2018 midterms

How Trump Plans to Spin Losing the House

So much winning, even in defeat! Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

We should have seen this coming from the man who couldn’t even be honest about the election of 2016 which lifted him to the presidency. No, he insisted that his narrow Electoral College win was a “massive landslide victory,” and that Hillary Clinton’s popular vote advantage was based on illegal voting. So now that he’s facing actual defeat, of course he will spin it as anything but that! According to Politico, the post-election plan is already set:

President Donald Trump and his allies have crafted a face-saving plan if Democrats trounce their way to a House majority — tout Trump as the savior of Republicans in the Senate.

In public and private, Trump and advisers are pointing to the president’s surge of campaigning on behalf of Republican Senate candidates — 19 rallies alone since Labor Day — as evidence that nobody else could have had a bigger impact in the states. The argument is classic Trump, who despite making the midterms a referendum on his own presidency, has a history of personalizing and then dwelling on his victories while distancing himself and diverting attention from his losses.

So now we know part of the thinking behind the otherwise oddly exclusive focus of Trump on states with Senate races instead of close House races. “Saving” the Senate was an extraordinarily easier task, given the fact that Republicans have the most favorable partisan landscape in living memory for that chamber. As veteran election forecaster Stu Rothenberg recently said:

The map continues to be the main reason why the Democrats aren’t likely to flip the Senate. It’s the worst map for one party I have ever seen.

Indeed, a persistently Republican Senate is entirely consistent with a House Democratic landslide, as David Wasserman pointed out much earlier this year:

So “winning” the Senate is about as impressive an accomplishment for Republicans this year as pushing a bicycle down a suburban driveway. The amazing thing is that Democrats ever had a realistic opportunity to flip the chamber (they still have a one-in-six chance of doing that, according to FiveThirtyEight). But if Republicans not only hold onto their slim Senate margin but pick up seats, the howls of triumph will be deafening:

Should Republicans pick up Senate seats, “that’s all they’ll talk about,” said Barry Bennett, a presidential adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign….

“If the president picks up Senate seats, they’ll be no honest people talking about a ‘blue wave,’” Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally and chairman of the American Conservative Union, told POLITICO.

No one will admit that had Hillary Clinton been elected president, Republican Senate gains this year would have been certain, and probably significantly larger. It’s all about Trump’s magnificance!

And if Republicans hold onto both congressional chambers (an unlikely but far from impossible result), the president might just declare further debates about his greatness a waste of time.

If Trump’s party, however, loses on all fronts, what you will not hear is anything like Barack Obama’s admission after the 2010 midterms:

A sober President Obama acknowledged Wednesday that he took “a shellacking” in the midterm election and that his once highflying relationship with the American voter had hit rocky times….

Obama took responsibility for Tuesday’s losses, expressed sadness for Democratic lawmakers who lost while standing by the administration’s policies, and defended his more controversial efforts. Pronouncing himself humbled, he pledged to negotiate with Republicans on a much less aggressive agenda.

Only losers admit they’ve lost.

How Trump Plans to Spin Losing the House