In private, President Trump mused that a terror attack on American soil could help the Republican Party from getting crushed in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Washington Post reports there is growing alarm among the GOP party leaders about the prospect of a wipeout in the midterms, as previously reliable red state and local elections continue falling to the Democrats. Some Republicans are more optimistic, pointing out that Hillary Clinton’s presidential fortunes turned on a dime at the last minute.
To a recent meeting, Trump brought his own brand of optimism. “In private conversations, Trump has told advisers that he doesn’t think the 2018 election has to be as bad as others are predicting,” the Post reports. “He has referenced the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush and Republicans fared better after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these people said.”
This calculus hasn’t received the warmest reception from political observers. “if the president and his top staff are not so concerned with democracy but rather with purely political power, that’s a terrifying proposition,” writes Matthew Yglesias in Vox. “If Trump thinks a terrorist attack would serve his political interests — either through a blind rally-’round-the-flag effect or by specifically validating anti-immigrant demagoguery or what have you — how hard is he really working to keep the country safe?”
The GOP has reason to be nervous. Overall, the opposition party tends to do well in the first midterm election of a presidency. The electoral map favors the Republicans in 2018: Democrats have to defend more than three times the Senate seats than the GOP does in 2018, and House elections benefit from Republican-led redistricting. But Democrats are flipping solid-red seats left and right, including Doug Jones’s U.S. Senate victory in Alabama, and yesterday, a Wisconsin state Senate seat in a district Trump won by 17 points. The Democrats have picked up 34 seats so far this year.
And polls show Democrats favored over Republicans in a generic ballot by over double digits. “When the wave comes, it’s always underestimated in the polls,” a conservative political strategist told the Post. “That is the reason that Republicans are ducking for cover.”