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Outsiders vs. Insiders: ‘Normalization’ of Trump presidency leaves Dems on outside looking in

First it was Neil Gorsuch, then it was Obamacare, taxes, DACA and the border wall, and now it’s gun control…and it’s always been about Russia.

All throughout President Donald Trump’s first year the media advanced these narratives (and many more) as potentially determining the fate of the two major parties in the upcoming midterm elections. Hard as it is to believe but prior to two weeks ago (and the Valentine’s Day Florida school massacre) the easily distracted Donald Trumpestablishment media was harping on how immigration was certain to bring the downfall of the GOP in November. Today it’s the gun issue. If anyone believes the national media is truly representative of the way Americans think, the tide would seemingly be building against the gun-defending Republicans.

President Trump’s State of the Union address was only four weeks ago and yet the attention-challenged public already appears to have disregarded everything associated with the speech (the rude sitting Democrats, Trump’s call for America First, etc.). Did Trump even mention new gun laws during his hour and twenty minute oration?

And everyone appeared awful mad at last week’s CNN town hall meeting on the subject. Poor Marco Rubio looked utterly aggravated as people kicked him from every angle.

But what are the odds guns will be a determinative issue when it’s time to go to the polls? Smart money says conservatives will show up (to protect their rights) and liberals will have forgotten all about it. As the strictly emotion-based Democrat party voters will be driven only by the most politically correct crisis of the hour. Sexual harassment, perhaps? Or a Trump tweet on Elizabeth Warren? How about a hurricane…or a terrorist attack overseas?

It’s impossible to predict a week in advance much less over eight months out what Americans will be thinking about. Things change too quickly.

Truth be told Democrats have a lot more on the line in 2018. If they don’t get it done this year, the next decade could be another nightmare for them. Longtime Clinton associate Doug Sosnik was interviewed at Politico, and he said, “[In] the last three midterm elections, there was a repudiation of how the public had voted in the previous presidential elections. And the question is, is it going to be a good year for Democrats, is it going to be a great year for Democrats, or can this be another tsunami kind of election? And I think the signals right now are mixed.”

Sosnik subsequently talked about how the 2018 federal elections don’t look promising for Democrats because of the comparatively small number of contestable House seats and a senate map that heavily favors Republicans (with Democrats defending 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016).

Sosnik argues the Democrats’ huge losses in 2010 led to today’s Republican advantages in state legislatures and in Congress (the House) due to redistricting after the census. He also thinks 2018 presents a stellar chance for Democrats to get back their mojo, however. “It’s a huge opportunity for Democrats to regain the losses of 2010.

“In 2010, Democrats lost six Senate seats, 63 House seats, six governors, and 729 state legislative seats. And the biggest problem for Democrats was that was the election cycle before reapportionment and redistricting. This has been a lost decade for Democrats.”

It has indeed. Republicans were pretty distraught after the 2006 and 2008 elections – there wasn’t a lot to crow about. The GOP was summarily booted out of power in George W. Bush’s second midterm election (2006) because the war in Iraq raged on with no end in sight (even after Bush claimed it was “Mission Accomplished”) and fiscally speaking, Republicans were spending like Democrats on big government boondoggles like Medicare Part D and the ridiculously mislabeled “No Child Left Behind” federal education initiative.

Millions of otherwise reliable Republican and independent voters must have understood the GOP didn’t give them much incentive to vote for the status quo -- so power swung to the Democrats.

Further, Republicans ran a historically weak presidential field in 2008. John McCain was the “next in line” after his second place finish to Bush II in the 2000 struggle so he’d already solidified GOP establishment support by the time the primaries came around. Meanwhile, conservatives failed to coalesce around a single limited government challenger (Rick Santorum? Mike Huckabee? ... or gulp, Mitt Romney?) -- the party was bitterly divided.

After eight years of lackluster conservative leadership under George W. Bush Americans were ready for a change – and McCain wouldn’t provide it. Enter Obama.

It goes without saying Obama’s two midterm elections were disasters for Democrats. The party lost control of the House in 2010 and the Senate went over to the GOP four years later. A healthy number of state legislatures swung to Republican control and GOP gubernatorial candidates were widely successful as well – some even in deep blue states like Maryland.

Democrats keep insisting 2018 will be a banner year for them because of Trump’s unpopularity – and the fact it’s a (usually bad for the party in power) midterm election – but is that really true?

“If you unpack the Trump voter, there’s probably 25 to 28, maybe 30 percent that’s just all in,” Sosnik said in the Politico article. “But then there’s [about 12 percent of voters] where I would characterize them as saying basically they like a lot of his policies but they don’t like the tweets and they’re uncomfortable with him on a lot of other things. So when he does things that appeal to the policy side or changing the status quo, that’s where [his approval rating] moves up into the low 40s even. But when he’s being Trump unplugged, tweeting and saying things and embarrassing people, that’s when that number goes down.”

Considering these comments are from a Democrat, Sosnik’s assessment is pretty fair -- though the “Trump unplugged” moments are getting fewer and farther in between these days.

Simply stated, Trump’s tweets no longer make headlines. It could be because the Mueller/Russian collusion investigation turned decidedly against the liberal storyline (that Trump mixed it up with his bud Vlad Putin to fix the 2016 election). If anything, the probe uncovered pervasive corruption at the highest reaches of the FBI and proved it was Democrats and Trump’s enemies who worked with Russians to influence the outcome (via the Steele dossier).

At the same time fired former FBI director James Comey was exposed to be a truth-bending opportunist who worked to save his own reputation by having a special counsel appointed to torment Trump. Comey’s close friend Andrew McCabe resigned….The list goes on and on.

When Trump tweeted last year that the Obama administration tapped his phones – and the media went nuts over it – well, it turns out he was correct. The exonerations of Trump’s most controversial tweets keep coming, and as long as the Russia investigation leads away from the White House it doesn’t really matter what he comments about the media and Crooked Hillary and the Democrats – he’s right about all of it and people recognize the fact.

Trump is also focusing on outreach to constituencies Republicans traditionally have trouble with – namely youth voters. His “listening sessions” after the school shooting revealed a president who invites teenagers into the White House to tell him first-hand what they’re worried about. It’s a “presidential” side of Trump that rebuts the excessive and tiresome charges of racism, sexism – every other “ism”’ there is – levelled at the chief executive.

Ronald Reagan left office extremely popular with America’s young people, largely because he engaged them and talked endlessly about the future of America. Isn’t that what Trump is doing now?

In contrast Democrats have completely thrown the DACA issue under the proverbial political bus in order to fan the flames of hysteria over gun control. Whoever heads the messaging campaigns of the opposition party isn’t doing a very good job. The gun issue is a certain loser for Democrats – it’s been proven time and again.

Trump’s approval rating even hit 50 percent (in the GOP friendly Rasmussen poll) on Friday, the first time it’s reached the magical halfway mark. Could it be Americans are warming to Trump? Or maybe they’re just weary of the Democrats’ and the establishment media’s fear mongering. Liberals habitually go over-the-top in their expressions of outrage and grief – the Florida incident is just the latest manifestation of it, especially since it was revealed there was an armed law enforcement officer onsite who refused to engage Nikolas Cruz. The government failed once again.

As time goes on the “normalization” of the Trump presidency will set in. If he stays relatively quiet on Twitter and continues steering clear of controversy it’s easy to envision a time when Trump will no longer be a big issue in local campaigns.

Trump’s enemies are betting he’ll remain the center of attention. There’s even word former GOP rival John Kasich has the wheels in motion for a 2020 run against the president.

Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico reported, “John Kasich’s inner circle is gearing up for a possible presidential run in 2020 — actively weighing the prospect of a Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump against the feasibility of a long-shot general election campaign as an independent.

“And there’s one consideration driving their thinking perhaps more than any other: what some of his advisers consider the very real, maybe even likely, possibility that Trump doesn’t run again — by choice or not — or that the president becomes so politically hobbled by late next year that the political landscape fundamentally shifts in Kasich’s favor. That’s one reason Kasich has yet to decide whether to pursue an independent bid or a primary challenge…

“Far from sitting in a holding pattern, Kasich has been signing up for a wide range of events around the country in the coming months likely to put him in small rooms with even more of the influential activists and thinkers who he might eventually need.”

Such “small events” include return trips to New Hampshire where the Ohio governor finished a distant second to Trump two years ago in the GOP primary. The Politico article indicated several times that Kasich can’t make up his mind and noted some of his old allies consider any notion of running against Trump ridiculous – shouldn’t he just announce he’s out of it?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out there’s no room for another candidate if Trump runs again (which he almost certainly will). A “centrist” Republican candidate would get swamped by Trump because he’s demonstrated flexibility on practically every issue, even including an offer of amnesty and delayed citizenship for DACA recipients. If anything there could be a smidgen of room for a challenge on the right – but wishy-washy squish Kasich isn’t a conservative.

Maybe a neon sign in New Hampshire would speed Kasich’s decision-making. It should say, “No one wants you, John Kasich.”

It’s only natural for American political observers to always consider the next election as the most important one of a generation – and this year’s midterms are no different. A lot can happen before November arrives; for now it’s probably best just to sit back and watch the show.

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