29 May 2018

Republicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November

The following op-ed was originally published in The Hill on May 29, 2018. 

From “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” to “Dewey Wins!” to newspaper headlines ready to be printed upon the election of Hillary Clinton as president, we have seen many examples of premature acclamations in American life.

Today, there are those who might term such reports to be examples of “fake news.” Others, depending on one’s view of the world, could call it wishful thinking.

Whatever one wishes to call it we know this much to be true: Never count your chickens until they hatch.

Such is the case with the months and months of reporting by left-leaning American media that had already called the results of the 2018 midterm elections. So much so, that a cottage industry had arisen in which the odds of Nancy Pelosi becoming the next House majority leader had become a 1 in 1 chance.

Pointing to a 16-point lead in the generic ballot in February, the political pundits were buying rulers for Democrats in order to help them measure their new curtains. Gleeful talking heads on MSNBC and CNN wondered dreamily what would become of the Republican president when Democrats took the gavel from Paul Ryan.

Republicans began seeing hints of disaster as one special election race after another went into the Democrats’ ledger, adding more credence that a “blue wave” was starting to form.

The chairwoman of Florida’s Democratic Party cheered “Let the Blue Wave Continue!” as Democrats won a hotly contested House seat in that state.

Now, this is where my own personal history in politics gives me some perspective on the phrase “Not so fast!” when it comes to politics in America.

In 1998, the night before the governor’s race in Minnesota, my pollster informed me I was going to beat Attorney General Skip Humphrey by 5 to 7 points the next day.

 He was right on the money. I beat Humphrey by nearly 130,000 votes and 6 percentage points.

 And, yet, I lost to Jesse Ventura by 56,000 votes and 3 percentage points.


Four years later, after the tragic death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, and one week before the election, former Vice President Walter Mondale — who had never lost a race in Minnesota in his storied career — became the Democrat Senate nominee. His victory seemed inevitable.

And, yet, seven days later, I triumphed by almost 50,000 votes.

The day after the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race, I seemingly had triumphed over Democrat Al Franken by 215 votes.

Yet on June 30, 2009, after an extended recount that gave Franken a 312-vote lead, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared him the victor.

Ouch again!

As reported in The Hill from the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in May, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged the historic challenges of midterms for the party in power: “We have our challenge — history says the party in power loses 29 seats in an off year and 23 seats is our majority.”

Yet, McCarthy also pointed out what has been a growing trend in recent polls: “In January, I gave this presentation — it was plus 12 for the Democrats. Today, if you take a rolling average, just plus 5.5. We have a 4-point advantage — if we get 49 percent of the national vote, we’ll have 53 percent of the seats.”

CNN, a mirror image of today’s Democratic Party and its most consistent ally and booster, finally had to concede what the numbers were starting to show: The wave has become a trickle. In fact, there may be evidence that the trickle has become a slow drip.

Rising poll numbers for the president, an economy on hyper-drive, unemployment at historic lows and a general sense that the world is largely at peace — and so, too, is America — are starting to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

There is, of course, much that can happen between now and November.

Democrats are hoping for a Bob Mueller-inspired electoral disaster for Republicans.

Those in the press who dislike both the president and Republicans (and, really, who can say how few of them there are not?) eagerly await the next “crisis” or “scandal” or “misstep” to drown the party in power.

As we stand here in May, just days before Memorial Day, I am loath to make predictions about the outcomes of elections.

This much, though, I believe to be true: Republicans will continue to hold the majority in the House and the Senate.

Democrats, while making some gains, will see many of those gains offset by their failure to achieve significant inroads in important state and local races throughout the country.

Democratic pollsters have insisted that what makes the declining margin in the generic ballot irrelevant is that Democrats still hold the advantage in electoral enthusiasm.

A strong economy, a nation at peace and an unemployment rate at near-historic lows is something most Americans are enthusiastic about. The policies that lead to those results are Republican ones.

And they are the ones I think will keep the electoral waters calm for Republicans in November.

Norm Coleman represented Minnesota as a Republican in the U.S. Senate from 2003-09. He is chairman of the American Action Network and co-founder of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which works to protect and expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Mr. Coleman is also chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and head of the government relations and public affairs practice at Hogan Lovells. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and are not written for or at the request of any other party.