Logo
17th-Jan-2018

November mid-terms, 2020 primaries

By AFP, Washington

Donald Trump's political future may well hinge on 2018, when he risks losing control of Congress in crucial elections that kick off the next White House battle-likely to pit the president against both Democrats and rogue Republican challengers.
Congressional mid-terms often swing against the party in power, and tradition suggests Trump's Republicans, who control the White House, the Senate and House of Representatives, are set to suffer on November 6 when Americans head to the polls.
The president is coming off a late-2017 high, when he managed to ram his massive tax cut plan through Congress.
But nearly one year into his presidency-he marks the anniversary of his inauguration January 20 -- Trump is entangled in an alarming face-off with North Korea, has antagonized US allies over Iran, and faces accusations of racism and hatemongering.
"Historically, this is bound to be a Democratic year," Larry Sabato, who heads the Center for Politics at University of Virginia, told AFP.
"The question is, will it be a moderately Democratic year, a substantially Democratic year, or an overwhelming Democratic year?"
Polling suggests Democrats have a strong shot at flipping the House, whose 435 members serve two-year terms, in November. The prospects are slimmer in the Senate, where Democrats have to defend 26 seats compared to just eight for Republicans.
"Partisan gerrymandering is probably the only thing now that's giving Republicans some hope of hanging on to the House in 2018," said political historian Allan Lichtman of American University.
Trump and his Republicans will no doubt tout their tax cut success and the generally healthy economy.
But the president's poor approval ratings and questions about his suitability for office will also fuel the campaigns-not to mention the Russian election meddling inquiry that hangs like a sword of Damocles over the White House.
Republican Senator John Thune predicted that "hand-to-hand combat" lay ahead in the political contests. Collectively they will serve as opening tests for Democrats, who have been emboldened by recent successes at the polls. "It's going to be a tough environment," Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, told reporters.
After the mid-terms, Democrats would have two years to prepare their all-out effort to block the brash billionaire Trump, who will be 74 by Election Day 2020.
"If the House goes Democratic, then Trump will be able to get exactly zero passed," Sabato predicted.
A 2018 Democratic wave would not automatically signal Trump's demise. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama suffered scathing defeats in mid-term elections in 1994 and 2010; both were re-elected two years later.
But a more potentially embarrassing hurdle for Trump could emerge in the form of the primaries that determine presidential nominees.
Even with Trump in office, the Republican Party must choose its White House nominee, and with Trump's popularity below 40 percent, analysts predict a challenger will emerge.
There are precedents for such turmoil. Ronald Reagan defied Republican president Gerald Ford in 1976, winning enough primary votes to carry the suspense into that year's nominating convention.
Senator Edward Kennedy bitterly challenged Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, and far-right candidate Pat Buchanan opposed fellow Republican George Bush in 1988.