President Trump is expected to focus on peace and prosperity as he makes his case for congressional Republicans in this year’s midterm election campaign.
Although the president is not on the ballot this year, the stakes in November are enormous for him. Republican control of both the Senate and House of Representatives is at stake, and the loss of one or both chambers could have profound implications for Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.
Opposition Democrats expect to gain seats in the House this year and need a pickup of 23 seats to claim the majority. The odds are a bit longer for them to win back control of the Senate, since Democrats are defending many more seats than Republicans, including several in states that supported Trump in 2016.
Trump is hoping to turn the tables on history this year by helping Republicans limit their losses and retain majorities in both chambers. Midterms traditionally have been unkind to presidents just two years in office, and depending on the president’s approval rating, the losses can range from 20 to 30 House seats.
Trump has been quick to hail the strong U.S. economy at most of his speaking events, and he is counting on the pictures from his recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to convey the image of a peacemaker.
“China has been terrific. President Xi has been terrific. President Moon, everybody. We are all working together because of me,” Trump said in an unusual freewheeling exchange with reporters outside the White House last Friday. He was referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Staying on the peace and prosperity campaign track will not be easy, however. In recent days, Trump and his administration have been on the defensive over their zero tolerance approach to illegal immigration across the U.S. southern border, including the separation of children from parents.
The issue has sparked a firestorm of criticism from Democrats and some notable Republicans, as well.
“These are the misdeeds of an administration speaking in our name that appears to lack a moral compass,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York. Nadler was one of several Democrats who visited a detention center in New Jersey on Sunday.
Other critics include former first lady Laura Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Rev. Franklin Graham, one of the president’s early evangelical Christian supporters.
The president, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, all defended the tough approach on Monday.
“The United States will not become a migrant camp,” Trump said at a White House event.
Nielsen told a sheriff’s meeting in New Orleans that her department will not apologize for enforcing the law. “We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job.”
A new Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans oppose the Trump policy of separating children from parents by a margin of 66 percent to 27 percent. The survey found that Republican voters support the policy by a 55 percent to 35 percent margin.
Trump front and center
Trump is expected to be perhaps the central issue in this year’s congressional election campaign, and Republican candidates such as Katie Arrington in South Carolina are eager to embrace him.
“We are the party of President Donald J. Trump,” Arrington told supporters after defeating Republican Congressman Mark Sanford in a recent primary. Sanford has been critical of some of the president’s policies.
It was the latest sign that crossing Trump could have severe consequences within the Republican Party.
A few Republicans are chafing under the urgings of Republican congressional leaders to be careful about taking on the president, especially retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.
“It is not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president,” Corker said last week.
By: Jim Malone