With at least 35 Republican House seats expected to be up for grabs in the 2018 midterm elections, and Democrats needing just 24 to regain a majority in the House, the November vote would appear to be a critically important one for Republicans. But maybe not so much, according to the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.
Speaking at the Susan B. Anthony List gala on Tuesday evening — an annual anti-abortion event that had never previously hosted a sitting president as its featured speaker — Trump veered off of his prepared script to wonder aloud if the 2018 midterm elections were really all that important, at least compared to the 2016 presidential election, when Trump himself was on the ballot.
Even after an introduction for Trump in which a speaker made a point of saying that the 2018 midterms were “essential” votes for anti-abortion activists, Trump could not bring himself to acknowledge that the congressional elections, without the presidency at stake, would be as crucial as the 2016 vote that put him in the White House.
“Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” Trump read off a teleprompter, only to stop mid-sentence and offer commentary off the top of his head. “I’m not sure I really believe that. I don’t know who the hell wrote that line,” Trump said.
Watch Trump deliver the improvised line in the video below.
Even Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan who has been, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most important member of Congress in promoting Trump’s legislative agenda and shielding him from the effects of scandals and the Russia collusion investigation, finds his Wisconsin seat now looking like a possible Democratic gain — for the simple reason that Ryan has said he won’t be running for reelection.
The Republican majority in the Senate also appears to be in jeopardy, with Democrats needing to pick up two seats to bring their total from 49 — including independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine — to a majority of 51. According to the political data site FiveThirtyEight.com, Republican seats in Arizona and Nevada appear within reach of turning “blue,” though Democrats may lose a seat in the Senate which, if they are able to pick up two, would leave the Senate deadlocked at 50-50.
Republican fears of a “blue wave” in November were eased somewhat on Tuesday with the release of a new Ipsos/Reuters poll that gave Republicans a slight, 1.4 percentage point lead in the “generic ballot.” Polls on the generic ballot simply ask respondents whether they plan to vote for Democrats or Republicans, without mentioning any specific candidate.
But looking at a weighted average of all recent generic ballot polls, as compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com, Democrats continue to hold a solid 4.6 percentage point lead. In fact, the Ipsos/Reuters poll was the first poll taken since August of 2017 that did not show Democrats with a significant lead on the generic ballot.