Tag Archives: Republicans

Political Competition– A First Glance at Trump’s Midterm Prospects


The Russians are coming! The Democrats are coming! Accusations, challenges and prospective scandals are all very much part of the current political vocabulary in Washington D.C.. But how will this translate into political gains and losses for both President Trump and the Republican Party at the upcoming midterm elections.

To recap, midterm elections are U.S. general elections that are held two years after the election for president. Up for election are members of the United States Congress, including all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate. At first glance, the Republicans stand a good chance of keeping a Senate majority; 26 of the 34 seats up for grabs are Democrat[1] which of course they will all need to hold onto before tackling Republican opposition in the remaining 8 seats. The House of Representatives is perhaps the one to watch with many Republican incumbents retiring and poll ratings being neck and neck at the moment.[2]

Russian meddling in the U.S. election will be a prominent factor of the Democrat attack. With Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicting 13 Russians for disruption of the 2016 presidential election, these accusations have all of a sudden become very real and tangible.[3] However, the Democrat’s have yet to come close to the smoking gun they so desperately seek; proof that Donald Trump was actively and consciously involved in this assault on democracy. The CIA fears that both Russia and China will interfere in the midterms but this won’t necessarily hurt Trump or the Republicans in congress with ties to him. CIA chief Mike Pompeo, a Trump ally, worries about the Russians but at the same time stands behind Trump’s engagement with the issue and involvement in its prevention: “he is curious about the facts that we present. He is curious in the sense he wants to understand why we believe them.”[4] Therefore, without further evidence or advancement of the investigation before November, Trump may not stand to be damaged from this. On the contrary, his accusations of a ‘witch hunt’ and ‘hoax’ may resonate with voters, damaging Democrat credibility.

So, if the charge of collusion with Russia is taken out of the equation, why have the Democrats made gains in recent local elections? Linda Belcher, a Democrat, won the special election for a Kentucky House District a few days ago. This win represents the 37th Republican-held state legislative seat to fall to the Democrats since Trump took office.[5] Surely, this symbolises a Democrat resurgence and a vote of no confidence in the president? Well, not necessarily. The ‘Trump effect’ may have galvanised  increased volunteer activity that has edged Democrat candidates to victory but many of these candidates have campaigned on very local issues (For example, in Virginia it was fixing local traffic problems and in Oklahoma, one stressed shortened school hours).[6] When it comes to national, midterm elections, these Democrat advances may not be the best indicator of voter turnout or indeed, which candidates they’ll vote for.

Democrats aside, if the Republicans secure victories, they won’t all be beneficial for Trump. Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will run for the Senate seat in Utah. At other Senators’ insistence, Trump has backed him as the Republican candidate but Romney plans to serve as a check on the president when needed; his latest campaign video targets some of Trump’s agenda, including immigration control.[7]  This could make it harder for Trump to pass bills through the Senate or it could play into the president’s hands. Just like the Democrat ‘Witch Hunt’, Romney’s approach has the potential to fail; after all, he represents a failed career politician, an embodiment of the swamp that Trump pledged to drain. Romney’s apparent ‘backstabbing’ could put a sour taste in many voters’ mouths and rally support for other conservative candidates and Trump.

At this stage, the national midterm elections are a hard one to predict. What is clear is that there will be many attacks on the president’s character and policies but the focus shouldn’t be on the attacks themselves but their effect: will they damage Republican chances or backfire and hurt the Democrats?

[1] Pramuk, J. ‘Republicans just got some good news for the 2018 midterm elections: A new poll shows them leading in the race for Congress’ www.cnbc.com https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/14/2018-midterm-elections-republicans-take-lead-on-a-generic-ballot.html [Accessed 22/02/2018]

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mudde, C. ‘Democrats beware: the Trump-Russia inquiry isn’t the path to power’ www.theguardian.com https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/21/trump-russia-mueller-investigation-democrats [Accessed 22/02/2018]

[4] Smith, D. ‘Russia is aiming to interfere in US midterm elections, warns CIA chief’ www.theguardian.com https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/29/russia-is-aiming-to-interfere-in-us-midterm-elections-warns-cia-chief [Accessed 22/02/2018]

[5] Vazquez, M. ‘Kentucky Democrat wins state House seat in Trump stronghold’ edition.cnn.com https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/21/politics/kentucky-linda-belcher-trump/index.html [Accessed 22/02/2018]

[6] Sargent, G. ‘A blue wave? How Trump is helping Democrats win in unlikely places’ www.washingtonpost.com https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/02/21/a-blue-wave-how-trump-is-helping-democrats-win-in-unlikely-places/?utm_term=.9b9807face40 [Accessed 22/02/2018]

[7] Rogers, K. ‘Trump endorses Mitt Romney’s Run for Utah Senate Seat’ www.nytimes.com https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/us/politics/mitt-romney-trump-endorsement-senate.html [Accessed 22/02/2018]

Gun control will not come anytime soon

The Valentine’s Day massacre in Florida was the eighteenth school shooting of the year – claiming at least 17 lives. This unsurprisingly reignited the debate of gun control in the USA, and while many see these heinous acts  as possible catalysts for gun law reform, the events of Valentine’s Day will do nothing in the form of speeding up gun-related policy.

Almost half of mass shooting cases have involved a shooter who had been ‘red-flagged’ (i.e. someone who has a history of violence or mental health problems), as was the case with Omar Mateen – the shooter responsible for the Orlando shootings in 2016. Despite the logical assumption that lethal weapons must not be easily accessible, there are only four states with restrictions on the purchase of firearms: California, Connecticut, Indiana and Washington. Apart from Indiana, the mentioned states are all within the fifteenth percentile for lowest gun-related deaths. Generally, the states with the tightest gun-purchasing restrictions have the least gun related deaths.

The above facts are not new and is common knowledge even amongst the most ardent supporters of ‘gun rights’. These people are aware of the dangers of guns but often cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution – the protection of the right to bear arms.

Republicans also echo the same arguments as most of the gun-rights ‘activists’, probably not through ideological conviction but through their reliance on National Rifle Association (NRA) donations: the anti-gun-restriction NRA donated $50.2 million to the Republican Party during the 2016 election. The Republicans in Congress will blindly oppose even the most moderate gun-control policies – as they did in February 2017 when they repealed an Obama-era executive order which ensured background checks would be taken on those wishing to purchase guns.

It is not hard to see why Republicans are so religiously against gun-control measures, as the NRA support for Congressional Republicans during elections tends to end in a victory for the Great Old Party (GOP). Of all the state races the NRA poured funds into, only the Nevada race was unsuccessful.

The resolution to gun violence in America is not just a case of debating the pros and cons of gun control but a question of fixing the crooked patronage system which benefits the mere interest group and political party, as is the case with the NRA and Republican Party. With the GOP in control of both houses in Congress, and increasing role of interest groups funding electoral campaigns, gun reform is further away than ever.

Can Trump really win the Republican nomination?

Controversial business magnate Donald Trump remains the front-runner in the Republican race. The latest polls have shown him maintaining his lead and presently he is the favourite to win the first primary in New Hampshire on February 9th.

The Republicans as of yet do not have a brilliant candidate. Rubio, Carson and Cruz all have their supporters but don’t tick all the boxes. This ensures the race will be very open and gives the opportunity for an outsider like Trump to come through. Trump is very different to all of his rivals. He has not had a background in politics and therefore is not affected in this regard and does not carry the same baggage. The current mood is drifting away from mainstream politicians (also see the rise of Sanders!) and this will only aid Trump.

Trump’s numbers are steady. Despite a number of attacks on him and some fairly outspoken and what many would consider offensive statements, he has stayed comfortably ahead of his rivals. This shows he is far from a flash in the pan and has a very solid support base in the Republican Party.

Security fears have also reached new levels. This in itself will help the Republican Party but could also specifically help Trump. Trump has not been afraid to adopt a more hard-line stance than his rivals on security measures and in the current environment this could be very popular.

Trump does have obstacles to overcome though. This is a long campaign and as of yet he has 0 delegates and therefore his lead in the polls counts for nothing. History has previously shown us the front-runner often falls away and this definitely could happen with Trump. Also as the contest goes longer and longer voters’ minds may be more concentrated and this could lead to a more moderate candidate being selected.

It is highly unlikely Trump will win the nomination. Trump’s numbers are holding up better than expected though and for that reason he can no longer be seen as a joke figure. Eventually I believe the Republicans will unite around a different candidate, probably Rubio but until that happens Trump will continue to generate headlines and we will have to consider all eventualities including a Trump victory.