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How Republicans Win the 2018 Midterms

In case you missed it, a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll has more than eight out of every 10 Democrats and seven out of 10 independents saying the country is on the wrong track. That’s bad news for the GOP because it suggests the upcoming November 2018 contest is going to be a change election.

Sure, seven out of 10 Republicans in the same survey said things are on the right track. If the GOP could win elections all by its lonesome, that wouldn’t be a problem. But if Republicans are going to keep control of Congress and of the various statehouses and governorships they won during the Obama years, they’re going to have to convince at least some of those who self-identify as independents to come along. So far, at least according to this one poll, they’re not doing that.

There’s already enough evidence to allow for the possibility of a big, blue wave in November. Nearly 40 state legislative seats, which admittedly is a fraction of the total, have flipped from R to D since Trump was elected despite the fact some of these districts went to Trump by overwhelming numbers in 2016.

The Republicans have also had to fight tooth and nail to keep control of seats in the U.S. House that have come vacant since Trump was elected. These include several that are among the safest in the country like Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. That should have been an easy win for the GOP after Tom Price resigned; instead, it turned into a very expensive almost loss.

The key finding in this phone survey of 1,000 registered voters nationwide is “By close to 2-1, 58%-32%, those surveyed say they want to elect a Congress that mostly stands up to the president, not one that mostly cooperates with him.”

That should come as no surprise. According to the poll, 60 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of the job Trump is doing as president. Outside his base, which is considerable, he’s not popular. His policies may be working but, seeing as how he and his appointees are hounded at every turn by his opponents in the advocacy media as well as by those who pretend to be actual, authentic conservatives but are instead simply solid “never Trumpers,” no one should expect his numbers or his image to improve in time to make a meaningful difference.

Editorial Cartoons on Democrats in the Trump Era

If they’re going to hold on to power, the Republicans need to look to other leaders besides Trump to expand their electoral coalition. If they were smart, and there’s no reason to believe they’re not, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should use the next recess period to schedule a summit meeting of the parties legislative leaders with an eye to hammering out something like 1994’s Contract with America to develop an agenda GOP majorities can begin work on in the summer and through the fall and which, if they are returned to office in the majority, they can finish implementing.

One issue that has started to show up with considerable consistency is the cost of health care. Continually rising premiums and drug costs are breaking family budgets. The voters want relief, but congressional Republicans, having failed on several occasions to repeal Obamacare (admittedly by a single vote, at least when it mattered) are reluctant to take the issue up again.

It may be that those who say Obamacare will never be repealed “root and branch” are right. That means alternatives that work within the existing system or which can be achieved by tinkering with it need to be pursued. The focus must change from repealing what Obama and the Democrats hath wrought to finding ways to bring costs down and generally make the system more consumer friendly. The president has taken the first step in this regard by expanding the availability of temporary policies that can be purchased outside the annual window in which policies can be changed, but there’s more to be done.

Working together federal and state leaders can develop a pathway forward to make it easier for states to engage in experimentation in the insurance markets. They can find ways to make it possible for insurance to be bought across state lines – something that would alleviate the problem that has arisen for some many families now that so many of the nation’s counties are served by only one or two providers.

Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is leading the way by establishing sensible work requirements for able-bodied individuals enrolled in Medicaid, which, thanks to Obamacare, many states have expanded. There’s more to be done in this regard. Bevin and the Republican leaders in the Kentucky legislature could point the way for other states, as well as advise McConnell and Ryan on just what is needed from Washington to get the bureaucracy out of the way.

There are perhaps a thousand good ideas out there for health care reform. If the debate centers on the repeal of Obamacare, most of them will never get off the ground. McConnell and Ryan could provide the forum and the impetus for making them reality. What works can be replicated, what fails can be set aside – but only if the GOP maintains the majority of the majorities it currently holds.

That’s means congressional leaders need to take the polls seriously, get the focus off Trump as much as possible as fast as possible and onto the exchange of ideas that will improve the quality of life for the average American much like the tax cuts are doing. Trump can always come along later and claim credit. He’s not being cut out of the process, he’s just being put in the place where the voters the GOP needs to earn re-elected majorities next November seem to want him.

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