Letter to the Editor

President's visit is significant for Senate, Trump's re-election

Monday, November 5, 2018

Since FDR took office, the President's party has gained seats in both houses of Congress in a midterm election only twice. Typically, the president's party loses seats, an average loss of about 30 House seats and four Senate seats. Democrats hope this trend continues Tuesday, but Missouri's Senate race is a potential wrinkle to their plans.

Textbooks would suggest that the race, featuring a well-funded, scandal-free incumbent and a relatively inexperienced challenger, should be a Democrat hold. So why are analysts calling the seat a toss-up? Partisanship in Missouri has changed since Claire McCaskill was first elected to statewide office in 1998. In the past three presidential elections, the Republican defeated the Democrat by one-tenth of a point, nearly 10 points, and 18 points. Republicans control both houses of the state legislature and all six elected executive offices. This context will greet President Trump when he visits the Show Me Center today, the last of 11 rallies in states with two things in common: a tight U.S. Senate race and higher than average Trump approval. Thus, the appearance has a two-fold purpose. To be sure, Trump is coming to stump for Josh Hawley. Analysts expect Republicans to lose seats Tuesday, but a Hawley victory would limit the damage to Republicans in a closely divided Senate. The second, and perhaps more critical, purpose is to advocate for Trump himself.

All midterm elections are a referendum on the sitting president, but the context of the 2018 midterms is particularly divisive.

Democrats point to Justice Kavanaugh and Trump's immigration positions as the most recent of myriad examples of what is wrong with his presidency. Expect President Trump to champion these same issues to a supportive crowd Monday, both in the Show Me Center and nationally through the media, as the last word on promises kept.

Dr. Jeremy Walling is a political-science professor at Southeast Missouri State University.