by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump focused his time and energy on the campaign trail stumping for Republican Senate candidates he believed would further his “America First” agenda in Congress. It worked — but it may have cost the party its control of the House and torpedoed a chance to expand the president’s base.
“The political strategy worked as well as it could have,” said Michael Steel, a managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies and former aide to John Boehner when he was House speaker. “The real problem is how the president governs, always focused on appealing to his base rather than expanding his coalition.”
That verdict isn’t unanimous. Some strategists point out that while the president was often campaigning in states with big Senate races, he always invited the state’s House members and candidates to attend the rallies. He routinely pointed them out and invited them on stage. In the end, they argue, Republicans who lost Tuesday night have no one to blame but themselves and their voting records.
“I think that is a cute line that people throw in there,” David Bozell, president of the conservative group ForAmerica, told the Washington Examiner. “Every House guy is there at the rally if it is in that state. They are all there. They aren’t just forgotten about. I don’t buy the idea that he was just out there for senators,” adding that many Senate GOP candidates and incumbents did well because of the “Kavanaugh effect.”