Unprecedented? Trump aims to defy midterm campaign history

President Donald Trump is deepening his investment in the midterm elections, stepping up his travel ...

Posted: May 31, 2018 2:13 PM
Updated: May 31, 2018 2:13 PM

President Donald Trump is deepening his investment in the midterm elections, stepping up his travel across the country to raise money and rally Republicans in hopes of overcoming the tide of history by retaining control of Congress in the fall.

Nearly every president in modern history has lost congressional seats during their first midterm election, a fact that Trump has told advisers he doesn't believe necessarily applies to him.

The top priority for the White House is holding the Republican majority in the Senate, which is critical for preserving the agenda and making judicial appointments for the remainder of the President's first term.

Trump is heading here to Texas on Thursday to do what party leaders say is the best way he can help: Raising money. He is set to mingle with GOP donors behind closed doors at a Houston luncheon, where the contributions range from $5,000 per person to $100,000 per couple, which allows a picture with the President.

"Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016," Trump told a gathering of social conservatives last week. He paused before telling the crowd, "I'm not sure I really believe that. I don't know who the hell wrote that line," he said to applause.

Yet the laughter underscores a brutal truth inside the White House: the President is already prioritizing his own re-election bid more than two years away.

He is also set to hold a fundraising dinner on Thursday evening in Dallas to benefit his campaign and the Republican National Committee. Those events have raised the eyebrows of some party loyalists, who believe Republicans should focus on 2018 before his re-election in 2020.

Trump filed his re-election papers at the time of his inauguration, more than two years earlier than his two recent predecessors. President Barack Obama didn't file for re-election until April 2011 and President George W. Bush until May 2003 -- both of which were after the first midterm elections of their presidency.

Red state pressure

Still, aides say, Trump is increasingly focusing on the November elections. He is set to increase his travel -- with a goal of at least one trip a week -- initially focusing on red states where Democratic senators are vulnerable.

In the coming weeks, aides say, he is poised to return to North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia -- all states he has already visited. He's also eyeing states where Republicans candidates face tough Democratic opponents.

That was the case in Tennessee, where the President traveled Tuesday to campaign on behalf of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running to fill the seat Sen. Bob Corker will vacate. Blackburn faces former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is considered a strong candidate even in the deep red state.

"When you win the presidency, for some reason you always end up losing the House," Trump told supporters in Nashville. "I think what happens is you get complacent."

It's that complacency that Trump believes he can change, urging his supporters to turn out in November even if they aren't regular midterm election voters.

The President, who receives regular briefings on Senate and House races, is expected to increase his travel to two or three times a week heading into the late fall, a White House official said. Trump had shown an interest in traveling as much as five times a week in the run-up to the fall, but aides suggested a lighter and more targeted schedule.

Yet Trump -- and perhaps his aides -- are hardly steeped in details of some key races, a point made clear Wednesday night when he endorsed a New York congressman on Twitter and praised him for supporting the Republican tax cut bill last year. But Rep. Dan Donovan, who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn, actually voted against the President's signature legislation.

Since the start of 2018, Trump has had a weekly meeting focused on the midterms, usually on Fridays. Through charts, graphs and recent polls, advisers walk him through the terrain of critical Senate and House contests. He often asks aides how he fared in the respective districts or states.

"The Trump map remains the most important map," a Republican close to the White House said.

One key Republican fear has been allayed: deep divisions inside the party. Trump has largely followed the direction of party leaders, declining to follow the counsel from some outside advisers by challenging incumbents.

Pence's role

The broad outlines of the White House's midterm strategy were developed in January when Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and top GOP congressional leaders convened for a weekend at Camp David, aides said. It has been updated over regular dinners at the White House, where Trump often tells his guests that he believes his presidency could break the path of the party in power losing seats.

During that initial summit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the "biggest asks" needed to protect the Senate majority, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy did the same for the lower chamber.

Pence and Trump will take on different roles during the midterms, with Pence focusing more on fundraising and smaller campaign events, a vice presidential aide said, even while trying to protect the House majority from what is expected to be a wave of Democratic enthusiasm in November.

"You're not going to see as much of him doing these big events," the aide said of Pence, who will instead help fundraise for a variety of Republican groups, including the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and state parties.

Although preparations for the possible Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un and other foreign policy issues have "sidetracked" Pence recently from his political work, the aide said Pence will ramp up his time on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead.

Pence will also help raise money for Great America Committee, his political action committee, and distribute checks from that PAC to House Republican candidates. Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, recently joined that effort.

To ward against complacency among his base voters, Trump has increashe iingly made immigration a focus of the fall Republican message, falsely accusing Democrats of defending violent gangs like MS-13 by declining to support his border wall in Congress. Pence is likely to ramp up messaging on immigration and border security as well during upcoming political appearances, the vice presidential aide said.

Stacked deck

For all of the planning inside the White House and at the Republican National Committee, the deck is still stacked against Republicans this year.

One concern among White House aides and Republican congressional leaders is complacency among House GOP incumbents. The fear among many Republicans is that lawmakers in conservative districts who have never faced tough re-election battles, such as members who rode in on the Tea Party wave of 2010, don't fully understand just how tough the political landscape has become heading into November.

Not only does history suggest the party of the President could lose dozens of seats in the first midterm election of his presidency, but Republicans must confront a Democratic base whose opposition to Trump has fed the expectation of a coming "blue wave."

Trump made clear in Nashville on Tuesday night that his supporters must get fired up.

"This election is a very important one," Trump told his followers. "So you have to get out."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1462456

Reported Deaths: 20308
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2005922494
Lake992001456
Allen903391005
Hamilton70705539
St. Joseph63078746
Elkhart48098622
Vanderburgh46217523
Tippecanoe42115330
Johnson37119516
Hendricks35078455
Porter33900460
Madison28036530
Clark25186321
Vigo24768341
LaPorte22894307
Monroe22201243
Howard21344372
Delaware20937363
Hancock18289217
Kosciusko17513199
Bartholomew17399212
Warrick16060212
Wayne15757296
Floyd15399252
Grant14898293
Morgan13934230
Boone13172136
Noble11421140
Dearborn11355112
Henry11312201
Shelby11231150
Marshall11041166
Dubois10782152
Jackson10174104
DeKalb9944128
Cass9942142
Lawrence9914219
Huntington9823139
Gibson9131125
Montgomery9005140
Knox8762124
Harrison8718111
Whitley844771
Steuben8340102
Jasper8069113
Putnam795197
Clinton792994
Miami7914133
Wabash7598138
Jefferson7551124
Ripley6993111
Adams6508101
Scott629086
Daviess6266127
White602379
Greene5913111
Clay587173
Wells5814120
Decatur5754118
Jennings572276
Fayette5657121
Posey529146
LaGrange512996
Randolph4925128
Washington482067
Owen480398
Fountain463579
Spencer438156
Starke434086
Sullivan432164
Fulton426790
Orange412682
Jay403964
Rush395736
Carroll371349
Franklin369850
Perry362155
Vermillion345062
Pike308945
Tipton307974
Parke305038
Pulaski266973
Blackford266755
Newton228359
Brown222654
Benton213321
Crawford211231
Switzerland189414
Martin181921
Warren169520
Union163619
Ohio119516
Unassigned0742

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2403645

Reported Deaths: 30922
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2596932036
Cuyahoga2572672998
Hamilton1666711699
Montgomery1103831586
Summit1066861382
Lucas895171149
Butler78647924
Stark747301383
Lorain62885783
Warren49934468
Mahoning49735909
Lake46850586
Clermont43541428
Delaware38876210
Trumbull38576748
Medina37611416
Licking36901401
Fairfield33848331
Greene32124416
Portage31381356
Clark30277440
Richland28251420
Wood27660289
Allen24372392
Miami22806389
Muskingum22298244
Columbiana22095399
Wayne21275354
Tuscarawas18847423
Erie18041221
Ashtabula17932338
Marion17503231
Scioto16553203
Ross16163249
Pickaway15536173
Hancock15251227
Geauga15244221
Lawrence13847186
Huron13399182
Union1329683
Belmont13255247
Jefferson12864257
Sandusky12770197
Athens11949106
Knox11511195
Seneca11454200
Ashland10795174
Darke10673196
Washington10564168
Auglaize10152141
Crawford9854175
Shelby9699155
Brown9400140
Fulton9235148
Guernsey9109115
Defiance9057134
Highland9035143
Logan8955141
Clinton8719121
Mercer8640111
Madison8568104
Preble8002160
Williams7848135
Putnam7731135
Ottawa7629120
Champaign7556112
Jackson7383114
Perry714598
Coshocton7043136
Morrow694580
Fayette662287
Hardin6219125
Pike617086
Gallia594989
Adams5779124
Van Wert5779120
Henry565592
Hocking5521103
Carroll4828100
Wyandot482289
Holmes4747161
Paulding401163
Meigs375071
Monroe299368
Noble279851
Harrison279461
Morgan276848
Vinton239845
Unassigned08
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