This is a question we touched on in a earlier story about whether President Trump is actively trying to lose the House in 2018. However, another question in this space is whether doing so would benefit him politically in his 2020 re-election efforts. It would surprise me if he and his advisers were actually plotting to lose the House intentionally, since he touts winning everything as one of his strong suits, but it’s likely that the discussion of whether losing control of the House to Democrats would really be as bad as some political annalists suggest.
Politico put out an article quoting several Republican sources who claim that the discussions are taking place in the White House over how a loss in 2018 could actually help propel Trump to certain re-election in 2020. Here are some excerpts:
The idea gaining currency on the right is that Trump can be Bill Clinton, not Richard Nixon. It depends on a delicate political calculation — that a Republican-held Senate would never follow a Democratic House and vote to remove Trump, and that voters tired of the long-running Russia scandal will, as they did in the late 1990s with Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, want to move on.
The notion has surfaced spontaneously among a diverse set of conservatives, including politicians with Trump’s ear and young ultraloyalists of the president whose institutional knowledge of the GOP begins with its new standard-bearer. They’re also the die-hards who aren’t afraid to align themselves with pro-Trump positions even before the president has warmed to them himself.
In interviews, more than a dozen Republican politicians, activists and consultants — including some current and former Trump campaign aides with direct lines to the president — said they are increasingly convinced a Democratic House victory in the midterms and subsequent impeachment push would backfire and ultimately help the president in 2020.
“If they take the House, he wins big,” Barry Bennett, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told POLITICO. “The market always overcorrects.”
Proponents of the go-for-broke scenario argue that Trump’s at his best when his back is against the wall, and that a move to impeach would both rally the base and make the president sympathetic to moderate voters. Some scoff at the notion that there’s anything for Trump to fear from Democratic investigators on Capitol Hill, especially given the threat he’s already facing from special counsel Robert Mueller, and suggested that the House doesn’t matter as long as Republicans retain the Senate.
It dovetails with the growing conviction in Republican circles that the president could use congressional gridlock under a Democratic House majority as a personal battering ram, offering it up as the picture of Washington intransigence as he vies for reelection — rather than having to answer for the ongoing inability of a slim and fractious Republican majority to move a comprehensive agenda through the Hill.
Trump seems to gain the most backing from his base when he’s railing against Congress, even his own party. Everyone hates Congress, generally, even most voters are disappointed with their own respective party for not being aggressive enough at pushing a liberal or conservative agenda. However, Trump is walking a line right now by trying to rally support for Republican candidates in Congress while, at the same time, railing against the same Congress, controlled by his party, for not passing the legislation he wants.
In a sense, letting Democrats control one of the chambers would make his life easier and make it a natural fit for Republican voters to rally around him in 2020 to fight against a possible impeachment scenario if Democrats control the House.
As the article states, he could take the Bill Clinton strategy of letting the public grow tired of the same scandals and decide that the do-nothing Congress is more concerned with “getting the President” than they are with actually running the country. Yes, it’s a strategy, but is it a wise one? The President might not have a choice depending on how Republicans do in 2018, so it’s not surprising that all possible outcomes of the midterms are being discussed and vetted within the White House.
The article also points out that actions speak louder than words and, so far, Trump’s actions indicate he is in 2018 for a “W,” not a “L”:
There’s no sign that Trump buys into this view — he spent part of his vacation week in Bedminster, New Jersey, earlier this month plotting out a strategy of stumping and fundraising for Republican candidates ahead of the midterms in hopes of keeping Republican control of the House — but it’s increasingly fashionable among younger, anti-establishment Republicans and pro-Trump members of Congress.
I can’t see the President knowingly doing anything intentional to lose, which explains why he backed off his talk of shutting down the government over border wall funding so quickly. It was something he floated, and then his phone probably rang off the hook with angry GOP Congressmen explaining that Republicans always lose shutdown battles and if he wants to win in 2018 he should stop talking about government shutdowns.
Republicans are all-in for holding the House in 2018 as much as Democrats are all-in for taking control of it. There’s no way the President would intentionally walk into uncharted waters of letting Democrats run every House committee as there is too much uncertainty about impeachment and ongoing probes. Why let that happen if it can be avoided?
So the answer to the question is, yes, it may benefit Trump in 2020 if Democrats take the House in 2018. However, it’s a risky scenario and could backfire just as easily as it could succeed. Trump has signaled his desire to campaign heavily in the coming months to secure a GOP victory. One important thing to remember is that when Donald Trump is told that something can’t be done, like, for example, a President holding the House during the first midterm cycle after his election, it motivates him more so than ever to try and do it. Then, in the end, if Republicans fall short and the House falls to Democrats, the White House will probably explain that this was their strategy all along, anyway.