Republicans hope President Donald Trump’s recent success on the trade front, his struggle to give the Supreme Court a conservative majority, and his announcement Tuesday that he’s moving ahead on year-round E15 will boost the rural turnout the GOP needs to avoid disaster in the Nov. 6 mid-term elections.
Democrats are increasingly favored to take over the House, and control of the Senate also is very much in play. A Democratic takeover of the Senate would significantly disrupt Trump’s ability to remake the judiciary as well as make it harder to fill vacancies in the administration.
Ahead of a rally Tuesday evening in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Trump made it clear to reporters at the White House that he sees the trade deal with Mexico and Canada and his E15 announcement as an advantage in rural areas.
“I think we’re going to do well,” he said when asked about the mid-terms during a photo opportunity where UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced her plans to step down. Trump said farmers are “thrilled” with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA). “We just opened up Mexico. We just opened up Canada. And it’s great for our farmers.”
The big question is whether enthusiasm from farmers and other rural voters who traditionally favor Republican candidates will be enough to overcome the turnout among urban and suburban voters who are angry at Trump and will vote for Democratic candidates.
It could be a wash, said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. “Rural voters might want to reward Trump and the Republicans, but Democratic voters claim to be even more ready to punish them.”
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, who will be campaigning with GOP Senate candidate Josh Hawley this week, said the Senate fight over now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was energizing rural neighbors. “Here in the rural areas, people were fairly upset over how that happened, and I think it will make a difference," he said.
Still, Hurst said it was unclear if that new energy among rural voters would be enough to overcome the Democratic turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City. Hawley, the state attorney general, is running neck and neck with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is running for a second term.
Republican voters normally turn out in the mid-terms at a higher rate than Democrats, but this time “obviously the Democrats are animated by their concerns about President Trump," Hurst said.
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epublicans are struggling to hold onto a 51-49 majority in the Senate and have a good shot of unseating Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota as well as McCaskill. In North Dakota, Rep. Kevin Cramer has a lead of 8.7 percentage points over Heitkamp, according to the RealClear Politics average of polls.
Republican challengers also are within striking distance in several other states, including Indiana, where Sen. Joe Donnelly is up by 2.5 points, and Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester leads by 3 points. But Republicans also are in danger of losing Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada.
In the House, the situation is much bleaker for Republicans. Even some agricultural districts are trending away from Republican incumbents. In southwest Iowa, where Rep. David Young hosted Trump Tuesday, the race is rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. Two GOP members of the House Agriculture Committee – John Faso of New York and Jeff Denham of California – also are in races rated as toss-ups.
Democratic challengers are now favored in two other GOP-held districts that are significant agriculturally: Rod Blum’s in northeast Iowa, and Kevin Yoder’s in eastern Kansas.
Ahead of Tuesday's Council Bluffs rally, Democrats sought to blunt Trump's message to rural voters. In a statement, Iowa and Nebraska Democratic party leaders said, “For years, the Republican Party has run on rhetoric and policy inconsistent with American values. Nowhere is this more evident than in the promises made and broken here in the Heartland. Our farmers and rural communities have been left in the dust by the Trump administration" and Republican governors.
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