Negative Trump headlines dominate much of the news cycle. Will the open hostility between Trump and the mainstream media hurt the Republicans in the coming mid-term elections?
Let’s look at just the past couple of months and then look forward to November and the mid-term Congressional elections.
In June, the country seemed transfixed by the vision of children separated from parents at the Mexico-Texas border.
In July came Mr. Trump’s European tour which resembled no other foreign trip by an American president. He publicly called out Germany, admonished most NATO members as deadbeats, advised Prime Minister Theresa May to sue the European Union which he called a “foe,” and questioned his own intelligence services as he stood alongside Vladimir Putin.
Coming home, President Trump said that he would invite Mr. Putin to the US before the election and then said that he would wait until 2019. He tweeted a willingness to shut down the government if Congress didn’t fund a border wall although privately he allegedly dismissed that option. He tweeted (of course) that conservatives Charles and David Koch – who are routinely demonized by the American left – were “a total joke in real Republican circles.”
He tweeted again that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should shut down the Mueller’s investigation “right now” which his spokesperson later had to say was an “opinion,” not an “order.”
By any measure, most of the media is more-than-critical of Mr. Trump. Here are some CNN headlines from June and July:
• 6/12/18 – “Trump’s 49 Wildest Summit Quotes”
• 6/13/18 – “On the Plane Back from the Summit Trump Called His Lawyers”
• 6/14/18 – “US reckons with Trump’s war on immigration “
• 6/22/18 -“Trump ties himself in an impossible knot”
• 6/28/18 – “Trump Will Change US law and Lives”
• 7/17/18 “Trump is surprised at all the criticism” (After Helsinki summit with Putin)
• 7/20/18 “This tapes story is just getting started”
• 7/23/18 – “Rattled or frustrated, Trump is lashing out all over”
• 7/24/18 – “How Democrats can crack Trump’s base”
• 7/29/18 – “Trump didn’t tell the whole truth 7 times in a single tweet”
• 7/31/18 – “Trump tweets ‘collusion is not a crime’”
The mid-term Congressional elections are in three months. What should Republican Congressional candidates campaign on?
Answer: The courts and the economy.
Voters who want a more restrained federal court system with nominations like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh should hope for GOP control of the Senate.
Voters may also be happy with the good economic news – low unemployment and decent job growth and increases in average wages.
From the chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley on jobs: “I’ve never seen such a steady stream of gains — there’s no volatility in the numbers.”
From the “New York Times” this week: “The latest job figures follow a steady stream of hiring gains and a robust reading on economic growth. Last week, the Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in the second quarter, the fastest pace in nearly four years.”
Three words of word of caution: First, we are always reluctant to link federal policies with growth in jobs and wages. All politicians make self-serving comments in these areas but the US economy is far too dynamic for sound bites. Nevertheless, as one “Washington Post” article generally skeptical of this as a “ Trump economy” reported: “The economy is doing well. Job growth slightly below expectations paired with good unemployment numbers is not bad news at all.”
Second, danger to the economy seems mostly to come from President Trump’s tariff policies which are far closer to the stance of the modern Democratic Party than to the GOP.
Third, we should always worry about the national debt.
Where are we?
President Donald Trump is crass and often unprepared. For those who care about character – Democrats who have amnesia about the 1990s seem to be in this camp – he has publicly cheated on each of his three wives. Many of his statements are untrue. He is a polarizing figure. He’s periodically at odds with most of the establishment of his own party.
But he is fortunate in the over-the top reactions of his political adversaries. Additionally, the anti-Trump FBI bias in 2016 and the apparently shady FISA court processes that we are discovering are gaining the president some sympathy.
At this point, Mr. Trump’s political base seems secure. His job-approval poll numbers at home are higher than they were a year ago.
As to what will happen in November – who knows?