A special election in Kansas was just held to replace a popular
Republican congressman who took a cabinet post in the new
Trump administration. Many in the media glibly speculated
that the results, especially if the Democrat won or got close,
might be an early omen for the mid-term elections next year.
As it turned out, The GOP candidate won by a clear but not
overwhelming margin. Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics,
always a smart and cool-headed observer, suggests that no
one should make too much about this election because the
overriding factor in 2018 will be later public perception of the
Trump administration and the Congress’s record of
achievement or lack of it.
There will be about a half dozen special elections over the
next few months, and this caution should be carefully applied
--- although upsets are possible, and Democrats will surely
try hard to make them happen where an incumbent GOP seat
While it is obviously too early to assess what the public mood
will be more than a year from now, that does not mean that the
Republican house majority is inviolable. A current media mantra
is the possibility that liberals could win back the U.S. house in
spite of the currently comfortable GOP majority. The recent
split in the majority caucus recently the unresolved debate over
Obamacare repeal and replacement, a key issue that favored
Republicans in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, could have
a boomerang effect if the GOP majority does not deliver on its
promise by the end of the year. Demographics and redistricting
have given the conservative party a clear advantage in the past
decade, and that advantage remains on paper, but voters are
these days remarkably impatient with gridlock and vacuous
Inexperienced in the ways of DC legislation, President Trump
has deferred to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell to navigate the conservative legislative
program through the Congress, and to his desk. Mr. Trump,
as he repeatedly points out, likes to win, and he will not defer
forever. Mr. Trump is not up for re-election in 2018, but the
entire U.S. house is, as is one-third of the U.S. senate,
Ahead is important and promised legislation on tax reform and
tax cuts, infrastructure spending, the complex issues of the new
budget, and the overhaul of the government in Washington, DC.
If 25-35 Freedom Caucus members continue to thwart the
Trump-Ryan-McConnell agenda, Republicans would have every
reason to worry about their “impenetrable” majority in the
house, and their rare opportunity to pick up as many as 10 seats
in the senate.
GOP strategists would be well-advised not to be pre-occupied
with occasional special elections which might turn more on local
issues, and better be concerned about getting their political act
together, and soon.
The man in the White House is the most improbable, and perhaps
the most underestimated, political figure in a very long time. His
pedigree suggests action, surprise (some might prefer the word
“shock”) and a thirst for success. He is being respectful, for the
time being, of the ways of Washington, and seemingly prepared
to work in its environment.
But if Donald Trump discovers that the Capitol is just a decorous
and unyielding china shop, it might get a lot noisier than it is now.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.