Republican losses in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday have stressed the need for the party to develop a strong message for 2018. And without achievements in Congress to point to, the party only has one tried-and-tested plan: tie Democrats to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who remains deeply unpopular among Republican voters, and who has clung jealously to power despite leading her party to several historic defeats in recent years.
Though Tuesday’s results were not a total repudiation of President Donald Trump, Democrats used rank-and-file hostility to Trump to motivate turnout, particularly in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.
The grim reality of American politics in 2017 is that both parties are so unpopular, even among their supporters, that voters are more amenable to appeals to vote against the alternative than they are inclined to vote for a positive vision.
Democrats fully expected to win the special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district in June, when Democrat Jon Ossoff ran as an anti-Trump firebrand. But Republican Karen Handel prevailed by tying Ossoff to Pelosi.
That prompted Democrats to wonder openly about replacing her. She held on, however, touting her fundraising prowess and political acumen, proving the latter by encouraging Trump to deal with the Democrats on a budget agreement.
Still, the Sacramento Bee notes that Republicans still see Pelosi — who would be nearly 80 by the time she takes back the Speaker’s gavel, if it comes to that — as their best hope for victory. That is encouraging Democrats to think creatively about ways to create distance between her and the swing district candidates that must win for her to reclaim power.
Ultimately, it may also mean doubling down on the anti-Trump strategy, making 2018 a nasty battle.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.