Dems’ hopes high for tak­ing House

But still an air of un­cer­tainty head­ing into midterms

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Peo­ples

WASH­ING­TON — The day of reck­on­ing for Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has nearly ar­rived.

Vot­ers on Tues­day will de­cide the $5 bil­lion de­bate be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s take-no-pris­oner pol­i­tics and the Demo­cratic Party’s su­per-charged cam­paign to end the GOP’s hold on power in Wash­ing­ton and state­houses across the na­tion.

There are in­di­ca­tions that a mod­est “blue wave” of sup­port may help Democrats seize con­trol of at least one cham­ber of Con­gress. But two years af­ter an elec­tion that proved polls and prog­nos­ti­ca­tors wrong, noth­ing is cer­tain on the eve of the first na­tion­wide elec­tions of the Trump pres­i­dency.

“I don’t think there’s a Demo­crat in this coun­try that doesn’t have a lit­tle angst left over from 2016 deep down,” said Stephanie Schri­ock, pres­i­dent of EMILY’s List, which spent more than ever be­fore — nearly $60 mil­lion in all — to sup­port Demo­cratic women this cam­paign sea­son.

“Ev­ery­thing mat­ters and ev­ery­thing’s at stake,” Schri­ock said.

All 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for re­elec­tion. And 35 Se­nate seats are in play, as are al­most 40 gov­er­nor­ships and the bal­ance of power in vir­tu­ally ev­ery state leg­is­la­ture.

While he is not on the bal­lot, Trump ac­knowl­edged on Mon­day that the 2018 midterms rep­re­sent a ref­er­en­dum on his pres­i­dency.

“In a cer­tain way I am on the bal­lot,” Trump told sup­port­ers dur­ing a tele-town hall or­ga­nized by his re-elec­tion cam­paign. “The press is very much con­sid­er­ing it a ref­er­en­dum on me and us as a move­ment.”

He also con­tended, as he does daily, that if the Democrats win they will work to roll back ev­ery­thing he’s tried to ac­com­plish. “It’s all frag­ile,” he said.

Should Democrats win con­trol of the House, as strate­gists in both par­ties sug­gest is likely, they could de­rail Trump’s leg­isla­tive agenda for the next two years. Per­haps more im­por­tant, they would win sub­poena power to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s many per­sonal and pro­fes­sional mis­steps.

Tues­day’s elec­tions will also test the strength of a Trump-era po­lit­i­cal re­align­ment de­fined by evolv­ing di­vi­sions among vot­ers by race, gen­der and es­pe­cially ed­u­ca­tion.

Trump’s Re­pub­li­can coali­tion is in­creas­ingly older, whiter, more male and less likely to have a col­lege de­gree. Democrats are re­ly­ing more upon women, peo­ple of color, young peo­ple and col­lege grad­u­ates.

The po­lit­i­cal re­align­ment, if it so­lid­i­fies, could re-shape U.S. pol­i­tics for a gen­er­a­tion.

Just five years ago, the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee re­ported that the GOP’s very sur­vival de­pended upon at­tract­ing more mi­nori­ties and women. Those vot­ers have in­creas­ingly fled Trump’s Re­pub­li­can Party, turned off by his chaotic lead­er­ship style and xeno­pho­bic rhetoric. Blue-col­lar men, how­ever, have em­braced the un­con­ven­tional pres­i­dent.

One of the RNC re­port’s au­thors, Ari Fleis­cher, ac­knowl­edged that Re­pub­li­can lead­ers never en­vi­sioned ex­pand­ing their ranks with white, work­ing-class men.

“What it means to be Re­pub­li­can is be­ing rewrit­ten as we speak,” Fleis­cher said. “Don­ald Trump has the pen, and his hand­writ­ing isn’t al­ways very good.”

A na­tion­wide poll re­leased Sun­day by NBC News and The Wall Street Jour­nal de­tails the depth of the de­mo­graphic shifts.

Democrats led with likely African-Amer­i­can vot­ers (84 per­cent to 8 per­cent), Lati­nos (57 per­cent to 29 per­cent), vot­ers be­tween the ages of 18-34 (57 per­cent to 34 per­cent), women (55 per­cent to 37 per­cent) and in­de­pen­dents (35 per­cent to 23 per­cent).

Among white col­lege-ed­u­cated women, Democrats en­joy a 28-point ad­van­tage: 61 per­cent to 33 per­cent.

On the other side, Re­pub­li­cans led with vot­ers be­tween the ages of 50 and 64 (52 per­cent to 43 per­cent), men (50 per­cent to 43 per­cent) and whites (50 per­cent to 44 per­cent). And among white men with­out col­lege de­grees, Re­pub­li­cans led 65 per­cent to 30 per­cent.

Democrats hope to elect a record num­ber of women to Con­gress. They are also poised to make his­tory with the num­ber of LGBT can­di­dates and Mus­lims up and down the bal­lot.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama seized on the dif­fer­ences be­tween the par­ties in a fi­nal-days scram­ble to mo­ti­vate vot­ers across the na­tion.

“One elec­tion won’t elim­i­nate racism, sex­ism or ho­mo­pho­bia,” Obama said dur­ing an ap­pear­ance in Florida. “It’s not go­ing to hap­pen in one elec­tion. But it’ll be a start.”

Trump has de­liv­ered a very dif­fer­ent clos­ing ar­gu­ment, rail­ing against Latin Amer­i­can im­mi­grants seek­ing asy­lum at the U.S. bor­der.

With the walk­ing car­a­van weeks away, Trump dis­patched more than 5,000 troops to the re­gion. The pres­i­dent also said sol­diers would use lethal force against mi­grants who throw rocks, be­fore later re­vers­ing him­self.

Still, his xeno­pho­bic rhetoric has been un­prece­dented for an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent in the mod­ern era: “Barbed wire used prop­erly can be a beau­ti­ful sight,” Trump told vot­ers in Mon­tana.

The hyper-charged en­vi­ron­ment is ex­pected to drive record turnout in some places, but on the eve of the elec­tion, it’s far from cer­tain which side will show up in the great­est num­bers.

The out­come is clouded by the dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent land­scape be­tween the House and Se­nate.

Democrats are most op­ti­mistic about the House, a sprawl­ing bat­tle­field ex­tend­ing from Alaska to Florida. Most top races, how­ever, are set in Amer­ica’s sub­urbs where more ed­u­cated and af­flu­ent vot­ers in both par­ties have soured on Trump’s tur­bu­lent pres­i­dency, de­spite the strength of the na­tional econ­omy.

Democrats need to pick up two dozen seats to claim the House ma­jor­ity.

Bil­lion­aire for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who per­son­ally in­vested $110 mil­lion to help Democrats this year, largely in the House, has seized on voter ed­u­ca­tion lev­els in pick­ing tar­get races, ac­cord­ing to se­nior aide Howard Wolf­son.

“In this cy­cle, it seemed as if there was a dis­pro­por­tion­ately neg­a­tive re­ac­tion among highly ed­u­cated vot­ers to Trump,” he said.

As a re­sult, Bloomberg’s team poured money into oth­er­wise over­looked sub­ur­ban dis­tricts in states like Ge­or­gia, Wash­ing­ton state and Ok­la­homa be­cause data re­vealed vot­ers there were bet­ter-ed­u­cated.

Democrats face a far more dif­fi­cult chal­lenge in the Se­nate, where they are al­most ex­clu­sively on de­fense in ru­ral states where Trump re­mains pop­u­lar. Demo­cratic Se­nate in­cum­bents are up for re-elec­tion, for ex­am­ple, in North Dakota, West Vir­ginia, and Mon­tana — states Trump car­ried by 30 per­cent­age points on av­er­age two years ago.

Democrats need to win two seats to claim the Se­nate ma­jor­ity, al­though most po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives in both par­ties ex­pect Re­pub­li­cans to add to their ma­jor­ity.

While Trump is pre­pared to claim vic­tory if his party re­tains Se­nate con­trol, at least one prom­i­nent ally fears that los­ing even one cham­ber of Con­gress could be dis­as­trous.

“If they take back the House, he es­sen­tially will be­come a lame-duck pres­i­dent, and he won’t win re-elec­tion,” said Amy Kre­mer, a tea party ac­tivist who leads the group Women for Trump.

“They’ll do any­thing and ev­ery­thing they can to im­peach him,” she said.

In­deed, pow­er­ful Demo­cratic forces are al­ready push­ing for Trump’s im­peach­ment, even if Demo­cratic lead­ers aren’t ready to go that far.

Lib­eral ac­tivist Tom Steyer spent roughly $120 mil­lion this midterm sea­son. Much of that has gone to boost turnout among younger vot­ers, al­though he has pro­duced a na­tion­wide ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign call­ing for Trump’s im­peach­ment.

Steyer in­sisted most

Democrats agree.

“We’re not some fringe el­e­ment of the Demo­cratic Party. We are the Demo­cratic Party,” he said.

By Elec­tion Day, both sides are ex­pected to have spent more than $5 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics. The flood of cam­paign cash, a midterm record, has been over­whelm­ingly fu­eled by en­ergy on the left.

[CAROLYN KASTER/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump boards Air Force One on Mon­day at An­drews Air Force Base, Md., en route to a se­ries of cam­paign ral­lies.

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