October 19, 2018
President Donald Trump told the Associated Press on October 16 that he won’t be to blame if the GOP loses the House (or even the Senate) to the Democrats in the midterm elections on November 6—but a private Republican Party poll leaked to Bloomberg Businessweek concludes that he will.
In fact, according to Bloomberg, the research report—conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the Republican National Committee —found that “the determining factor in this election … [will be] how voters feel about President Trump.” A representative for the RNC declined to comment to the business news outlet.
President Trump—who is not on the ballot in November—held six campaign rallies within the first 12 days of October. And he is the first to say that the election is all about him.
“I’m not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket, because this is also a referendum about me,” Trump boomed this month at a rally in Southaven, Mississippi, the Washington Post reported on October 18. “I want you to vote. Pretend I’m on the ballot.”
He said much the same in West Virginia, where he was promoting the state’s Republican Senate nominee: “A vote for Patrick Morrisey is a vote for me,” Trump said, in a line that Morrisey’s campaign repurposed in a new ad.
Bill Stepien, the White House political director, told the D.C.-based newspaper that the strategy is an acknowledgment that Trump’s policies are already on the ballot this November, so he might as well use his personal appeal to try to move “the Trump coalition” to vote for Republican candidates who will support his agenda if elected.
“He’s the leader of the party, and he’s willing to put his own political capital on the line for the benefit of his party,” Stepien said in an interview. “The president knows how to fire up his base, he knows the DNA of his voters, and that’s what he’s responding to.”
The risk, however, according to the Post, is that in energizing his base, Trump could also fire up the Democratic side while alienating moderate suburban voters, who may be looking to Congress to serve as a check on the president.
“The fatal flaw” in Trump’s strategy, said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, “is that one, it motivates our side and two, it makes the assumption that all previous Trump voters are still voting Republican, which especially in House and governor races, we see is not the case.”
The president, meanwhile, has told White House aides that his supporters won’t come out to the polls if they don’t believe the election matters to him, two sources told the newspaper..
“He’s basically internalized the message that, ‘I’m so important that people aren’t going to go out and vote unless it’s all about me,’” said a former White House aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share candid conversations.
Already maintaining a robust travel schedule just three weeks before the midterms, the president has told advisors he wants to campaign for Republicans six days a week — and sees these mega-rallies as a testing ground for his own 2020 reelection effort. He plans to travel nonstop in the final 10 days leading up to the elections, sources said.
Research contact: @AshleyRParker