losses are far more the rule. The best argument Republicans can make
for maintaining control may be the number of candidates running in
heavily gerrymandered, Republican-dominated districts.
the House, the best case scenario is to try to keep loses to a
minimum.” said Thomas M. Reynolds, a former congressman from New York
who led the House Republican campaign committee when they lost power
after the 2006 midterm elections. “It is not missed by anyone that the
president’s numbers are lower than other first-year presidents.”
Reynolds said that Republicans have advantages so far in fund-raising,
and they may actually benefit from the enthusiasm among some Democrats
that has led to multiple candidates running in primaries that could
He also said that Republicans now have some structural advantages built from their victories over the last few cycles.
“There is a structure there that may withstand no matter what, but the atmospherics have a caution light,” he said.
retirement of Mr. Royce, who represents a Southern California suburban
district that Hillary Clinton won by nine percentage points in 2016,
presents Democrats with the kind of opportunity they had been hoping to
seize. Educated, affluent districts in the suburbs will be the battle zones of 2018.
you see the sheer level of retirements by very senior Republicans, you
see them running scared, wanting to go out on their own terms and seeing
the writing on the wall,” said John Lapp, a Democratic consultant who
was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee in 2006 when his party wrested control of the House from
Lapp said that one major difference in this cycle is that signs of a
possible shift in power are occurring earlier. Democrats struggled to
recruit candidates, especially in districts that lean conservative. Now,
he said, they have an abundance of challengers to choose from in most
real difference is that people really know that Republicans are in
control of every lever of government, and they are mad as hell about
it,” he said, “and they want to make a change.”
the president’s party almost always drops seats in a midterm election,
the losses have averaged 40 seats since 1962 when the president’s
approval rating is under 50 percent. Mr. Trump’s numbers are below 40
percent in most polls, the worst of any president at this point in his
term in the history of polling. His ratings are also far worse than any
first-term president when the unemployment rate is under 5 percent.
Bill Clinton’s approval rating in November of 1994 was 46 percent, and
Democrats lost 54 House seats and control of the chamber for the first
time since the 1950s. President Barack Obama’s approval rating in
November 2010 was around 50 percent when Republicans won 63 seats.
Some of Mr. Trump’s policies are making it difficult for incumbents as well.
week, the administration said it would dramatically expand the coastal
areas open to offshore drilling, a policy that is opposed by many
members of Congress who live in districts along the Florida, South
Carolina and Virginia coasts and Pacific Seaboard. Attorney General Jeff
Sessions’ move to free prosecutors to more aggressively enforce federal
marijuana laws has prompted breaks from the president by prominent
Republicans in states where marijuana is legal, such as Senator Cory
Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign
of the Republicans who are retiring are among the more moderate members
of their party in Congress, such as Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
of Florida and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Many were known for the
power of chairing committees or for strong constituent service, or both.
Among the retirees are the chairmen of the House Foreign Relations,
Judiciary, Financial Services, Transportation and Science committees.
in recent days, and Mr. Trump, have been talking up the idea of
bipartisanship in 2018, in part to try to make the case to suburban
voters that they can be accommodating. So far, they do not have results
to match their words.
no question that this is a referendum on Republican control and
Republican policymaking,” Mr. Lapp said. “That said, Democrats do need
to have a plan, they do need to be for something and be more than just
not the other guy.”
Steve Stivers, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the Republican
Congressional Campaign Committee, countered the glee from Democrats over
Mr. Royce’s retirement. “Orange County has no shortage of Republican
talent,” he said in a statement, adding, “We have just one message for
Democrats who think they can compete for this seat: bring it on.”