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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Republicans should not fear the big bad (Democrat) wolf in 2018

Who’s afraid of the big bad (Democrat) wolf?

Judging by their behavior last week, Democrats would have all of America believing Republicans just sounded their electoral death knell by passing the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s version of healthcare reform. Big Bad WolfAs must be well-known by now, Democrats giggled and chanted as the vote concluded, suggesting Republicans’ pugnacious leap of daring in altering their precious Obamacare would be the end of them politically.

Maybe we should take the Democrats seriously; after all, if there’s anyone who knows what it takes to lose elections, it’s them. Ever since they gained control of Congress for the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency the now minority party has offered all sorts of campaign advice and warnings for Republicans, implying they’re sincerely interested in boosting their rivals.

Poppycock. Democrats are really just wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re trying to scare the weak-kneed moderates in the GOP caucus into believing that sacrificing principles in favor of perpetuating entitlements is a better way of prolonging your stay on Capitol Hill.

In a number of cases it’s worked (the scaring part); but as a whole, Republicans aren’t showing much fear – and the numbers back them up.

David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner reports, “WPA Intelligence, the firm that handled polling and data for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz' presidential campaign, compiled analytics in several targeted House districts to gauge support for Obamacare, versus replacing the law with a market-driven health care reform reforms.

“Only in 12 of the 25 most endangered GOP-held districts did the preference for Obamacare outpace support for Republican alternatives, according to data compiled in late March, after Republican leaders were forced to cancel a vote on the original version of the AHCA (the height of the unpopularity of the House GOP bill.)”

Drucker also added in the upcoming special election run-off in Georgia’s 6th district (to fill the seat of new HHS Secretary Tom Price) that voters preferred the GOP bill to Obamacare.

Without delving too deeply into statistics and polls, common sense indicates Republicans won’t suffer too severely politically from passing the heavily watered-down “repeal” of Obamacare that is the AHCA. If anything, you might surmise the true conservatives who voted for the bill would face greater retribution for breaking their promise to fully expunge Obama’s signature legislation as they’ve been guaranteeing for seven years now.

But as I’ve been saying a lot lately, healthcare is but one issue of many that will determine the ultimate fate of the Republican majority in Congress. Focusing on poll numbers at this stage of the electoral cycle is foolhardy to say the least; there’s still a year-and-a-half to go until the next congressional election and many, many things will happen between now and then.

What if, for instance, the Republicans succeed in pushing through a major tax overhaul? What if a new public-private infrastructure partnership is passed and conditions actually start to improve in noticeable ways? What if education reforms are enacted and poor inner-city residents discover the benefits of having a choice in where to send their kids to school? What if ISIS is crushed and a little more order (about all we can hope for) prevails in the Middle East? What if Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on illegal immigration lowers the unemployment rate?

Any of these things singly – or a combination of all of them – could easily be enough to steer the campaign conversation back in the GOP’s direction. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or even a Democrat – to suggest conditions on the ground today can and likely will change in the span of a year and six months.

That’s why Trump’s approval ratings are so meaningless today. The 2016 election will be old news by then. Hillary Clinton and her rich leftist rabble-rousers will have to pony up a lot more dough to draw protest crowds to inspire media coverage.

Americans aren’t dumb. Most people recognize a sell-job when they see one.

Yet another thing that could happen is the House Republican version of the AHCA morphs into something newer and better in the Senate.

Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner reports, “…[Senator Ted Cruz] is working to build support for an alternative to the House-passed Obamacare repeal bill, one that allows for cross-state insurance purchases, and includes medical malpractice reform, health savings accounts and the expansion of association health plans…

“Cruz said he has been working for weeks with the now-thirteen member group of GOP senators on an Obamacare repeal and replacement plan that would eliminate the need for a second phase of legislation to replace failing healthcare law. Instead of a limited repeal and replace bill followed by another bill later, the GOP wish-list for replacing Obamacare would be packed into a single budget resolution to repeal Obamacare that could pass with only GOP support using a tool called reconciliation.”

In other words, Cruz and his group are putting together something that looks a lot more like what all Republicans promised to do during the entire 2016 campaign. Ferrechio’s article indicated the group includes leadership and healthcare committee chairs, so it includes all interested parties.

Apparently House members and Trump administration folks are also being kept in the loop. Unlike the original House GOP bill, nothing is secret and there isn’t going to be any “take it or leave it” proposition for senators to swallow or face retribution.

It’s the way the legislative process is supposed to work, and because the whole thing can be accomplished through reconciliation, Democrat approval isn’t required. Let them crow all they want about the recently passed budget – their tears may be coming very soon.

Some of that crying and wailing may be headed their way at the ballot box next year, too.

David Byler of Real Clear Politics reports, “If Republicans manage to make the 2018/2024 Senate maps as well sorted as the other two (2016 and 2020), Democrats could have some serious issues retaking the upper chamber in the near term.

“In our current political alignment, Republicans tend to win many of the less populous states (though not all of them), and Democrats often triumph in the most populous ones. That gives Republicans an advantage in the Senate (where each state has two members), and makes it imperative that Democrats win when confronted by maps like 2018’s. If they can’t hold some seats in swing or red states, they will have trouble farther down the road.”

Byler’s analysis is interesting and departs somewhat from the traditional political forecast methods of looking at presidential approval ratings and reliance on past historical trends to predict midterm gains and losses. He basically argues Democrats are facing a troublesome election in 2018 (for the Senate), but they still need to do well in years where the odds are against them.

It’s just good sense. Everyone knows many of these races will boil down to strength of the candidates, their message and at least where Republicans are concerned, if they’re willing to nationalize the election as a referendum on issues rather than on Trump’s popularity or individual personalities. A heavy emphasis on judicial confirmations will also benefit the GOP candidates as most Americans oppose an activist Supreme Court.

The bottom line is there are a lot of factors – some known, some unknown – that will drive the 2018 elections. Republicans would be wise to let the Democrat taunts, threats and campaign “advice” go right on by. Stick to their guns and good things will happen, especially if the leadership wises-up and passes President Trump’s conservative agenda.

If that’s the case 2018 will look a lot more like 1994 than 2006…and there’s no reason to fear the big bad (Democrat) wolf.

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