a result of her racist dog whistles. I’m not so certain that it wasn’t a calculated move to assure the Bubbas (who in many cases voted for right wing extremist Chris McDaniel on November 6th) that she was really on of them. Her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, had an extremely narrow path to victory. One lane was to have huge African-American turnout in the sparsely populated delta counties which he did. The next lane was a huge turnout of college educated white in the few more heavily populated counties. The fly in that ointment is that there simply are not enough college educated white voters in Mississippi.
In my opinion both Hyde-Smith and Espy are less than optimal candidates. What I don’t know is if the Democrats have much in the way of talent in Mississippi when it comes to statewide office especially at the federal level.
It appears the 2018 races are just about settled and here are the net results: the Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House and in the process control of the chamber. The Republicans netted two seats in the Senate in a year where 10 Democratic seats were up for reelection in states Trump won in 2016. That is classic underperformance!
The Democrats picked up the open seat in Arizona and beat Dean Heller in Nevada. The Republicans defeated Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly in South Dakota and Indiana respectively. To be honest both of them were surprise winners in 2012 who rode Obama’s coattails to victory. Defeating them in a mid-term was hardly a great political feat. Democrats Claire McCaskill and Bill Nelson were defeated in purple Missouri and Florida respectively. While Nelson was my first endorsement of 2018 I have to admit he ran close to a stealth campaign. The worst news is that he lost to an incredibly corrupt man, Rick “The Fifth” Scott. In him, Trump has a friend and America has a problem.
I subscribe to the theory that a lot of Congressional Republicans have enabled Trump because they feared him; more specifically his ability to get his base to follow him. Make no mistake, Trump’s base will be a factor in the 2020 GOP primaries, but it is far from enough to win in many of the 2020 general election races. If you don’t ultimately get elected winning the primary accomplishes nothing.
I don’t expect a lot of truly competitive House races in 2020. Freshman Democrats who won in mid-term 2018 should be in good shape in the presidential year of 2020. Conversely Republicans who survived the blue wave should be very viable in two years. In some very red districts Trump will be helpful to get the vote out but beyond that if I were a GOP House candidate I’d prefer he played golf to coming into my district.
Looking at the Senate (and it is extremely early to draw conclusions) the Republicans have to defend 21 seats (including Hyde-Smith’s) while the Democrats have to defend only 12. Of those 12, I only see one very vulnerable Democrat (Doug Jones in Alabama). If the House impeaches Trump –and the votes are there, it is simply a matter of timing and political propriety – there are a lot of Republican Senators who can feel free to vote to convict and remove Trump. (It will take 20 assuming that the Democratic caucus votes as a block.)
Whether he will admit it or not Trump got his behind handed to him in November. That being said he can claim significant credit for Hyde- Smith’s victory on Tuesday. However, it is very possibly the last election he will ever win.
My free advice to Republican Senators is that now is the time to wash your hands of Trump to save your political careers and your country. This is an instance where you can be both self-serving and patriotic.
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