op-ed

The GOP’s Best Defense Against A Massive Blue Wave In 2018 Is A Good Offense

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Peter Parisi Freelance Writer
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Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who doubles as Senate majority leader (though perhaps not for much longer), certainly has a keen grasp of the obvious.

In the midterm elections in November, Mr. McConnell said in an interview earlier this month with Kentucky Today, a Baptist publication, “We know the wind is going to be in our [i.e., the GOP’s] face.

“We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4 or 5.”

What’s even less clear is what Mr. McConnell and the rest of what passes for the Republican congressional leadership is doing to avert the Democratic “blue wave” — to mix a meteorological metaphor — that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sees on the horizon if his fellow Republicans don’t go on offense, and soon.

Mr. Walker raised the tsunami warning after Democrats won an election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on the same day Mr. McConnell sat down with Kentucky Today.

“I’m hoping we can hold the Senate,” Mr. McConnell said. “And the principle reason for that [is], even if we were to lose the House and be stymied legislatively, we could still approve [presidential] appointments, which is a huge part of what we do.”

Kentucky is well inland, of course, so Mr. McConnell may not understand, but as anyone who lives in the hurricane belt along the coast from the Carolinas to Texas would tell you, you don’t just sit and wait for one to hit and hope for the best.

The GOP panic will only ratchet up to Category 5 if Republicans were to lose the April 24 special election in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Arizona-8 by 21 points, 57 percent to 36 percent. But even if the GOP holds the seat, it shouldn’t cause complacency about the midterms.

Panicking and curling up in the fetal position is not an option, especially not when you’re up against the party of Planned Parenthood. Neither is resting one’s hopes on a wing and a prayer (although Kentucky Today would surely recommend praying as a good starting point).

Since the Civil War, the president’s party has lost an average of 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate in midterm elections.

Democrats need to net just 24 seats in the House to hand the speaker’s gavel back to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and that alone should serve as smelling salts for congressional Republicans fainting all over Capitol Hill as they look toward November.

It calls to mind 18th-century essayist Samuel Johnson’s observation, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Whether that will be enough to hold the House remains to be seen, but Mr. McConnell’s finger-crossing on losing the Senate is more perplexing, because it really shouldn’t be a serious threat.

While Senate Republicans currently hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority, it will be exceedingly difficult for Democrats to net two seats, given that they are defending 26 of the 34 seats that are up in November, including 10 in red states won handily by President Trump in 2016.

Moreover, Democrats don’t have any winning issues to run on. Their recent string of victories in state and local elections — 40 seats flipped, by CNN’s count since Mr. Trump’s election — has been driven almost entirely by an energized far-left base beset by Trump Derangement Syndrome.

That’s not much to base a campaign on substance-wise, but it’s something, and you can’t beat something with nothing. Republicans need to go on offense if they hope to hold midterm losses to a minimum in the House and retain their Senate majority.

Republican candidates need to put the Trump economy front and center in the campaign, including the Labor Department report from April 5 that the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in 44 years in March.

More importantly, they need to put a human face like that of Jessica Hodge on the benefits of the Republican tax-cut bill signed into law by Trump in December.

Their TV ads should juxtapose footage of Mrs. Pelosi referring to the tax cuts as “crumbs” and vowing to repeal them if Democrats reclaim Congress alongside that of the Hurricane, West Virginia, woman on April 5 effusively thanking Mr. Trump for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“I just want to say ‘thank you’ for the tax cuts,” Hodge tearfully told the president at a tax-cut roundtable event in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

The tax cut saved Hodge and her mail carrier husband Tony $2,417. “This is a big deal for our family,” she said.

It’s still the economy, stupid, and Republican campaigns this fall need to pointedly ask voters whether they really want to return to the policies that wrought economic stagnation during Barack Obama’s presidency, because that’s exactly what they will get if Democrats reclaim control of Congress.

The bottom line is, in electoral politics as in football, the best defense is a good offense.

Peter Parisi is a former longtime editor at The Washington Times.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.