Does President Donald Trump have electoral coattails? And will independent voters who chose Trump in 2016 vote for Republicans not named Donald Trump in 2018? On Tuesday, Republicans in states like Minnesota, Nevada, and West Virginia found out the answer: sort of.
Beginning on March 10, Donald Trump participated in 42 rallies to support Republican candidates running for House and Senate positions and in gubernatorial contests. He visited several states that went for him in 2016 multiple times, including West Virginia, Missouri, Montana (which he visited four times) and Ohio, to boost Republican congressional candidates whose campaigns in turn largely echoed Trump’s own successful 2016 presidential campaign.
The question of whether or not Trump could benefit Republican candidates without being on the ballot himself was a big one for Republicans. Part of the story of 2016 — and in fact, of the Trump presidency more broadly — is that Trump is more popular than the Republican Party of which he is a titular member. Independents approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, but that approval doesn’t extend to Republicans more broadly.
But on Tuesday, we learned that in the House of Representatives and in some of the Senate races Trump stumped for hardest, Trump’s presence in races did more harm than good. Favored candidates, including Nevada’s Dean Heller and Montana’s Matt Rosendale both lost. However, in other races, Trump-supported candidates like Missouri Republican Josh Hawley and Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn helped the GOP hold onto its majority.
In short, Trump’s impact on Congressional races and state-level contests is a mixed bag. And even before Tuesday, some conservatives worried that he might be similar to Barack Obama, under whose tenure the Democratic Party lost hundreds of electoral seats at the local, state, and federal level. As Philip Klein wrote in the Washington Examiner on Monday:
Former President Barack Obama’s political legacy is a mixed one. In two presidential elections, he amassed and then retained a loyal coalition of voters. But in midterm elections, when his name wasn’t on the ballot, those voters didn’t show up and his party got slaughtered. Tuesday’s election, particularly a few key states, will tell us whether President Trump has even less juice when it comes to getting his party’s candidates over the finish line.
In the 2010 and 2014 wave election years, Republicans captured Senate seats in five states that Obama carried in both presidential elections — this even includes his home state of Illinois. Trump could face an even worse fate if he fails to help put Republicans over the top in several key races being decided Tuesday.
For his part, Trump himself believed that the midterm elections are ultimately about him and his presidency, rather than about the candidates for whom he’s stumped. During an event in Mississippi in October, he told supporters, “I’m not on the ballot, but in a certain way, I’m on the ballot.”
Early Wednesday morning, he tweeted a quote from a Fox News pundit who said Republicans will “realize how important he is because of what he did in campaigning for him.”
.@DavidAsmanfox “How do the Democrats respond to this? Think of how his position with Republicans improves-all the candidates who won tonight. They realize how important he is because of what he did in campaigning for them. They owe him their political career.” Thanks, I agree!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
And later, he tweeted that outlets that didn’t give “us proper credit” were “fake news.”
To any of the pundits or talking heads that do not give us proper credit for this great Midterm Election, just remember two words - FAKE NEWS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Here is a list of every candidate Trump rallied for in 2018 (excluding Pennsylvania Republican House candidate Rick Saccone, who lost his race back in March) and how these Republicans did in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Bill Schuette for governor, lost
Marsha Blackburn for Senate, won
Bill Lee for governor, won
Henry McMaster for governor, won
Matt Rosendale for Senate, lost
Rick Scott for Senate, won
Ron DeSantis for governor, won
Lou Barletta for Senate, lost
George “Mike” Kelly for the House, won
Carol Miller for the House, won
Patrick Morrisey for Senate, lost
Mike Braun for Senate, won
Dean Heller for Senate, lost
Adam Laxalt for governor, lost
Cindy Hyde-Smith for Senate, runoff
Pete Stauber for the House, won
Jim Hagedorn for the House, won
Jason Lewis for the House, lost
Karin Housley for Senate, lost
Kris Kobach for governor, lost
Steve Watkins for the House, won
Kim Reynolds for governor, won
David Young for the House, lost
Jim Renacci for Senate, lost
Troy Balderson for the House, won
Mike DeWine for governor, won
Steve Chabot for the House, won
Andy Barr for the House, won
Martha McSally for Senate, lost
Josh Hawley for Senate, won
Ted Cruz for Senate, won
Greg Abbott for governor, won
Kevin Cramer for Senate, won
Scott Walker for governor, lost
Leah Vukmir for Senate, lost
Mark Harris for the House, won
Ted Budd for the House, won
Mike Bost for the House, won
Brian Kemp for governor, won