The Experts Are Wrong Again on Trump | Opinion

It’s starting to look like the experts were again wrong. There is no rising anti-Trump tide. There’s no “big, blue wave” lying offshore waiting to sweep the Republicans out and the Democrats in come November. More than anything, it’s starting to look like the midterm election will be a push.

It wasn’t always this way. Trump’s upset victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton created a “resistance,” a strong and vocal movement ready to do battle with the new administration. Not only were they going to obstruct the implementation of his political agenda, they were prepared to drive the newly elected president from office. Unfortunately for them, they failed to learn from the example set by the Republican reaction to both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Anger in and of itself isn’t enough to change things.

The president’s job approval number has held steady at around 45 percent for much of his presidency. While not spectacular, it’s also not a disaster. It is a sustainable position from which the country may be led, so long as the agenda is not too ambitious. Trump’s agenda hasn’t been. In fact, when compared with the agendas of his immediate predecessors, it seems surprisingly limited and, to the chagrin of his opponents, he keeps winning.

He got his way on tax cuts, which have revived the American economy and put the American people back to work. He got a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, something his critics swore would be impossible to achieve. The unemployment numbers are at record lows. That’s enough of the basis of success, as policy matters go, to keep him from being the anchor around the neck of Republican congressional and statewide candidates that Democrats hoped he would be.

When it comes down to it, the commentariat has whipped the public (or portion thereof) into believing the lack of civility in politics (as measured by Trump tweets) is the biggest problem facing the nation. This is an argument that self-described independent voters are likely to believe. It fits their personalities, their lifestyles, and their opinion of American politics—which many of them find to be a nasty, corrupt, sleazy business. That’s why they are independents and that’s why they tend to say things like “I vote for the man (or woman), not the party.” For them, professing allegiance to a political party is an almost un-American act that implies a lack of thought or critical judgment about the issues facing the country.

These voters will likely determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives over the next two years. Not every congressional race is competitive. These independents, and the regular Republicans who may not like Trump, have the power to determine the outcome in the 60 or so seats where either party could win in the fall. This is something that most self-described election experts fail to understand. They think the election is national, turning on voter attitudes about Trump, or that, in the words of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill “all politics is local,” when really, it’s all personal.

This is why there’s no blue wave coming. The Democrats will pick up seats in the House and almost just as assuredly lose them in the U.S. Senate. The number of governorships held by each party won’t change all that dramatically nor will the control of most state legislative chambers. The numbers just don’t support such an outcome.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows President Trump with a 41 percent approval rating. That’s slightly lower, by four points, then the national average among most reliable polls.

In that survey, Democrats have a 53 to 42 percent advantage on the generic ballot question: If the election were held today would you vote for a Democrat or a Republican for U.S. House of Representatives? However, in the 66 districts identified by pollsters as “majority makers”—meaning they are rated tossups or are only leaning toward one party or the other—the Republicans hold a one point advantage over the Democrats, 47 to 46 percent.

Another point worth mentioning is that the so-called enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans has closed. For much of the election, survey after survey showed Democrats to be more excited about voting in November than the Republicans were. That probably had its low ebb about the time Arizona GOP SenatorJohn McCain died. The ensuing hullabaloo over whether the flag over the White House would be flown at half-mast and the president’s unwillingness to say anything kind about the former Vietnam War POW and former Republican presidential candidate made Trump look especially small and petty.

GettyImages-1056466650 President Donald Trump waves to journalists as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One, October 18, in Washington, D.C. Is there a “big, blue wave” lying offshore waiting to sweep the Republicans out and the Democrats in come November? Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That was a real turnoff to historically Republican voters and independents, a fair number of whom are GOPers who left the party, in their own minds at least, after Trump was elected. They don’t want their politicians to be big men and women necessarily, but they do want them to be polite and civil.

This would have likely doomed the GOP in the fall except for the over-the-top reaction, a public mauling really, of U.S. Supreme Court nominee (and now associate justice) Brett Kavanaugh by leftists and liberals opposed to his confirmation. Their antics, which have been well-described elsewhere and are really nothing to laugh about, showed the same independent voters who hold the keys to the kingdom in their hands that treasured American values like the presumption of innocence and the right to face one’s accuser are expendable when the politics of the moment demand.

The whole episode, from the announcement of the vacancy to Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court, had a dramatic impact on a section of the Republican voter coalition that heretofore seemed to think the most important thing to do in American politics was rein in the present. They now know the preservation of the majority in Congress is critically important if the political system is to be kept from descending any further into chaos and anarchy.

There is still a way to go. Special counsel Robert Mueller could drop a bombshell that blows up the apple cart rather than just upset it, or something else could happen to move voters away from Trump once again before the election. Barring that, a push with a sharply divided House working to make policy with the president and a solidly Republican Senate seems to be where things are headed. This, of course, will leave the people who rely on the polls as they rely on race results once again wondering what the heck happened.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff  has written extensively about politics, culture and the media for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@GMAIL.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​

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