The midterm elections on Tuesday feature an eye-popping amount of money spent, astoundingly phony claims made, and a curious effort by Democratic candidates to avoid mentioning President Trump.
With control of Congress at stake, an estimated $5.2 billion will be spent nationwide on this year’s off-year elections, making it the most expensive midterm election ever by a wide margin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit watchdog group.
Billions have been doled out on both sides – Democrats and Republicans — by candidates, PACs, Super PACs, nonprofits and some of country’s wealthiest individuals.
Entering the final week of the election cycle, the two parties are engaged in divergent strategies, with the Democrats focused on kitchen-table issues such as health care, livable wages and infrastructure while the GOP, following the lead of President Trump, has doubled down on hot-button cultural issues such as immigration, left-wing “mobs” harassing Republican officials, and claims of “fake news” spread by a liberal media.
As The Hill noted, “closing arguments mark a sharp contrast in tone and content as party leaders scramble to turn out voters in the first national referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.”
Democrats have concluded that Trump is a lightning rod and they should waste no time on the campaign trail trying to sway Trump supporters.
Yet, in the past week Trump’s incendiary behavior has potentially lost votes for GOP congressional candidates, perhaps down to the level of hopefuls running for governor or state legislative seats.
While the nation reals from political and bigoted violence, at campaign rallies and on Twitter Trump has engaged in an extraordinary amount of controversy:
- He displayed a lack of empathy for the Democratic targets of the mail bomber or the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre at a Jewish synagogue.
- He has tried to portray, without evidence, that the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. border to seek asylum are “bad people,” some of whom are gang members. His allies on Fox News claim that the migrants will spread dangerous diseases in the U.S. — leprosy or a polio-like virus that will paralyze U.S. kids
- He has tweeted that he wants to end birthright citizenship, asserting that he can amend the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by simply issuing an executive order.
- He has failed to comment on a highly publicized, laughably incompetent scam led by a 20-year-old to pay women to make claims that they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Robert Mueller, the former FBI director leading the Trump-Russia investigation.
Yet, as of Monday, the Democratic Party was still adhering to the approach that Trump is a known factor and should be mentioned only sparingly by candidates on the campaign trail.
The Washington Post reported this:
Many Democratic candidates in the country’s most hard-fought congressional districts barely talk about the president. They feel that he is loathed enough on the left that they don’t need to throw red meat to raise money or attract volunteers. They’re worried that, if they spend their time attacking Trump, voters won’t know what they stand for. And they’re trying to woo moderates who want a check on the president without more gridlock or divisiveness.
As the map of competitive (House) races has expanded, there are also plenty of toss-up contests where the president isn’t as unpopular as you might presume. It all adds up to a jarring disconnect eight days out from the election between the conversation at the national level and on the ground in (congressional districts).
Polls tighten while Trump’s unpresidential behavior widens.
Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who turned in a mediocre performance as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 and now seeks re-election to the Senate, told the Post’s Daily 202 blog that Trump should be marginalized, treated as a non-factor.
“Donald Trump, you can say this about him, has one of the lowest percentages of people who are undecided about him of anybody ever,” Kaine said. “So, if you spend a lot of time talking about him, you’re wasting your time. People know what they think about him.”