Donald Trump is in North Carolina today helping two Republican candidates for Congress raise money. Both incumbent Rep. Ted Budd (NC-13) and Republican nominee Mark Harris (NC-09) trail their Democratic challengers in fundraising, according to the second quarter FEC reports. Trump won both districts handily two years ago.
The president has pledged to campaign vigorously for Republicans in the mid-terms. He was at one of his rallies in Indiana last night cheering on the Republican challenger to Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. He’s clearly in campaign mode.
Trump could be a lightning rod this year. His approval ratings are underwater and candidates who get too close to him could find themselves in precarious situations. According to a Civitas poll last week, unaffiliated voters are breaking for Democrats by six points at this point in the cycle.
However, Republicans need something to juice their base. In a Blue Moon election, a low turnout election could prove damaging to the GOP. In 2006, the last Blue Moon cycle, Republicans lost one Congressional seat and almost lost another in North Carolina.
In 2016, Republicans voted at a higher rate than any time in recent history. Over than 75% of them voted, more than showed up in either 2012 (72%) or 2008 (71%). Those were Trump voters that came out and were likely missed in polls. The GOP’s success in November could hinge on whether some of those voters come back this year.
Democrats are already enthusiastic about going to the polls in November. They’re going to vote against Trump, the Congress that won’t hold him accountable and the legislature that perpetually overreaches. Having Trump in the state could fire them up even more.
That’s a risk Republicans will have to take. They need something to fire up the base and Trump seems to be the only thing that might do it. The GOP is no longer the party of Lincoln or even William F. Buckley, Jr. They are the party of Trump, reactionary populists who will support enough tax breaks and deregulation to keep traditional conservatives holding their tongues but who are animated by the anti-immigrant language and racial dog whistles that Trump uses so freely.