THERE’S plenty on the line for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the midterms.

Tues­day’s re­sults could ei­ther em­bolden or im­peril agenda

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - Zeke Miller and Cather­ine Lucey, The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been act­ing like a can­di­date on the bal­lot, stag­ing daily dou­ble­header ral­lies and blast­ing out ads for Re­pub­li­cans up for elec­tion on Tues­day. Given the stakes for his pres­i­dency, he might as well be.

A knot of in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Par­ti­san grid­lock. A warn­ing shot for his re­elec­tion bid. Trump faces po­ten­tially de­bil­i­tat­ing fall­out should Re­pub­li­cans lose con­trol of one or both cham­bers in Congress, end­ing two years of GOP hege­mony in Wash­ing­ton. A White House that has strug­gled to stay on course un­der fa­vor­able cir­cum­stances would be tested in dra­matic ways. A pres­i­dent who of­ten bat­tles his own party, would face a far less for­giv­ing op­po­si­tion.

On the flip side, if Re­pub­li­cans main­tain con­trol of the House and Se­nate, that’s not only a vic­tory for the GOP, but a val­i­da­tion of Trump’s brand of pol­i­tics and his un­con­ven­tional pres­i­dency. That re­sult, con­sid­ered less likely even within the White House, would em­bolden the pres­i­dent as he launches his own re­elec­tion bid.

White House aides in­sist the pres­i­dent doesn’t spend much time con­tem­plat­ing de­feat, but he has be­gun to try to cal­i­brate ex­pec­ta­tions. He has fo­cused on the com­pet­i­tive Se­nate races the fi­nal days of his scorched­earth cam­paign blitz, and has dis­tanced him­self from blame should Re­pub­li­cans lose the House.

Mean­while his staff has be­gun prepa­ra­tions to deal with a flood of sub­poe­nas that could ar­rive next year from Demo­crat­con­trolled com­mit­tees and the White House coun­sel’s of­fice has been try­ing to at­tract sea­soned lawyers to field over­sight in­quiries.

Should they take the House, Democrats are al­ready plot­ting to re­open the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia. Other com­mit­tees are plot­ting ag­gres­sive over­sight of Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and his web of busi­ness in­ter­ests. Some Democrats are look­ing at us­ing the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee to ob­tain copies of the pres­i­dent’s tax re­turns af­ter he broke with decades of tra­di­tion and with­held them from pub­lic scru­tiny dur­ing his cam­paign for the White House.

A slim Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the House would also present chal­lenges, likely in­flam­ing sim­mer­ing in­tra­party dis­putes. First among them would be a po­ten­tially bit­ter lead­er­ship fight in the House to re­place re­tir­ing Speaker Paul Ryan. But a nar­rowed ma­jor­ity would also ex­ac­er­bate di­vi­sions over pol­icy — and con­tin­ued uni­fied con­trol could leave the GOP fac­ing the blame for grid­lock.

“Clearly there’s an aw­ful lot on the line in terms of the leg­isla­tive agenda,” said Repub­li­can con­sul­tant Josh Holmes. “The prospect of a Demo­cratic con­trolled House or Se­nate puts a se­ri­ous wrin­kle in get­ting any­thing through Congress.”

Some in the White House think los­ing to Democrats might ac­tu­ally be prefer­able. They view Democrats’ ea­ger­ness to in­ves­ti­gate the pres­i­dent as a bless­ing in dis­guise in the run­up to 2020. They view House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi as a po­tent foil for Trump, and be­lieve they can tag the party re­spon­si­bil­ity for Wash­ing­ton dys­func­tion.

Ari Fleis­cher, George W. Bush’s press sec­re­tary, said Demo­cratic con­trol of the House “has both peril and prom­ise for the pres­i­dent.”

“The peril is sub­poe­nas, in­ves­ti­ga­tions, le­gal bills and headaches,” he said. “The prom­ise is Trump will have an easy foil to run against: Pelosi and Demo­cratic lead­er­ship.”

Ni­cholas Kamm/Agence France­Presse

While Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump isn’t on the bal­lot him­self, Tues­day’s vote has be­come a ref­er­en­dum on his un­con­ven­tional pres­i­dency. He stopped in Mon­tana on Sat­ur­day to cam­paign for can­di­dates there. Trump and Re­pub­li­cans have tried to sell vot­ers on the pos­si­bil­i­ties of an­other two years of GOP con­trol.

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