GOP hopes Trump holds key to 2018

President Donald Trump has stacked his schedule with campaign events with just four weeks until Election Day, hopscotching from state-to-DC-to-state to tout Republican lawmakers and slam their opponents.

After rallying in Iowa on Tuesday night, Trump heads to Pennsylvania on Wednesday and Ohio on Friday before wrapping up his week of campaign travel in Kentucky on Saturday.

The uptick in the President’s schedule is part of a strategy top national Republican operatives hope will prevent a blue wave from crashing in November: Using the President, particularly in traditionally red states he won in 2016, to “Trump people to death,” as one operative put it.

National Republicans believe frequent trips from Trump should be able to accentuate those state’s natural political bent and overcome a national atmosphere that appears to favor Democrats.

This could be particularly key to holding the Senate, the two GOP operatives said, where Democrats have been left to defend blue seats in red states.

Trump visits to Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Tennessee — all states he’s already recently campaigned in — are examples of how the President reminds Republican voters that even though his name is not on the ballot, his ability to get things done is, the operatives said.

“Pretend I’m on the ballot,” Trump said at a recent rally.

The House is different

The thinking is slightly different in the fight for the House, where much of the Democratic expansion is being fought in more swing and lean Republican suburban districts, where Trump’s style and policies have left the President less popular than he is in other parts of the country.

But Republicans tasked with protecting House majorities in November believe the President can stop Democrats on offense in Kansas, Minnesota and certain parts of Ohio.

“We think we will be able to Trump people to death,” said one Republican operative, speaking about the President’s ability to excite his base of supporters. “To his voters, he is the only credible messenger.”

Republicans are well aware that their ability to protect majorities in the House and Senate will be viewed as a direct reflection of the country’s view of the President. Democrats are animated at levels unseen in past midterm elections, according to recent polling, and many believe the midterms are their best chance to deliver a stinging rebuke to Trump.

That became clear over the last few weeks during the debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination fight grew incredibly contentious after he faced a sexual assault allegation. Kavanaugh denied that allegation and one of sexual misconduct, in a testy hearing on Capitol Hill. But the treatment of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who also testified before the Senate panel, and the subsequent Senate approval of Kavanaugh angered Democrats.

Republicans hope, though, that their base will be motivated by a feeling that Kavanaugh was unfairly treated by the media and Democrats, something Trump is expected to continue to stoke as he hits the road for the next month.

“From the very first minute Brett Kavanaugh was nominated, radical Democrats were on a mission to resist, delay, demolish and destroy — they wanted to destroy that man,” Trump said at a rally in Iowa Tuesday night.

“In just four weeks, you will have the chance to render your verdict on the Democrats’ outrageous conduct,” he said.

A White House official, talking about using Kavanaugh as an issue in the midterms, said, “Republican voters have been happy. This is the first time they have been angry since 2016, so this comes at the right time politically for Republicans.”Another operative said that Trump energizes base Republicans voters “like no one else” and, with just four weeks left before Election Day, Republicans must “keep our side engaged and mobilized for the next 4 weeks.”

‘Booster packs’ for Democrats

Democrats, on the other hand, welcome Trump’s ubiquity on the trail and dismiss the idea that the party can “Trump people to death.”

David Bergstein, national press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Republicans touting this strategy are the same that believed their health care and tax plans would translate well with voters, something that polls show didn’t come to fruition.

“They have been wrong all cycle and they are wrong now,” Bergstein said. “Overwhelmingly, voters even in more conservative states, prefer a candidate who is a check and balance on the Republican control of government.”

Another Democratic source working on taking the House in November said Trump’s rally not only does little in states, but it “puts booster packs on Democratic campaigns.”

“Candidates raise a ton of money when he comes,” the source said. “It’s a windfall that has juiced our campaigns.”

The Democrat pointed to Rep. Conor Lamb’s successful race in Pennsylvania and Danny O’Connor’s narrow loss in Ohio, both special elections that Trump waded into. Both Democrats raised substantial money after the visit, which was then turned into television ads and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Democrats, some of whom have positioned themselves as a foil to Trump, have also raised huge sums this year, yet another data point that suggests Democrats are positioned for a strong 2018.

The Republican strategy is the reason Trump was in Iowa on Tuesday, where he stumped for Rep. David Young, the Iowa Republican looking to stave off a robust challenge from small business owner Cindy Axne, and why he traveled to Minnesota, a state her narrowly lost in 2016, earlier this month to tout a stable of Republican candidates running for House, Senate and governor.

After Tuesday’s visit to Iowa, Trump will have made five campaign trips this month to stump for Republican candidates. He also visited Tennessee on Oct. 1 to tout for Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign, Mississippi on Oct. 2 to back Cindy Hyde-Smith for Senate and Kansas on Oct. 6 to back Kris Kobach, who is running for governor.

Trump also has a series of campaign trips on the calendar: On Wednesday he will be in Pennsylvania to back a vulnerable House candidate, on Friday he will travel to Ohio to back the state’s Senate candidate and a House Republican and on Saturday he will travel to Kentucky to back Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath.