President Trump’s 2016 pollster says Republicans can hang on to their majorities in the midterm elections, but to do it they’ll need the new voters Trump attracted in 2016, and that means passing more of the president’s agenda before November.
“The Republicans in Washington need to get their act together, to vote on things, to motivate these 2016 Trump voters and get them back out,” said John McLaughlin, CEO of McLaughlin and Associates and a key aide for Trump in 2016.
“The voters want to see a member of Congress who supports the president’s agenda moving forward,” added McLaughlin in an interview with Radio America.
McLaughlin says that while Trump got the attention of new voters with his personality, it’s the issues that drove them to the polls: immigration, securing the border, making tax cuts permanent, strengthening defense and fixing the health care system.
He says Democrats will have no trouble turning out the anti-Trump vote but Republicans will have a tougher time. While Trump’s approval rating is at or near 50 percent, McLaughlin’s own polling shows the approval rating for Republicans in Congress is only 40 percent, and a quarter of GOP voters give Congress a thumbs down for not doing more to advance the Trump agenda.
That is translating to poor turnout for the Republicans and much closer elections in supposedly safe districts. McLaughlin says the recent special election in Ohio’s 12th district is a perfect example.
Even though Troy Balderson appears to have defeated Danny O’Connor, McLaughlin says a look at the numbers ought to frighten Republicans.
“There were 206,000 voters that came out in that district in November of 2016 for President Trump. In the special election for Congress, only 102,000 people voted for the Republican. So you have 104,000 Trump voters sitting there that they have to motivate now to get back out in November to re-elect the Republican,” said McLaughlin.
It’s not just Ohio. When Democrats scored victories in the Alabama U.S. Senate race and a special House race in Pennsylvania, the same dynamic played out.
In Alabama, 2.1 million voters went to the polls in 2016 and Trump won two-thirds of the vote, but only 1.4 million turned out for the special election in which Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Roy Moore.
In the special Pennsylvania House contest, McLaughlin says 102,000 fewer people voted for Republican Rick Saccone than voted for Trump less than two years earlier.
McLaughlin know exactly what it takes to bring Trump voters to the polls. After Trump secured the delegates to win the GOP nomination in 2016, he asked McLaughlin how he would defeat Hillary Clinton.
McLaughlin said they should take the traditional steps of shoring up the anti-Hillary and anti-Obama votes and reach out to Libertarians. But also he knew Trump would need more votes and then figured out where those votes could come from.
“They’re mainly working class voters. A lot of them were from the Rust Belt states as well as the Sun Belt states. It was really a heartland coalition. They were working middle class voters that the president, this New York City billionaire, had an appeal for because they relate to him on issues like trade, immigration, draining the swamp in Washington — anti-establishment issues that they came out and voted for,” said McLaughlin.
“Nine million more people came out in 2016 than 2012. In the record turnout we had, there were 63 million Trump voters. A lot of those voters did not vote in 2014. So the success for the Republicans is really about motivating those 2016 Trump voters to come back out,” he said.
Not all of the Trump agenda is conservative, but McLaughlin says passing it will only boost Republican totals in November.
“They really need to vote on things that the majority of Americans support — even paid parental leave. The president’s got a plan for paid parental leave but Republicans in the House and Senate aren’t going to vote on it until next year. Seventy-five percent of voters approve of that.
“Congress needs to get things done because they’re on the ballot this November, not the president,” said McLaughlin, pointing out that President Obama suffered major losses in midterm elections because Democrats couldn’t re-create the turnout he enjoyed in presidential races.
McLaughlin firmly believes Republicans can hang onto majorities in both the House and Senate but not if they fail to push more of the Trump agenda across the finish line.
“Republicans have a chance because there is time. If Republicans motivate their base, if they have critical votes in September and October on important issues to the Trump coalition, then I think we get our base out and we can hold the House, and we’ll definitely gain Senate seats.
“It’s really up to what they do in Washington right now. If the people see them voting on things that matter to them, we will be able to hold the House and pick up Senate seats,” said McLaughlin.