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The Weeds: Where Trump’s feud with congressional Republicans could lead

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President Donald Trump keeps swiping at the leaders of his own party — but in one tweet, he incorporated some strategy on how to maneuver an increase in the debt ceiling through Congress.

On the August 25 episode of The Weeds, Matt Yglesias, Andrew Prokop, and Tara Golshan discuss Trump’s relationship with congressional Republicans and the debate over the debt ceiling.

Trump tweeted, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan for not tying a debt ceiling raise into a Veterans Affairs bill that passed with bipartisan support. Matt’s analysis:

“That was not Trump smacking back at some clip he saw on Fox News; that was Trump really Monday morning quarterbacking the legislative strategy of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in a fairly substantive way.”

McConnell and Ryan are not alone. Trump’s recent list of targets includes Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) as well. Andrew speculates that in attacking his own party, Trump could sabotage Republicans’ 2018 chances — and having a Democratic majority in Congress would surely make things way more difficult for the president.

“If I was advising Donald Trump, I would say that a Democratic takeover is probably the worst single thing that could happen to your presidency in the next year,” Andrew says.

You can listen to the episode here, or subscribe to the show on iTunes here.

Here’s Andrew explaining why, in the end, Republicans need Trump:

ANDREW: I interviewed political scientist Dave Hopkins recently. He runs a blog called Honest Graft, which is really good, and he wrote a post yesterday which was really interesting.

He basically posited that we are going to see more and more open conflict between Trump and congressional Republican leaders and that Trump is actually well positioned to win a fight against them. And I thought the core takeaway that I had from talking to him was that the fate of congressional Republicans and their majorities is just so closely linked to Trump’s own political fate that it’s really hard to see what they can do to hurt him that won’t hurt themselves politically more and first, because they are up for reelection before he is.

So if they draw more attention to the Russia scandal, that will only hurt their party’s own chances in 2018. If they start turning over more stuff with Trump’s businesses, looking around for corruption, that would also probably hurt the Republican Party in 2018. If they provoke Trump in any way to make him angry at them, that sows more division and hurts the Republican Party in 2018.

So what I came away thinking was that this is less about advancing a legislative agenda, but I think this is more about fear on the part of the Republican Party, and that the strategy that so many of them have arrived at is to sort of pretend Trump’s Twitter account does not exist, to stay on his good side. It really is about fear — because he could do so much to wreck their party’s chances in 2018 and ruin their own political futures.

MATT: And then conversely, there is a lack of fear. The 2018 Senate map famously is just overwhelmingly tilted toward red states. And I was looking yesterday at the latest Decision Desk HQ forecast for the House of Representatives election, and their model is not unimpeachable, but they were saying that based on current polling, you would expect House Democrats to get 54 percent of the vote, which is a lot, but with 54 percent of the vote, Republicans would still hold a majority and it wouldn’t even be that close. Democrats would get 47 percent of the seats and 54 percent of the vote, and so that means that there are relatively few Republicans — it’s really just [Nevada Sen.] Dean Heller and a handful of House members who are in the position of really plausibly needing to gain the support of Democrats.

Show notes: