Nine Months Out, Midterm Campaigns Are Already Heating Up

The midterms are less than nine months away, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Democrats believe that giving the GOP another two years in power could be catastrophic, especially since it implies tacit support of their agenda. Republicans, meanwhile, hope that if they can hold onto their majorities — or even potentially grow into a super majority in the Senate — they will be able to continue their far-right policies without concerns for retribution from voters.

No wonder both parties are already bringing out the big guns.

For the Democrats, that means enlisting former President Barack Obama. Many hope that his popularity and grassroots movement building will strike a nostalgic note with voters who were better off two years ago than they are today — voters who didn’t have to worry about losing their health insurance, seeing family members deported or fearing that their schools, businesses and communities will be decimated under the continuing threat of the Trump administration.

According to the Associated Press, the new Obama-led campaign will work specifically on races that could be key to the upcoming redistricting process — a major concern for progressives who saw their government representation shrink, despite growing popular support, due to the massive gerrymandering of districts in GOP-controlled state legislatures.

“In 2011, Republicans created gerrymandered districts that locked themselves into power and shut out voters from the electoral process,” announced former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who will be leading the initiative backed by President Obama. “By focusing on these state and local races, we can ensure Democrats who will fight for fairness have a seat at the table when new maps are drawn in 2021.”

The group is targeting nine gubernatorial races, 18 legislative chambers, two ballot initiatives and two down-ballot races in eleven different states, and they will continue to watch eight other states to see if they should be added to the target list, according to the AP. The initial investment is “millions of dollars.”

The GOP won’t be sitting on its thumbs, either, and Republicans will be coordinating their efforts with actual sitting administration members — something normally considered to be breaking the fine line between governing and campaigning.

The Hill announced that a number of President Donald Trump’s senior advisors will break precedent to bring separate cell phones inside the White House in order to allow them to do political and campaign work while performing their administrative duties:

The move is designed to allow top aides to coordinate political activities with the RNC without breaking federal ethics and record-keeping laws or the White House’s recent ban on personal devices in the West Wing. The official told The Hill that the phones will be “heavily regulated” in order to “ensure we are not using official devices for political purposes and to ensure that we are doing this above board.”

While, technically, White House officials are allowed to do a small bit of campaigning, the Hatch Act limits these activities and restricts actively coordinating and campaigning on behalf of candidates. That legislation has already been mostly ignored, as President Trump continues to turn every public event into a campaign rally. In Ohio, for instance, a rally promoting his tax package turned into a musing on how Republicans will do in 2018 — and then again in 2020 — and what can be done to keep the president in office.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the GOP may be getting scared. Winning the House has gone from a pipe dream to a potential reality for Democrats. Although there are a few Democrats in vulnerable conservative districts stepping down — most recently Minnesota Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan, who comes from a predominately red rural district — the number of Republicans retiring far outnumbers them. And Democrats are challenging a vast number of sitting GOP incumbents, too.

According to the Washington Post, there are now so many seats in play in 2018 that if the Democrats just win their own seats back, as well as the toss-up races, they would win the majority by one seat. Meanwhile, the Senate is looking even closer to changing party hands, as Democrats hold a massive fundraising advantage over their Republican counterparts.

A lot can change in nine months, and given that the primaries are months away, we may not even know the official match-ups for many of these seats. Regardless, things continue to look up for Democrats. No wonder the White House is so scared.