Just as Trump is initiating a reckless trade war with China that could hit red state voters the hardest in coming months, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning that a possible Category 5 storm is looming for the GOP in November.
Echoing the panicked Tuesday night Twitter cries of Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, who warned that a “#BlueWave” is coming, McConnell conceded the party faces a stiff wind during the midterm elections.
“This is going to be a challenging election year,” McConnell told Kentucky Today. “We know the wind is going to be in our face. We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4 or 5.”
For the permanently somnambulant McConnell to use language like Category 5 to describe the GOP’s worsening chance, you know things are getting serious.
In terms of the Senate, Republicans enjoy a huge advantage mathematically in that the GOP only has to defend eight seats in November, while Democrats have to defend 26. And lots of those are in states that Trump won in 2016, such as West Virginia, Missouri, and Indiana.
That’s why one year ago lots of observers predicted Republicans would be able to gain Senate seats in 2018. Now, as Trump remains stuck with dismal ratings and his White House revolves around chaos and scandal, McConnell is just trying to hang on.
“I’m hoping we can hold the Senate,” he said. The GOP might be so lucky in the House.
Raising doubts about that are the string of bruising special election losses the GOP has suffered in recent months, including defeats in red states like Alabama, as well as in deeply red districts like last month’s showdown in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.
A recent poll shows House Republicans trailing Democratic opponents by double-digits in 30 swing districts across the country, including six California districts.
Support for the Republican tax bill, which raises taxes on Californians to help pay for Wall Street excess, is problematic for Republicans like Reps. Steve Knight (Palmdale) and Mimi Walters (Irvine).
Knight, Walters, and Costa Mesa’s Rep. Dana Rohrabacher voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The bill they championed, which would have taken away protections for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and forced more than 20 million people to lose their health insurance, was extremely unpopular in California.
The GOP is so worried they opened up a field office in Orange County, a former Republican stronghold which is increasingly vulnerable.
At the same time, Republican leaders are openly fretting about some of the possible Senate candidates the party might be forced to support in November.
Candidates such as recent federal prisoner Don Blankenship, the one-time head of Massey Energy Company, who appears to be surging in the Republican primary race in West Virginia. The obvious fear is that running a convicted criminal might not be the best way to knock off the state’s incumbent Democratic U.S. senator, Joe Manchin.
Meanwhile, adding to McConnell’s misery this week is Trump’s threat of a widening trade war that will squarely target red state voters as its primary victims. And not just any red states voters, but ones who are going to the polls in November to elect a U.S. senator.
China on Wednesday responded to Trump’s actions on trade by saying it would issue 25 percent retaliatory levies on roughly $50 billion of U.S. imports, including soybeans, cars, chemicals, and aircraft.
“These levies appear to be targeted at states, particularly in the Midwest, where Trump’s support is strongest,” Bloomberg reports. “But, crucially, many of these states also have pivotal Senate and gubernatorial races in November.”
The report notes that three out of the four most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents are from Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota — states that stand to be hit hardest by Chinese soybean tariffs.
If voters there blame Trump for the sudden rising costs, Democrats will likely benefit. And that’s how Category 5 election storms are formed.
Dan Desai Martin contributed to this article.