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We’re now inside a month until the midterm elections that will do no less than check or validate Donald Trump.

Those are high stakes.

A Democratic takeover of at least one of the congressional chambers — the House, most likely — would put a new and official constraint on Trump. It would authorize the new Democratic House leadership to investigate his many transgressions and controversies. A Democratic House would pass articles of impeachment if Robert Mueller’s report made a case.

But if Republicans hold both majorities, then it will be two years of Trumpism run amok, or even more amok than it’s running already. It will prove the prophecy of Kellyanne Conway, who told reporters last week that they ought to know by now that Trump always gets the last laugh.

The midterms usually are bad for the party of a new president who will have encountered bumps and bruises in his first two years. He will pay a price for pushing his triumphant agenda.

Those having voted for him will assume the enactment of the agenda. Those having voted against him will deplore it. Deplorers are more apt than assumers to vote in off years.

Bill Clinton reeled from trying to get the deficit down with top-tier income taxes. Barack Obama reeled from trying to impose universal health care.

The midterm setback has been much truer of Democratic presidents than Republican ones. That’s in part because Democratic presidential turnouts rely on occasional voters, and midterm elections tend to be dominated by regular voters of which Republicans have a greater percentage.

Midterm turnouts also are typically dominated by voters motivated by resentment, and, until lately, Republicans tended by general disposition to be more resentful than Democrats. That was until Trump, of whom resentment is probably an all-time record both by percentage of the voting population and intensity.

After two years, Clinton’s Democrats lost 54 House seats and eight Senate ones. After two years, Obama’s Democrats lost 63 House seats and six Senate ones. After two years, Ronald Reagan’s Republicans lost 26 House seats and no Senate ones. After two years, George W. Bush’s Republicans lost nothing, but gained slightly, on account of the aberrant political mood stemming from the 9/11 terror attack.

While all old rules are different for and with Trump, the issue is whether resentment of his offensive style will make him more a typical deep midterm drag like a Democrat than a typical mild midterm drag like a Republican.

Well, that’s one issue. A new one, arising in recent hours, is whether Republicans might now be as motivated as Democrats — by a sense of triumph in the takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court and a deep resentment over Democratic tactics against the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

And there’s another mitigating factor this year. It’s that, in the U.S. Senate, almost all the up-for-election action is in states Trump won, including 10 states Trump won where Democratic senators are standing for re-election.

It seems logically out of the question that the Democrats could turn their 47-51 Senate disadvantage (49-51 with independents Angus King and Bernie Sanders caucusing with them) into a majority. They’d have to take Republican seats, probably in Nevada and Arizona, and only Nevada looks do-able from current polls. And they’d have to win several races in Trump states in which Democratic incumbents are stressed to the limit — Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, an almost-certain loser, along with Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Bill Nelson in Florida, Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Jon Tester in Montana. All those races are tossups, except maybe that of Tester, who is a slight favorite.

Why did Republicans push Kavanaugh so rapidly and vigorously even amid troubling charges? It was for the very reason that a Republican backlash against the attack on Kavanaugh would make life even tougher for McCaskill, Nelson, Donnelly and Tester.

There’s less principle than meets the eye in Congress, unless you count election-angling a principle.

Nationwide polls showing more voters opposing than supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation are as meaningless as those nationwide polls — which were accurate — showing Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump. She did beat him — nationwide.

But in this geographically fractured country, with red ever-redder and blue ever-bluer, nationwide polls are pointless. The point is the place, and, for the Senate, the places favor Republicans in 2018.

The House of Representatives offers a different story. The Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to go from 195 to a majority of 218, and local polls show them ahead in more than 30. Thirteen competitive House seats are ones currently held by Republicans from districts that Hillary Clinton carried. That suggests a suburban and upscale female aversion to Trump.

Most serious observers think Democrats will gain a minimum of 12 House seats — to 207 — to a maximum of 40, or 235.

A gain of 12 means Trump gets the last laugh again and is off to the blustery races. A gain of 23 to 40 means Trump meets, for the first time, congressional resistance.

P.S. — No national House prediction envisions Democrat Clarke Tucker defeating Republican incumbent French Hill in the 2nd District of Arkansas. But I still give Tucker an outside shot, though not as good a shot as his grandmother would have had as the nominee.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


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  • mozarky2
    October 10, 2018 at 6:32 a.m.

    More voters oppose Kavanaugh, Brummett?
    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters think Kavanaugh belongs on the Supreme Court. Forty-two percent (42%) disagree. This survey was conducted 10/9/18. (Rasmussen WAS the most accurate polling firm in 2016).
    And, judging from the recent images of a slumped over Inglorious RBG, it probably won't be long until President Trump is picking another justice.

  • BoudinMan
    October 10, 2018 at 6:46 a.m.

    As a registered "no party affiliation," or as I call myself, an "independent," I am always looking for the candidate who will further legislation that aims to help the middle class. I care nothing for candidates who give and give to the donor class, and when it comes time to pay the bill for their generosity, or bribes, they stick it to the regular Joe. I am constantly amazed at the proclivity of the 30 per centers to vote against their own self-interests.

  • WGT
    October 10, 2018 at 7:03 a.m.

    Patience, my friends. Stay calm and smash the ever loving SSSS out of them. ( I recall a particularly rant driven hysteric on this comment thread saying, “Don’t interrupt the enemy while they are destroying themselves.”)

  • RBear
    October 10, 2018 at 7:10 a.m.

    moz it's Rasmussen. Are you just brain dead on polls? Rasmussen tracks conservative consistently. Oh, and 50% with Rasmussen means more voters thinks he doesn't belong on the court. Rasmussen was accurate on only ONE race and that was it, dumba**. Your mother may have been active in politics, but none of her wisdom rubbed off on you.

  • abb
    October 10, 2018 at 7:34 a.m.

    LOL...lots of butthurt in article and comments. You guys blew it with the Blowsey-Fraud gig. Democrats actually colluded to send a mentally ill woman as a suicide bomber to the hearing. USED HER. The backlash from most normal thinking people is "Holy smokes! They could do that to my husband, son, brother, etc".

    Anyways, the #walkaway movement has become the #runaway from the crazy left.

    We'll keep the house, Senate, and Trump will replace RBG in Jan 19 with Barrett followed by either Breyer or the "wide latina" with Colloton or Pryor.

    Life is good!

  • RBear
    October 10, 2018 at 7:56 a.m.

    Abb want to bet on the House? Extension of the silence?

  • mozarky2
    October 10, 2018 at 8:15 a.m.

    BM, you've got a president who's helped the middle class. He cut taxes and killed a bunch of useless regulations that were stifling our economy. The result was the Trump Miracle.
    Now you have a bunch of "progs", Brummett included, who want to restart the dimocrat party's war on the American middle class. Won't happen.
    GOP picks up seats in the House, 6-12 seats in the Senate. I'd bet on it.
    RB's bat-Schiff cray-cray goes into overdrive in

  • PopMom
    October 10, 2018 at 8:20 a.m.

    I also give Clarke Tucker a chance. There is a reason why the far right Pacs are spending on Hill and why Pence came down to Little Rock. They can afford better polls. Also, keep in mind that the national prognosticators are basing their opinions on Obama and Hillary voting percentages. Well, there are some in central Arkansas who might be more likely to cast a vote for a white man than a black, and Obama never campaigned in Arkansas--making people less likely to vote for him. The vote on Hillary may have been more personal in nature than political. The Clintons have pi$$ed more than a few people over the years. Clarke Tucker is a good moderate blue dog, and since the House is going to turn blue, it would behoove Arkansans to have one Democrat in Congress.

  • Nodmcm
    October 10, 2018 at 8:21 a.m.

    People love President Trump, they just won't admit it, especially women. Now of course African-Americans are perhaps not too fond of any Republican, but white folks, even women, love our president. Everyone knew Justice Kavanaugh would be seated, but Democrats had to fight back to avenge Merrick Garland. President Trump is a 'daddy figure' to white women, deep in their psyche, and they don't know why they vote for him, they just do, perhaps hoping that someday he might come here and make a 'grab' for them. At least, we're going to see how white women feel about 'Daddy' Trump. Maybe I'm wrong, but maybe I'm not.

  • RBear
    October 10, 2018 at 8:23 a.m.

    ROTFL @ "Trump miracle." You mean "Trump Maintenance." Pulling an economy out of the tank with unemployment at 10+% is more like a miracle, but right wingers can't BEAR to give credit to an African-American president. Not BSC, just stating facts.