GOP Candidates Can’t Rely on Trump’s Base

I am beginning to wonder about something. When I take a look at the following graphic it tells me that a lot of right-leaning voters are beginning to feel like the country might run more smoothly with a Democratic Congress. I’m not sure how else I can look at those numbers.

Yet, I’m also supposed to believe the following:

Jeff Flake has become a cautionary tale. Lawmakers who are not retiring don’t want to draw the president’s ire and the enmity of his core supporters. Most Republicans in Congress, even those facing tough reelection campaigns in places where Trump is not popular, are under intense pressure from their base to wholeheartedly support the president.

I understand not wanting to be singled out by the president, but perhaps there’s something wrong with this picture. Either the base doesn’t want congressional Republicans to wholeheartedly support the president or the base is shrinking so quickly before our eyes that it probably shouldn’t be the first concern of GOP lawmakers who are seeking reelection. How else to explain that the GOP-held districts are now split on whether the GOP should retain their congressional majorities?

Another explanation is that the congressional preference question is too volatile to be meaningful.

We do continue to see polls that indicate both that the base is still with the president and that the president is vastly more popular than Congress, but I’m beginning to suspect that believing in those numbers might be a strategic mistake. Just for one example, Trump is already killing the GOP with swing voters, and the base is already unhappy with Congress, so wouldn’t standing up to Trump be more likely to win a candidate credit than going along with him? I don’t think enthusiasm for Trump is transferable to congressional candidates.

In any case, a lot of this is in the context of whether the GOP Congress should put a bill on Trump’s desk prohibiting him from firing Mueller. They think this would depress turnout. I think the public, even in Republican districts, would approve of the move.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.