The hunger among Canadians for the defeat of an American president has likely never been as deep as it is now. One recent poll showed 81 per cent of Canadians disapprove of Donald Trump. Eleven per cent approve.
U.S. Democrats wanting extra help in the upcoming midterm elections might consider reaching north of their border. They would find a lot of takers. The animosity of Canadians – some have gone so far as to boycott purchasing American goods – runs that deep. They would gladly collude with adversaries of this President. They view Mr. Trump, you might say, as an enemy of the people.
From some preliminary American electoral tests Tuesday, Canadians can take some encouragement. It wasn’t an ideal night for the Dems. But it was swell enough to make them the favourites to win the House of Representatives in the midterms.
The big test was a special election — “by-election” in Canadian parlance — in Ohio’s 12th Congressional district, one which Republicans have owned. With some provisional ballots still to be counted, it appears that the Republican candidate Troy Balderson will prevail by the skinniest of margins over Democrat Danny O’Connor.
But the most significant takeaway is that the Democrats’ showing was 10 points higher than in the presidential election. It followed a pattern in special elections held since 2016. They’ve shown the party’s support level increasing by double-digit margins.
Despite a roaring economy that favours the governing Republicans, it is heapingly clear, as polls demonstrate, that the Democrats have momentum on their side.
Donald Trump campaigned in Ohio’s 12th the weekend before the vote. Vice-President Mike Pence went in earlier. The so-called Grand Old Party outspent the Democrats by millions. And they could do no better than a virtual dead heat.
“That district has been Republican in 48 out of 50 years,” said long-time Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “That’s not a wake-up call. That’s a hit in the head with a baseball bat.”
To get a majority in the 435-seat House of Representatives, the Democrats need to take 23 seats from their opponents. That is not an arduous task. Midterm elections on average have resulted in the party out of power winning more House seats than that. The Democratic cause is helped by retirements of 44 Republican incumbents and by the fact that there are dozens of seats being contested in which the Republicans are more vulnerable than in the Ohio district.
Not so fast, Trump supporters counter. The Ohio test was a midsummer sleeper. Republicans weren’t motivated to get out and vote as were angry Democrats. For the real election, the polarizing President will rev up his base while bludgeoning his opponents. It will be a different tale.
The President professed not to be dismayed by Tuesday’s results. He correctly pointed to the strong showings by Republican candidates he personally endorsed in nomination battles for governorships or Congressional seats.
“As long as I campaign and/or support Senate and House candidates (within reason), they will win!” Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday. “I LOVE the people, & they certainly seem to like the job I’m doing.”
Do they? Opinion polls show his average approval rating in the low to mid-40s. That’s an ominous sign. Presidents have had far better support levels going into midterms and still fared very badly.
The vote in the Ohio district showed the Democrats making gains in the suburbs, and the Republican support more isolated in rural areas. It showed that college-educated whites are turning away from the Republican Party. It showed independents moving to the Democrats in substantial numbers. It showed not just in Ohio but by way of the turnout in nomination fights in other states on Tuesday that Democrats are far more amped up to get out and vote than in 2016.
While in good position to take the House, the Senate will be a much tougher hurdle for the Democrats given that many more of their incumbents are up for re-election than Republicans. They only need a gain of two seats and have promising opportunities in states such as Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee. But they would have to hold on to all the seats they have. A big order.
But while the Senate is not a good bet, the Democrats need only a majority in one chamber to make life exceedingly more difficult for Mr. Trump – and happier for Canadians.