No, Trump's Presidency Is Not the End of the Republican Party | Opinion

Donald Trump is generally portrayed as an albatross around the neck of the GOP. The recent defeat of Republican gubernatorial candidates in heavily red Kentucky and Louisiana, along with the pro-Democrat flip in control of the Virginia legislature, would seem to reinforce that view.

Trump is an unconventional president, one not anchored in any way to the traditional notions of how modern presidents are supposed to behave. His tweets and smashmouth approach toward his opponents do little to endear him to those who think presidents are supposed to remain above the fray at all times. He is a combatant, a battler who gives better than he believes he gets.

It's an interesting narrative with more than just a little truth. He's tenacious and does plenty to remind America why New Yorkers are seen as a particularly odious lot. But to predict, as many on the right and left have done, that his presidency marks the end of the modern Republican Party is to overstate the case.

The folks who project that the GOP may have swapped one bullet, by preventing the election of Hillary Clinton in 2016, for another, by letting the presidency fall into the hands of Trump, ignore significant facts. Trump is not the kind of drag on the GOP, not yet anyway, as Barack Obama proved to be for the Democrats. The party in power—defined as the one holding the presidency—tends to lose elections in the off years. They are a referendum on performance, but David Abrams of the Republican State Leadership Committee noted to me that the Democrats lost control of more than twice the net number of state legislative seats during Obama's first three years than the GOP has lost under Trump.

Looking at Virginia, it is true the change in control of the legislature from the Republicans to the Democrats is alarming for the GOP. But consider, first and foremost, how the new blue majority in the lower chamber is, more than almost anything else, the product of court-ordered district lines favoring the Democrats produced in an effort spearheaded by former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, as The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel explained earlier this month.

Spending was also a factor. Democrats officially put nearly $54 million into the Virginia effort, outspending the GOP by some $12 million. "Three billionaires—Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and George Soros—and their organizations spent more than all outside Republican contributors combined," Strassel wrote. The money of these left-leaning plutocrats tipped the scale in what was, with or without Trump, an already uphill battle to maintain control of both chambers.

As for Kentucky and Louisiana, although some argue that Trump doomed the top of the ticket in both states, it is just as likely his intervention turned certain defeat into nail biters. Kentucky GOP Governor Matt Bevin was among the country's least popular governors. He was reportedly difficult to deal with and, given some of the hard choices he attempted to force on the people who elected him, started out more likely to lose badly than win. With Trump's active support, he instead ended up losing by less than 5,000 votes.

A loss is still a loss, but to blame it on the president alone is to distort reality, an analysis supported by the results of the other elections held that day. The GOP swept the down-ballot races in Kentucky, with Republican Michael Adams emerging a surprising winner in the race for secretary of state, defeating former Miss America Heather French Henry, and Republican Daniel Cameron prevailing over former Democratic State House Speaker Greg Stumbo in the race for attorney general.

Trump and McConnell
President Donald Trump talks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during an event about judicial confirmations in the White House on November 6 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty

In Louisiana, where Trump also put himself on the line, incumbent Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards beat GOP construction executive Eddie Rispone in the gubernatorial runoff by some 40,000 votes. But Republican candidates won the race for lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general. And the GOP established supermajority control of the state Senate and experienced a nearly double-digit increase in its state House of Representatives' majority.

The GOP likewise managed wins in Mississippi, where the party for the first time swept the elections for positions statewide, electing the first woman state attorney general in a race Republicans haven't won since 1874. The party also won a supermajority in the state Senate and maintained one in the state House of Representatives. The GOP also gained legislative seats in the New Jersey, and in Pennsylvania won a race for state Supreme Court, while picking up local offices in the usually Democrat-leaning Pittsburgh suburbs.

Other races from other parts of the country can be read to show the center-right remains politically viable, if not strong. The president may be a drag on his party's ticket in a few places, but no more so than any of his predecessors, Republican or Democrat, were on theirs. In fact, in most places, it just might be that he helps his partisan colleagues more than he hurts, a position he himself would most certainly take.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience 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 writer's own.

No, Trump's Presidency Is Not the End of the Republican Party | Opinion | Opinion