"Donald Trump is pinning the hopes for his first midterm-election contest on the same assumption that carried him two victory two years ago: Beltway Republicans are wrong again.
The party elite had once envisioned a 2018 campaign season in which they would tout a historic package of tax cuts, low unemployment, and steadily rising middle-class wages.
But for Trumpworld, that was way too boring.
The president has taken to privately bemoaning GOP leaders’ instincts to play it safe. According to a source close to Trump, he has in recent days viciously mocked the idea that those in punditry and Republican politics, who have advocated for an approach preferred by those such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, know better than he does, given how wrong they were about the 2016 election and Trump’s ultimate triumph.
So instead, Republicans’ core midterm messaging, spearheaded by the president, has focused on divisive issues that make many establishment Republicans squeamish, but which have huge appeal among Trump’s die-hard right-wing supporters and the party’s fervent base.
The final GOP and Team Trump sales pitch has largely zeroed in on spreading nativist lies about a migrant “caravan” heading to America, reviving calls to do away with U.S. birthright citizenship, hyping a Trump campaign ad widely denounced as a racist bullhorn, and fearmongering about widespread voter fraud, a phenomenon that, for all practical purposes, simply doesn’t exist.
The closing argument has been so thoroughly dominated by Trumpian verve that Speaker Ryan even got on the phone with the president on Sunday to practically beg him to talk about the economy. Ryan did this on behalf of “anxious Republicans” skittish that Trump’s rhetoric will end up costing conservatives more congressional seats, Politico reported.
But according to Republican operatives in states that will actually shape the makeup of the U.S. Senate this week, Trump is right, and Paul Ryan is wrong.
“It’s about issues that hit people in the gut, that people react to and matter a lot to them instinctively,” Corey Stewart, the former Trump campaign chairman for Virginia and current (and likely doomed) U.S. Senate candidate in the state, told The Daily Beast on Monday.
“We got this great economy under President Trump,” Stewart said, “but it’s not as much as an emotional issue as some of these other things…[like] the caravan and the invasion by illegal aliens. Those are the kinds of things that people are most concerned about. And those are the things that drive people to the polls.”
And as CNN reported Monday, Trump loathed a closing TV ad that played up a sunny economic message and that his campaign debuted last week. The president reportedly demanded to aides that his final push ahead of the midterms remain his anti-migrant onslaught.
Clearly, Trump and Republican candidates across the country are running with this all the way to the finish line, in the hopes that these scorched-earth appeals and weaponized xenophobia will keep Congress in GOP hands. “I think it’s been a good strategy,” Ed Rollins, a strategist who leads the pro-Trump Great America PAC, said. “I think the president has done more than you could ask any president to do... I think the economy is something the candidates themselves should be pushing... He has to energize a lot of people who voted for him last time, who are not traditional voters.” ...
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