Trump Rallies, Interviews Keep Spotlight On Him As Midterm Polls Tighten

President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats do not agree on much, but they seem to be on the same page in viewing the midterm elections as a referendum on his first two years in office, with both parties hoping that paradigm gives their candidates an advantage in November.

Trump has made the connection explicit, telling voters at several recent rallies that a vote for their local Republican candidate is a vote for him. He has also warned a Democratic Congress could try to impeach him.

Trump’s “Make American Great Again” rallies have become less of a national media spectacle over time, but experts say they can still have a significant impact in local media markets where they are held. As the president delivers hourlong unscripted diatribes, airing grievances and regaling audiences with tales of victory, the White House is hoping his performances will inspire his fervent supporters to show up at the polls on Election Day.

Riding high on a few notable recent accomplishments—including confirmation of his second Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh—Trump has stepped up his campaigning schedule and his media presence. He has spoken to several outlets in the last week and he sat down for his first interview with “60 Minutes” since soon after the 2016 election.

“What has really changed here over the last three to four weeks is, prior to the Kavanaugh fight, Republicans and Trump supporters were extremely complacent,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “They didn’t really understand the stakes of the election. They didn’t really believe the polls.”

“Obviously, you always want the president’s approval rating closer to 50 percent,” O’Connell said. “But at the same time, this is a situation where the Senate is in states favorable to Republicans and some House races are in places favorable to Democrats.”

The House and Senate battlefields look vastly different at the moment. Most experts say Democrats have a very strong shot at taking control of the House, but Republicans are widely expected to retain the majority in the Senate.

“You’re really seeing a split situation between the House and Senate,” O’Connell said, with Republicans going on offense in Senate races but still playing defense in many tight House campaigns.

“It’s always important to have positive reinforcement, especially in final weeks, but in this case, people know how they’re going to vote,” O’Connell said. “The question is whether they’re going to turn out to vote or not.”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Analysis & Political Strategy