There are so many signs of a coming rout in the House in November that’s it’s almost impossible to envision any way for Republicans to hang onto their 24-seat majority. And yet a faint outline of how the party might pull it off is nevertheless taking shape.
It’s not readily obvious. There are a record number of GOP retirements—42, so far—including many in the kinds of suburban districts that will be hardest for the party to hold. Democratic energy and enthusiasm are stratospheric, whether measured in polling, small-donor fundraising, turnout in special elections or sheer number of candidates running for office.
Republicans must also contend with historical precedent. Looking back over the past quarter-century, four of the last six midterms produced wave elections against the party in control of the White House. And the two that were kind to the party in power came in the wake of extraordinary circumstances: the Clinton impeachment and 9/11.
Change the aperture to the last half-century, and there’s still more ominous news. In nearly every midterm election where a president’s approval rating was below 50 percent—the zone where Donald Trump lives—a shellacking followed. (The lone exception was 2014 in President Obama’s second term, when Democrats lost only 13 seats.)
It’s not clear House Republican incumbents recognize how bad it is. Members typically have finely tuned political antennae, but more than 40 of them were outraised in the final quarter of 2017 by their Democratic opponents. They’re either oblivious to the forces swirling around them or have flat-out given up.
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