By: Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs, ABC Keystone
Historically, midterm elections have not gone well for sitting Presidents. Only two years into a term, Presidents have lost seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in 9 out of the last 10 elections. In the Senate, the party of the President has given up seats in 6 out of the last 10. While critics point to sagging poll numbers and an out-of-control, bombastic tempo from President Trump, the 2018 election could buck trends.
Despite recent unpopularity among organized polling, Trump remains popular among his base. So popular, in fact, that 70% of supporters claim that President Trump could do “literally nothing” to lose their support. Because Trump won in places that were unexpected, that voracious support could present a problem to Democrats looking to push back on an aggressive agenda this year. While Republicans control the 100-seat Senate by a 52-member majority, Democrats will be defending 25 of their current seats in 2018, including U.S. Senator Bob Casey. Trump shook the pundits when he picked up Pennsylvania in 2016, a feat that no one saw coming. Despite solid, historic Democrat majorities in Pennsylvania and states like West Virginia, North Dakota, and Montana, Trump won all of those states handily, making Senate elections in each of those states less certain for Democrat incumbents. In 2018, Casey will likely face Congressman Lou Barletta, who has remained a steadfast Trump loyalist since day one. Not only will that loyalty pay off in heavy support from the White House and Trump allies, but Barletta is banking on it paying off among voters as well.
With his candidacy for U.S. Senate, Barletta also gives up his seat in Congress. The 11th Congressional district, which stretches from Hazleton to Shippensburg – more than 240 miles – will be up for grabs. The seat is mildly favored for Republicans by voter registration, but is heavily weighted toward the northern end of the district. Current state House member Stephen Bloom was early to announce his candidacy for the 11th Congressional seat, but will face stiff opposition in former Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser, who hails from northeast Pennsylvania, and Andrew Lewis, who narrowly lost in the 2016 Republican primary to state Senator John DiSanto.
Making things more complex is the recent nomination of U.S. Congressman Tom Marino as the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). While Marino was nominated earlier in the year for the same position, he backed out shortly after his name was floated, citing personal health concerns. If Marino is cleared by the Senate for the position, the 10th Congressional district, which stretches from the New York border in Pike County to western Perry County, will also be up for grabs. Marino was also a strong supporter of Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, and because of their strong cooperative approach in campaigning Pennsylvania for Trump, Barletta and Marino earned the nickname “Thunder and Lightning.”