Since Donald Trump’s announcement to run for the presidency in 2015, democrats have been obsessively insistent that he will never reach “the next step” on the path to achieve his goals. He will never stay in the race for longer than a few months. He will never keep his numbers high after the debates. He will never maintain dominance after the GOP field of candidates narrows. And, most recently: He will never beat Hillary Clinton and become the President of the United States. Although Trump has, well, trumped expectations (forgive me) every step of the way, he may not be able to withstand the storm that ominously lies ahead: the 2018 midterms.
Historically, the midterms following the general election are, to say the least, unfavorable to the incumbent candidate and their party. President Obama and the democrats suffered the biggest losses of the modern political era following their massive election gains in 2006 and 2008. Only one sitting president in the modern era, George W. Bush in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks, has accomplished gains in both the House and the Senate during a midterm. Aside from that outlier, the picture is pretty stark: an average loss of at least 20 seats in the House and at least five or six in the Senate. Now, with the Republicans only having to defend eight Senate seats next year, it is unlikely that the Democrats will retake the upper chamber even with a strong showing next November. The real goal, the place where the Democrats think they can make the biggest gains, will be in the House of Representatives.
Although it is far from a certainty, there are early “warning signs” which could foresee political doom for President Trump and the republicans in 2018. Firstly, there are several “special elections” taking place in normally overwhelmingly conservative districts that are, unexpectedly, surprisingly close. CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s former district in Kansas was won by about 30 points by the republican candidate. On Tuesday, the republican was once again victorious, but only by a margin of about 8 points. Now, special elections are unique and cannot always be accurate indicators of what is to come, but a 22 point swing towards the opposition party in a highly conservative district should be cause for alarm to some. Additionally, another election will take place in Georgia this upcoming Tuesday. If the democrats are able to seize a seat from the republicans in Georgia of all places, their confidence may rise along with their support, meaning bad news for the GOP come November of next year.
If you combine the historical trends with a “resurgent” left and a president whose approval ratings are at a historic low for the amount of time he has been an office, all of the ingredients are there for the Democrats to make significant gains in the House and possibly break-even against an inauspicious senate map; however, if Trump and the Republicans are able to secure only modest losses or even slight gains in 2018, it will be time for everyone, especially myself, to stop underestimating the enigmatic and undeniable political appeal of Donald J. Trump.