The 2018 midterm elections are less than four months away, and Democrats, as well as various opponents of President Donald Trump, can think of little else.
About two years after he won his way into the White House, Trump faces his first major, indirect electoral test. Incumbent presidents typically see their parties lose seats in the midterm elections. This was for certain the case with Barack Obama, whose Democrats lost the House in the 2010 midterm wave election and the Senate in the 2014 midterms. Now, the Democrats feel ready to go back on offense with the GOP defending both chambers of Congress.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the Republicans will maintain the common midterm election trend. As of this writing, Electionarium predicts significant losses in the US House for the GOP, as well as loss of control in the US Senate. In particular, the House numbers have plenty of room to get worse. Democrats have put pressure on Trump and the Republicans since the president was elected, and they are hoping for a “Blue Wave” to take shape. This is bolstered by their victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th District earlier in the year, in which they flipped a very red seat blue.
Retaking Congress is a top priority for Democrats. From his antics to the Russia investigation, they hope that President Trump will be a compelling enough reason for people to vote for their side. Yet, is this the only issue that will be on voters’ minds in November?
2018 Midterm Elections: The Economy and Taxes
As James Carville (almost) said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Things taking a downturn at around the time of the 2008 election was pivotal in getting Barack Obama elected. It isn’t the only reason, but to use another political axiom, people vote with their wallets.
The American economy is improving. When things are going well, the incumbent president of the day takes credit, and when they’re not, they usually blame the last guy. Trump does not have the latter problem right now, whether or not you believe he had anything to do with it. Some schools of thought will credit Trump, others Obama, and still others the free market outside of the auspices of Washington. Look, we are not economists, and we won’t go there. What we can say is that the economy is not a red “X” next to Trump or the Republicans in this election.
When it comes to taxes, the GOP slid a tax cut into the paychecks of millions. For maximum effect, maybe they should have done it closer to the election, as voters can be prone to forget these things. Others have chimed in to say that the tax cuts are not working. Democrats will likely roll these back in claims for increased infrastructure spending. Again, however, if people tend to vote with their wallets, this will weigh on the minds of the electorate.
2018 Midterm Elections: Health Care
Since Barack Obama took office, the national debate over health care has taken numerous twists and turns. Voters concerned about health care may look towards the Democrats to protect “Obamacare” from another two years of total Republican rule in Washington. Likewise, those who seek for Obama’s plan to be limited or repealed may choose to keep Republicans in charge of Congress.
This is a divisive issue nowadays, and no doubt it will be on the minds of seniors in particular.
2018 Midterm Elections: Immigration
This is perhaps the issue most tied to Donald Trump ever since he made it a central theme of his presidential campaign. From separation of families at the border and sanctuary cities to building “the wall,” Trump’s administration has been at the center of it. One might find it hard to separate the Republicans in Congress and Trump on this issue. Those voting primarily on immigration matters, however, might do so out of support for Trump’s policies. The same people were likely to be supportive of Trump and the Republicans, anyway.
2018 Midterm Elections: Women’s Issues
Since the announcement of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, women’s rights groups have led renewed charges of opposition to the president. Those for whom this would be a primary electoral issue would likely have Donald Trump in mind at the ballot box.
President Trump will, in fact, be on the minds of most voters when November comes. As the incumbent President of the United States, he’s hard to ignore. Voters can’t do anything about him until 2020, but they can punish his party if they so choose in 2018. The overall issues surrounding the campaign may again supersede the personality of any one person. When electors consider issues such as health care and the economy, it may not be that Trump or his style are overriding concerns.
A caution for Democrats going forward, while they may do well enough on their own to take control of Congress, is that relying solely on opposition to Trump is not enough to generate a “Blue Wave.” With any luck, whichever party wins the 2018 midterm elections will have developed out detailed plans to address America’s problems. If not, well, we tried to warn them.