THE MORNING PLUM:
House Democratic strategists, convinced that Tuesday’s results represent a massive voter uprising against Trumpism that will continue through next year, are adding nearly a dozen GOP districts to their list of 2018 takeover targets, in an effort to expand the map to keep pace with the rapid deterioration of the GOP’s political fortunes.
One of those targets, I’m told: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Later Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will release a memo on the state of the House map that details the new targets, and this blog obtained an advance look at the new list. In addition to Wisconsin’s 1st District, which is held by Ryan, they include:
- Four open seats: Ohio’s 12th District, Pennsylvania’s 11th District, Pennsylvania’s 15th District and Texas’s 21st District, where Reps. Pat Tiberi, Lou Barletta, Charlie Dent and Lamar Smith are retiring.
- Utah’s 4th District — the seat held by Rep. Mia Love
- New York’s 2nd District — the seat held by Pete King
- Indiana’s 9th District — the seat held by Trey Hollingsworth
- California’s 4th District — the seat held by Tom McClintock
- Washington state’s 5th District — the seat held by Cathy McMorris Rodgers
- Wisconsin’s 6th District — the seat held by Glenn Grothman
The DCCC’s most recent target list included about 80 seats that the committee views as at least theoretically contestable under certain conditions. Now that list will jump to over 90. In some of these districts, local Democratic candidates have already announced challenges.
By putting these districts on its target list, the DCCC isn’t necessarily saying it will heavily invest in these races yet. The committee will actively recruit in them and lend staff, research, analytical and communications support to candidates in them and consider them for future expenditures.
To be sure, these new targets represent major uphill climbs for Democrats. Three of them — PA-15, UT-04 and OH-12 — are not totally outside the realm of possibility: Trump won the first two of those districts by less than 10 points and won the third by 11 points. Ryan, in WI-1, will be extremely tough to beat for obvious reasons, but he has an interesting challenger in blue-collar ironworker Randy Bryce. Trump won the remaining districts by large margins. But after the obvious wave-like features of Tuesday’s wins, Democrats are hoping to fight in as many districts as possible, in hopes of making surprising things happen in them.
“This is a mix of suburban districts, open seats, and places where Democratic candidates are already running strong campaigns,” Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for the DCCC, told me. “No doubt, this is tough territory. But we intend to field as many viable candidates as possible.”
On Tuesday, Democrats won crushing victories in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, swept two other statewide offices in Virginia, made huge gains in that state’s House of Delegates and racked up wins in several other states. The results suggest that Democratic voter groups are heavily energized and that suburban voters are in open revolt against President Trump and the GOP, even as Trump does not appear to be energizing Republican voters to anywhere near the same degree.
Until this week, Republicans were watching to see whether Republican Ed Gillespie had found a magical answer. He tried to keep the Trump base energized with xenophobic and race-baiting appeals, while avoiding the most overt Trumpist racial provocation to avoid offending suburban and more educated swing constituencies, and stressing conventional GOP economic orthodoxy before those audiences. This failed on all fronts: Democratic voters were likely energized by Gillespie’s under-the-radar Trumpist messaging, and swing voters may have been alienated by it, even as college-educated whites — who should have been more amenable to an establishment candidate such as Gillespie — voted Democratic in larger percentages than even against Trump himself last year.
From all this, Republicans seem to have concluded that they must pass the GOP tax cut bill or perish. Key to this strategy is to keep robotically characterizing the tax plan as primarily a tax cut for the middle class. But the GOP tax plan delivers the vast majority of its benefits to the rich. Republicans are justifying this and its huge corporate tax cuts with the usual “trickle down” rhetoric, even as the plan is likely to raise taxes on many non-wealthy Americans over time.
In other words, Republicans are basically shelving the argument over whether they must continue energizing core Republican voters with Trumpist appeals, and instead will stick to their economic agenda, keep vowing to repeal Obamacare, and hope for the best. But the premise behind the Democratic strategy is that both Trumpism and the GOP economic and health-care agenda are deeply unpopular — that both factors are energizing Democratic voters and alienating swing and suburban constituencies — enabling them to compete on a vast playing field.
Winning back the House is still a major challenge for Democrats, in part because some theoretically vulnerable GOP districts are heavily populated by the working-class white voters with whom Democrats still struggle. But as Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman put it about Tuesday’s results:
* IN SUBURBS, REPUBLICANS ARE IN DEEP TROUBLE: The New York Times surveys Tuesday’s results and finds suburban voters in revolt against Trump and the GOP, with major ramifications for 2018. Note these factoids:
In Virginia, the district of Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican, went 56 percent to 43 percent for Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam … Mr. Northam also captured 51 percent of the votes in the district of Representative Scott Taylor, a freshman Republican from Virginia Beach.
Comstock is a top Dem target. Also, the Democratic blowout in the New Jersey gubernatorial race suggests Dems may have a shot at snatching the seats of vulnerable House Republicans there.
* REPUBLICAN BLOWS UP GOP TALKING POINT ON TAXES: After Tuesday’s losses, many Republicans argue tax cuts must pass or the GOP will get crushed in 2018. But GOP Rep. Pete King points out the bill would raise taxes on some of their constituents:
“How can you vote for tax reform if it’s going to increase the taxes in your district?” Mr. King asked, suggesting lawmakers would have to say: “Great victory! We got the first tax reform through in 30 years. Your taxes are going up, but it’s O.K. because we got it through.”
Yes, it is absurd, but when you’re trying to justify tax cuts for the rich that are deeply unpopular after an electoral drubbing, you don’t have many good arguments at hand.
* GARY COHN: GOP TAX PLAN IS ‘TRICKLE DOWN’ ECONOMICS: Top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn tells CNBC’s John Harwood why cutting taxes bigly on the rich and corporations will be good for America:
“When you take a corporate tax rate at 35 percent and move it to 20 percent … it’s hard for me to not imagine that they’re not going to bring businesses back to the United States. We create wage inflation, which means the workers get paid more; the workers have more disposable income, the workers spend more. And we see the whole trickle-down through the economy, and that’s good for the economy.”
Fortunately, Americans have heard this argument for decades at this point, so perhaps they won’t get snowed by it.
* DEMOCRATS HOPE FOR DEAL ON ‘DREAMERS’: Politico reports that some Democrats hope to use Tuesday’s big wins to pressure moderate Republicans to agree to a deal protecting the “dreamers”:
Democrats are using the wins to implore vulnerable Republicans to join them in pressuring GOP leaders to begin negotiations in earnest on a Dreamer deal. “Yesterday we heard something very clear: Trump and Trumpism is a loser,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) told reporters Wednesday. “If you are a Republican and you are in a swing district and you want to have any fighting chance next year, join us in helping us pass the Dream Act.”
It would be remarkable if the GOP responded to Tuesday’s resounding rejection of Trumpism by refusing to protect the dreamers unless Democrats agreed to fund Trump’s immigration wish list.
* SOME DEMOCRATS WANT PARTY TO WOO WORKING-CLASS WHITES: Despite the big wins Tuesday, Democrats in Virginia did not make meaningful progress among working-class whites, and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania warns:
“There remains a lot of work to do in reaching those small-town or rural Democratic voters. They are the ones who need to hear from us, too. Those are the voters our party has had a problem with over the years. We need to speak to them about the lack of wage growth and the opioid crisis. We may not even win in those areas, but we could narrow the margins.”
To reiterate, some GOP-held House seats have large populations of working-class whites, and this could still be an obstacle to recapturing the lower chamber.
* SOME DEMOCRATS WANT PARTY TO FIGHT IN ALABAMA: The Daily Beast reports that after Tuesday, some Dems want the party to invest in the Alabama Senate race between Doug Jones and religious-right extremist Roy Moore. But:
National Democrats appear content to keep a distance for now. Party leaders say they expect more money to ultimately be sent to the Alabama state party. … But no major surrogates are expected to swing through the state … And there is little expectation that the party will even emphasize the race as a priority, lest they raise expectations or encourage Republicans to respond in kind.
As one Democratic strategist notes, Jones has been running ads with little response from Republicans, so perhaps drawing outside attention is best avoided.
* AND WORLD LEADERS LAVISH FLATTERY ON TRUMP: The Associated Press reports that on Trump’s trip to Asia, he has been lavished with “endless praise,” beginning in Japan with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe:
“When you play golf with someone not just once, but for two times, the person must be your favorite guy,” Abe said. … In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in laid it on even thicker. … “I believe it has not been one year yet, your time in office,” said Moon, “but you are already making great progress on making America great again, as you have promised on the campaign trail.”
As one international relations expert put it: “They are not ignorant that this is a president who is particularly responsive to flattery.” Gosh, whatever gave them that idea?