Aside from several dozen perfunctory tweeted endorsements, President Trump did not play in many U.S. House races this fall.
Incumbents such as Mia Love in Utah and Barbara Comstock in Virginia kept him at arm’s length only to lose their seats.
Senate candidates who did embrace Trump – including Republicans in Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas and elsewhere – scored victories and helped the party actually extend its advantage in the upper house, which is highly unusual for the first midterm of an administration.
Republicans are up to nearly 40 lost seats in the House – they had 26 retiring members – but they have yet to reject Trump, wrote Jonathan Martin of the New York Times.
Trump “has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely” and even has “ridiculed losing incumbents by name,” Martin wrote, linking to a video of Trump discussing the electoral results of Carlos Cubelo, Mike Coffman, Mia Love, Barbara Comstock, Peter Roskam, Eric Paulsen and John Faso – all House candidates he thought could have been successful if they had not distanced themselves from the president – and New Jersey Senate candidate Bob Hugin.
Trump continues to push for a border wall, “despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts,” and his party continues to ignore the alarm: “Unlike their Democrat counterparts, Republicans swiftly elevated their existing slate of leaders with little debate, signaling a continuation of their existing political strategy.”
Neither Paul Ryan, who departs this month as Speaker of the House, nor Kevin McCarthy of California, who becomes minority leader, “have stepped forward to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it – and what can be done to win them back.”
And why don’t Republican candidates reject Trump? In part because he is the one of most popular Republican presidents among Republican voters in American history.
“The quandary, some Republicans acknowledge, is that the party’s leaders are constrained from fully grappling with the damage Mr. Trump inflicted with those [suburban] voters, because he remains popular with the party’s core supporters and with the conservatives who will dominate the caucus even more in the next Congress,” White wrote.
Republicans who were or are not close to Trump seemed much more intent on tying him to the failures and moving away from him as the “solution.”
“Many of the lawmakers who lost their races or did not run again say the party has a profound structural challenge that incumbers are unwilling to fully faced: Mr. Trump’s deep toxicity among moderate voters, especially women,” White wrote, even though Trump carried a majority of white women in the 2016 election and again in 2018.
Here, White is claiming that the suburbs are where Republicans are losing, but white women and solid Republicans – who make up much of the population of suburban neighborhoods across America – are sticking with him.
He also claims Republicans have not come to grips with this because of the late counting of ballots in numerous House races, which flipped nearly 20 from the Republicans who led after all ballots were counted on Election Day to victories by Democrats days – sometimes even weeks – later, and because of victories in the races Trump spent the most time and effort to secure, senators in several states, and governors in Georgia and Florida.
There is still “deep reluctance among the leaders to discuss what went wrong,” White wrote. Numerous members are “averting difficult questions – or accountability.” Republicans are alarmed at “the possibility that disgust with Mr. Trump will be uncurable by 2020.” This “cold-eyed assessment” has Republicans worry some members will retire next term.
And the solution, of course, is to be more like Democrats.
“The midterm thrashing has emboldened some Republican lawmakers to speak out about the party’s need to be more reflective of the country, especially now that there are just 13 House Republican women.”
The GOP will be a minority party, another Republican suburban woman representative is quoted as saying, unless its caucus “looks more like America.”