Republicans have been bracing for strong headwinds heading into this year’s midterm elections, but the past week has been marked by a few key turning points that spell hope for Republicans’ chances in the fall. Here’s four of them
1. Economic good news continues to pour in
The past few months have been marked by positive economic trends as well as powerful anecdotes of post-tax reform bonuses and investment. But the January jobs report felt like a true turning point in the narrative. The economy added 200,000 jobs last month, which beat the consensus expectation of forecasters. More importantly, average hourly earnings jumped up 2.9 percent relative to last January, the highest wage increases since the end of the Great Recession. If those wage increases aren’t a fluke—and they don’t appear to be given the lack of slack in the workforce—then Americans may finally start feeling a sense of economic optimism that has been missing for far too long.
President Obama wanted to set expectations for the recovery low, continually pushing the narrative of a “new normal,” but President Trump bet big on his ability to jumpstart the economy with some key reforms. If economic growth and wage hikes continue, that bet will more than pay off.
2. President Trump has found his message
This White House has mastered the art of the shiny object strategy, which serves up a constant stream of distractions to keep Democrats off kilter and the media chasing its tail. It has worked wonders in achieving key elements of the Republican agenda without a lick of Democrat support. But it works less well when trying to unify and mobilize Americans on behalf of a shared ideal. If President Trump’s message discipline at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and more importantly, in the State of the Union address, are any indication, this White House has switched gears to strike an optimistic tone and focus on Republicans’ substantial policy successes.
At his core, Mr. Trump is a salesman. And after a year of work he finally has an amazing product to sell: A renewed American economy. Since the election, 2.4 millions jobs have been created, unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low, wages are rising faster than they have in a decade, the stock market has gained $8 trillion in value since Election Day. And that’s just the beginning because of the growth that’s ready to be unleashed by tax reform and regulatory reductions.
“This is our new American moment,” Trump said during the State of the Union. And after this week, he appears ready to encourage voters to coalesce around it.
3. The Nunes memo highlights an anti-Trump agenda
The House Intelligence Committee memo sheds light on how the Trump campaign became the target of a partisan agenda. The sum of it is that the FBI and DOJ approached a federal FISA court, which was estabslihred to oversee requests for surveillance against foreign spies in the U.S., to surveil Trump associates using nothing more than the anti-Trump dossier that was paid for by the Clinton campaign. Not only did a DOJ official alert the FBI that the dossier was authored by a biased source that wasn’t to be trusted, but the FBI appears to have leaked the document to seed news stories that were then used to substantiate the contents of the document. In short, certain members of the FBI seemed to settle on an anti-Trump narrative and then rearrange the facts to make it true. Along the way Trump’s character would be savaged and others’ civil liberties would be trampled upon at the hands of overzealous federal officials.
Undoubtedly, this helps President Trump by pulling back the curtain on the forces actively working against him, but more importantly it shines a disinfecting light on a dark corner of the federal government that runs counter to our democracy.
4. Generic Congressional Ballot swings the GOP’s way
Yes, Republicans are swimming against the historical tide. After all, the president’s party loses an average of 32 seats in the first midterm election after assuming the White House. But things are beginning to look up for the GOP. Democrats currently have a 7.3 point advantage on the Congressional generic ballot, according to the RealClearPolitics average, down from a 13-point lead at the end of last year. Even that dramatically reduced gap may overrepresent Democrats’ advantage. The most recent Monmouth poll put their lead at just two points (for context the poll showed a 15 percentage advantage in December), within the poll’s margin of error.
The changing polls are the latest indication that the recently passed tax reform plan has buoyed Republicans’ political hopes. And given the steady drumbeat of reform-induced bonuses and investments, Republicans might march to historic success in 2018.