Donald Trump is proving to be a blessing and a curse for Republican candidates this year. Unfortunately for Republicans, we appear to be transitioning from the helpful phase to the hindrance phase.
In the primary elections, President Trump’s favored candidates were tough to beat. Buoyed by 85 percent approval from Republicans (per a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll), Trump-backed candidates have seen a definite Trump bump in the polls while many Republican Trump critics have been defeated or decided that 2018 was a good time to retire.
However, the 2018 elections are now shifting to the general phase where Mr. Trump is looking more like a liability. While Republicans have eked out victories in this year’s special elections, Democrats have overperformed by an average of 16 points. There are many Republican House districts with margins smaller than 16 points.
With the economy doing well, President Trump seems to be the big problem for Republican candidates. The same poll that showed President Trump with 85 percent approval among Republicans found him with only 38 percent approval among the independent voters who decide elections. We don’t even need to discuss his approval among Democrats.
President Trump’s collapse with independents seems to be driven by women voters. A new Fox News poll shows that women disapprove of Mr. Trump by a margin of 60-38 percent The gender gap has returned with a vengeance.
President Trump has placed both the Republican Party as a whole and individual candidates in a conundrum. GOP voters are out of sync with the rest of the country on President Trump. The Republican primary became a loyalty test where candidates argued over who supported the president more. The problem now is that the inability to distance themselves from Trump is likely to hurt Republican candidates in the general election.
Republican candidates are between a rock and a hard place. At this point, most have secured their nominations by pledging to support a president who preempts stories about a booming economy with his daily Twitter tirade and petty squabbles, not to mention a parade of indictments and convictions of Trump campaign staffers and Republican congressmen. If President Trump would sequester himself in the White House without his phone, Republican candidates might recover some lost ground and save some endangered seats. There is little chance of that happening, however.
President Trump’s outspokenness is one of the things that Republican voters love about him. It helped him get elected. It just won’t help congressional Republicans.
Originally published on The Resurgent