Trump’s role in midterm elections roils republicans – the new york times

WASHINGTON — President Trump is privately rejecting the growing consensus among Republican leaders that they may lose the House and possibly the Senate in November, leaving party officials and the president’s advisers nervous that he does not grasp the gravity of the threat they face in the midterm elections.

Congressional and party leaders and even some Trump aides are concerned that the president’s boundless self-assurance about politics will cause him to ignore or undermine their midterm strategy. In battleground states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, Mr. Trump’s proclivity to be a loose cannon could endanger the Republican incumbents and challengers who are already facing ferocious Democratic headwinds.


Republicans in Washington and Trump aides have largely given up assuming the president will ever stick to a teleprompter, but they have joined together to impress upon him just how bruising this November could be for Republicans — and how high the stakes are for Mr. Trump personally, given that a Democratic-controlled Congress could pursue aggressive investigations and even impeachment.

Over dinner with the president and other Republican congressional leaders this month, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, phrased his advice for the president in the form of a reminder: Mr. Trump should never forget his central role in the 2018 campaign, Mr. McConnell said, explaining that Republicans’ prospects are linked to what he says and does and underscoring that their one-seat advantage in the Senate was in jeopardy.

The disconnect between the president — a political novice whose confidence in his instincts was grandly rewarded in 2016 — and more traditional party leaders demonstrates the depth of the Republicans’ challenges in what is likely to be a punishing campaign year.

Mr. Trump is as impulsive as ever, fixated on personal loyalty, cultivating a winner’s image and privately prodding Republican candidates to demonstrate their affection for him — while complaining bitterly when he campaigns for those who lose. His preoccupation with the ongoing Russia investigation adds to the unpredictability, spurring Mr. Trump to fume aloud in ways that divide the G.O.P. and raising the prospect of legal confrontations amid the campaign. And despite projecting confidence, he polls nearly all those who enter the Oval Office about how they view the climate of the midterms.

According to advisers, the president plans to hold a fund-raiser a week in the months to come and hopes to schedule regular rallies with candidates starting this summer. But there is not yet any coordinated effort about where to deploy Mr. Trump, and there are divisions within his ever-fractious circle of advisers about how to approach the elections.

Among his close associates, a debate is raging about whether to focus on House races that could earn the president chits with Republican lawmakers who might ultimately vote on impeachment, or to dig in to defend the party’s tenuous Senate majority.

“We need to be unified, and I know this is a frustrating business that we’re involved in, but rather than having circular firing squads, we need to be shooting outward,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said of the White House.

Nearly every modern president has lost seats in his first midterm election, and Bill Clinton saw both the House and the Senate fall to Republicans in 1994. But given Mr. Trump’s polarizing administration, the results this fall are likely to hinge more than ever on the man in the White House.

Congressional leaders have left little doubt in private that they see Mr. Trump as a political millstone for many of the party’s candidates. In recent weeks, Mr. McConnell has confided to associates that Republicans may lose the Senate because of the anti-Trump energy on the left.

And at Mr. Ryan’s retreat, a Republican pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson, identified Mr. Trump as a major source of the party’s woes, according to multiple attendees. Ms. Anderson noted that his job approval was markedly weaker than past presidents, including President Barack Obama in the months before Democrats lost 63 House seats in the 2010 elections.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has complained to associates about having been deployed to campaign for relatively weak Republicans like Roy S. Moore, who lost last year’s Senate race in Alabama, and Rick Saccone, who lost the special House election in Pennsylvania last month.

He has taken the losses personally, particularly in Alabama, because the vacancy there was a result of his decision to make Jeff Sessions attorney general, an appointment he has since regretted. Mr. Trump has subsequently blamed others in the party for thrusting him into episodes of humiliating defeat.

The president met this month with Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Republican appointee there and the favorite of the party establishment. Reflecting his fixation on personal loyalty, Mr. Trump quizzed Ms. Hyde-Smith on whether she had supported another candidate for president in 2016 before endorsing him. When Ms. Hyde-Smith said she had not, the president exclaimed that he needed more supporters like her in Washington, people briefed on the meeting said.