Apart from targeting a handful of U.S. Senate seats held by Democrats, top Republicans mainly find themselves playing defense in the final weeks of the 2018 mid-term election campaign, working furiously to protect the seats of GOP lawmakers in the House, as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence criss-cross the country in a bid to keep both the House and Senate in GOP hands next year.
Four weeks from Election Day, President Trump was holding a campaign rally in Iowa – not for his 2020 re-election bid – but instead trying to bolster the chances of Rep. David Young (R-IA), one of two Iowa Republicans whose seats could be in jeopardy on Election Day.
“I think we’re going to do well,” the President told reporters when asked Tuesday morning for a prediction for the mid-term elections, just a few hours before getting on Air Force One to head to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to make the case to GOP voters that they must get to the polls in November to help Young and other GOP candidates.
Mr. Trump was also using the Iowa visit to announce a new federal plan to lift restrictions on ethanol use in gasoline, something that would be a boost to farmers in Iowa and the Midwest.
“Farmers, over the last fifteen years – it’s only gone down,” the President told reporters. “Now, they’re going to go up.”
While the President was jetting to the Hawkeye State on Air Force One, Vice President Pence was in Washington, hosting fundraisers on Tuesday for two Republicans, Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) – who won a narrow special election victory to Congress back in August – and Carol Miller, a West Virginia Republican trying to keep an open GOP seat in the House.
Those two events were almost a slow day of campaign work for Pence, who flew to Texas aboard Air Force Two on Monday to campaign with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) in Dallas, then made a fundraising stop for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and later flew to Missouri to help GOP state Attorney General Josh Hawley’s bid to defeat Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO).
“This midterm may be the most important midterm election of my lifetime,” Pence said at a rally for Sessions, a veteran House Republican who is one of an unexpectedly large group of GOP lawmakers who are working very hard to survive this year’s election.
“I’m from Indiana, but when I think of North Texas, I don’t think liberal,” the Vice President said, as he thrashed the Democratic opponent of Sessions.
In a mid-term year like 2018, the schedules of both the President and Vice President paint an important picture for those trying to divine where things stand – as apart from a handful of races focused on incumbent Senate Democrats in Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia – it’s clear much of their energy is being expended right now to preserve GOP seats in Congress, especially in the House.
Along with his visit to Iowa on Tuesday, the President will headline campaign rallies later this week in Ohio to help Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), in Pennsylvania to shore up support for Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), and in Kentucky where Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) faces a stiff challenge in November.
The Vice President has been quietly doing a number of such events for House Republicans running for re-election in the House – just look at his schedule last week:
+ Separate events in New York for Rep. John Faso (R-NY) and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ).
+ Washington, D.C. fundraising events for Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Rep. Danny Tarkanian (R-NV).
+ A Virginia fundraiser for Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA).
+ The Vice President also flew to Washington State to aid the re-election effort of top Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), after a stop in Montana to help the GOP effort to oust Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
Democrats need to gain a net of almost two dozen House seats in order to take control in January – most election experts agree that the battle for the House is being played out mainly in GOP districts.
New polling data released in recent days showed everything from a bump for Republicans in the wake of the fight over the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to a big lead for Democrats in broader survey of battleground districts.
“I’d rather have 6-8 in-depth House district polls rather than a sample from 69 'battleground districts,'" tweeted political expert Stuart Rothenberg, who is sticking with his gut feeling about November.
“Right now, the House still looks poised to flip party control while the Senate does not,” Rothenberg wrote in his latest column for the Hill newspaper. “That’s the way things have looked for months.”
President Trump and Vice President Pence hope to show Rothenberg and other pundits that they’re wrong about such predictions – the two men have less than a month to save those GOP majorities.