Even Cook has pretty much stopped hyping a midterm Republican red wave. Yesterday, Dave Wasserman wrote that “Three months ago, it looked like a category five hurricane was heading for President Biden and House Democrats clinging to a flimsy 221-214 seat edge. Today, not only has it weakened to a tropical depression, but GOP primaries have thrown Democrats enough sandbags to give them a plausible, if still unlikely, scenario to stave off a Republican majority. Republicans don't need gale force winds at their back to reclaim the House; they only need to net a minuscule four seats. By our estimates, they are likely to pick up roughly three seats off the bat from redistricting alone, owing to New York's top court torpedoing Democrats' gerrymander and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a brutal GOP gerrymander into law. That was once a tiny component of Republicans' potential House gains. Now, it looks like a critical GOP insurance policy in a highly fluid political climate.”
Wasserman attributes it to several factors but the anti-Choice Dobbs is #1 and the falling gas prices is #2. Today on Newsmax, Trump’s handpicked and strenuously recruited candidate for the Georgia Senate seat, Herschel Walker, babbled incoherently: “My bike is not bent so anyone can ride my bike like he’s going to have Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden riding his bike because he’s going to be voting for whatever they say.” File that under either: “candidate quality” or “Trump dysfunction.” Meanwhile, Niall Stanage, writing for The Hill yesterday, put Trump at #2 on his list of reasons thing are looking better for the Democrats:
The 45th president can dominate the news like few other people— but he often does so to the detriment of his party.
The FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8 has opened yet another chapter in the tumultuous Book of Trump.
The Department of Justice is investigating possible violations of three laws: the Espionage Act, another statute regarding obstruction and a third focused on wrongful destruction of documents.
Much remains unknown despite the unsealing last week of a 32-page affidavit. The affidavit, which convinced a federal magistrate there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed, was heavily redacted.
The former president has, characteristically, been venting that he is the victim of an unfair and politically driven injustice. That may be enough to intensify the ardor of his MAGA base, but it’s not persuasive to everyone.
In an appearance on ABC’s This Week Sunday, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) stated outright that Trump should have turned over all the documents in his possession.
Blunt also lamented that “less than 100 days before the election, suddenly we’re talking about this rather than the economy or inflation.”
The Mar-a-Lago story is only the most dramatic element in the ongoing Trump drama.
The enmity between the former president and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has bubbled to the surface once again.
McConnell’s recent remarks on the importance of “candidate quality” in winning Senate races was widely interpreted as a jab at Trump endorsees who have run into difficulties, including Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio.
Trump duly shot back that McConnell was a “broken down hack politician.”
Whatever the merits of the back-and-forth, it was another example of the kind of internal party feuding that tends to turn independent voters off.
On Monday, Byron York, a GOP propaganda writer for a website calling itself the Washington Examiner, asked why Trump became such a big factor in the midterms. He would never use the phrase “the brilliance of the Democrats,” but he knows they resurrected the carcass of a hated political has been who was, in his words, “once given up for dead” for their own purposes. The Democrats’ unsatisfying half measures aren’t enough to keep them in power. Fear of fascism in general and Trump in particular, might. Although York is, as usual, a month behind in his electoral prognostication, it looks like the Democrats are going to increase their majority in the Senate, perhaps by 3 votes, while fighting to a near draw in the House. It’s reasonable to bet that the Republicans will come out of the midterms with a narrow majority and it’s just as reasonable to bet that the Democrats will increase their own House majority and keep the speaker’s gavel out of McCarthy’s hands.
Now York is correct when he says that a major factor in Trump’s recent prominence is Trump himself. “Trump was always going to be a factor in the race, but now it appears he might become a preeminent factor in the race. This makes Democrats very happy. They have long hoped to make the midterm elections about Trump, hoping to capitalize on his unpopularity with large swaths of the electorate, and now that appears to be happening.” He quoted the NY Times: “Headed into 2022, Republicans were confident that a red wave would sweep them into control of Congress based on the conventional political wisdom that the midterm elections would produce a backlash against President Biden, who has struggled with low approval ratings. But now some are signaling concern that the referendum they anticipated on Biden— and the high inflation and gas prices that have bedeviled his administration— is being complicated by all-encompassing attention on the legal exposure of a different president: his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.’”
How did there come to be "all-encompassing attention" on the former president? Because the Biden Justice Department took the unprecedented step of getting a search warrant and raiding Trump's winter home in Florida as part of a possible prosecution over alleged mishandling of presidential documents. The Justice Department's criminal investigation of Trump raised the Trump Factor in the midterm elections to a newer, higher level.
And that was on top of House Democrats' made-for-TV investigation of Trump in the form of the Jan. 6 committee. The committee's hearings, produced with a showrunner who used to head ABC News, are on summer hiatus but will return in September, just in time for fall campaigning.
In other words, the prime movers of the "all-encompassing attention" paid to Trump are the Biden Justice Department and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democrats. Of course biased media play a role— who is megaphoning the message?— but the drivers of this phenomenon are the Democrats who control Washington at the moment.
This is from Politico Playbook: "The burst of reporting reconsidering the conventional wisdom that Democrats will be crushed in the 2022 midterms continues this week. Most of the pieces emphasize that the return of Trump— through the January 6 Committee, the fringe candidates he's backing and the multiple investigations he faces— could help Democrats bury their differences with anti-Trump Republicans and independents and unite into a majority coalition similar to the one that fueled Democratic victories in the Trump-centered elections of 2018 and 2020." A "Trump-centered election"— that is music to a Democratic strategist's ears.
One complicating factor for Republicans is that Trump wants to be the center of attention in the midterm elections. He wants to be the center of attention all the time. He set out to play a decisive role in a number of Republican primary contests, and in many of them, he achieved his goal. Trump also appears to believe he can use the Justice Department investigation to garner support among Republicans who might have been cooling on him but now believe him to be unfairly targeted— just as he was unfairly targeted in the yearslong Russia investigation. Trump has, by all accounts, sought ways to benefit politically from the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, and he will try to benefit politically from future developments, as well.
But Trump is in reactive mode. He is reacting to what the Biden Justice Department is doing. He is reacting to what House Democrats are doing. It is the Democrats in power, in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill, who are proactively bringing Trump to the fore as the election nears.
…[D]on't discount the gains Democrats have made, using their power in the Justice Department and in the House of Representatives, putting Trump in a higher place in voters' minds than he might otherwise have been. Is that ethical? Proper? Legal? For most of the press, that's an argument for later. The fact is, Democrats have done it, and they have the power to keep doing it until Nov.8.
It really is funny, though, that the Democrats get the credit-- or blame-- for elevating the other party's leader. I can see the reason why Republican operatives like York are frustrated and looking for excuses for the drastic changes in the generic congressional polling.