Ronna Romney McDaniel, chair for the Republican National Committee. (Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg)

Republican Party Chairwoman Sets Midterm Expectations Low

(Bloomberg) -- The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee used two appearances on Sunday to set low expectations for her party in November’s midterm elections, now less than 60 days away.

Ronna Romney McDaniel said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Republicans have a 50/50 chance of retaining control of the U.S. House -- a bleak assessment from one of the party’s chief cheerleaders.

“We have a lot of seats in the margin,” McDaniel said. “Absolutely, we’ve had an unprecedented amount of retirements. And that has made it harder in some of these swing districts.”

On a New York radio show, McDaniel said “it will be a battle to keep our majority in the House.” Democrats, stung by their loss of the White House in 2016, “have energy right now,” she added.

Republicans are fighting to keep control of the House in midterm elections that have historically favored the party that lost the presidency. Democrats are making a case that change is needed, and that Congress needs to be more of a check on the powers of the executive branch.

Obama on Trail

Even former President Barack Obama is hitting the campaign trail to push for voters to back Democratic candidates to win the net 23 seats needed to take the House, on grounds the nation is living through “dangerous times” under President Donald Trump.

Trump’s unpopularity -- his job-approval rating was only 41 percent on Sept. 2, according to Gallup -- has already contributed to a record number of Republican seats left open by retirements and resignations. Those departures have left the party vulnerable.

Still, McDaniel said the U.S. economy is booming thanks to Trump’s successful drive to cut taxes and regulation, and that voters see that he’s fighting for them.

“People who are forgotten under the last administration feel like they have a president who is listening and caring about them,” McDaniel said on CBS. “The president is a great asset for us.”

But Republicans would fare better if they could “subtract” voters’ negative views about Trump, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told party officials at a closed-door meeting in New York on Saturday, the New York Times reported, based on an audio recording it obtained. Even Texas Senator Ted Cruz is vulnerable in his re-election bid because he’s not seen as likable enough, Mulvaney said, according to the newspaper.

Democratic Advantage

Democracy is on the ballot in November, and Trump has undermined its basic principles, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He said Democrats are campaigning on health care and the fact that even if the economy is doing well, not all Americans are benefiting.

“People are enthusiastic because we’re fighting for the issues they care about,” Perez said.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Aug. 26-29, registered voters said they’d favor a Democratic candidate over a Republican one in their district, 52 percent to 38 percent. The average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics is a 7.8 percentage point Democratic advantage.

McDaniels’s downbeat assessment of Republican chances in November contrasted with that of Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

On Friday, Stivers forecast that Republicans would defy history in November and -- if not pick up seats as President Bill Clinton’s Democrats did in the mid-term election in 1998 on the back of a strong economy -- at least hold onto their majority.

“I feel pretty good about our chances to hold the House,” Stivers said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “The economy is undoubtedly roaring.”

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