Conservatives in general, and Trump supporters in particular, have been understandably frustrated with the congressional leadership of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Their fiscal incontinence and inability to fully repeal Obamacare have been particularly irritating, and this produced a significant amount of ambivalence about supporting the GOP in the midterms. Republican turnout in the primaries suggests that enthusiasm is returning, but it has to be enough to overcome a probable surge in Democratic participation in November.
A lot of conservative pundits have discounted the “blue wave” that the Democrats and the media have been fantasizing about since last year, but that is no reason to be complacent. This is why President Trump’s recent speeches have included calls for his supporters to turn out in November and beef up the thin majorities Republicans now cling to in the House and Senate. Yesterday, he used the impending retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court to make this very point during his speech in Fargo, North Dakota:
Justice Kennedy’s retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time.… We must elect more Republicans. We have to do that.
The President was in North Dakota for the specific purpose of urging the state’s voters to replace Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who faces a challenge from Republican congressman Kevin Cramer. Heitkamp voted to confirm Trump’s last Supreme Court nominee, now Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, but she wouldn’t have done so if she were not defending a vulnerable Senate seat in a deep red state. So Trump returned to the retirement of Anthony Kennedy to illustrate the importance of replacing Heitkamp with a reliable Republican:
Heidi will vote no to any pick we make for the Supreme Court. She will be told to do so.… When Heidi ran for office, she promised to be an independent vote for the people of North Dakota. Instead, she went to Washington and immediately joined Chuck.
The other two Democrats who voted to confirm Gorsuch, Senators Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin, are fighting to retain equally vulnerable seats in Indiana and West Virginia, where Trump won by huge margins in the 2016 presidential election. Trump and the Republican congressional leadership hope to beef up the GOP’s majority in the Senate by picking off Heitkamp, Donnelly, and Manchin. And there are several pickup opportunities in other red states where Democratic Senators claim to be moderates but somehow always vote with “Chuck.”
That won’t happen if conservatives forget that the worst Republican running for Congress this year is better than the best Democrat they will find on the ballot. And there’s more at stake than the makeup of the Supreme Court. Nancy Pelosi has already pledged to make repeal of last December’s tax cut a top priority when her party takes back Congress. They will also reinstate the fine for Obamacare’s individual mandate, and they will set it far higher than the original. They will also try to pass arebrandedversion of single-payer health care.
But their first order of business will be to halt the investigations into the multifarious crimes committed by the Obama DOJ. Then, they will impeach President Trump, not because they can convict him of anything, but because it will effectively shut down his presidency. In other words, even if congressional Republicans make us crazy, they must retain their majorities to protect President Trump and allow him to continue implementing his agenda. To repeat what he said yesterday in Fargo, “We must elect more Republicans.”