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Trump Takes Post-Election Victory Lap Despite Close Races

Experts still forecasting tough races ahead for Republicans

Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson celebrates after giving his victory speech Tuesday night in Newark, Ohio. He holds a lead, but the race with Democrat Danny O'Connor remains too close to call. (Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson celebrates after giving his victory speech Tuesday night in Newark, Ohio. He holds a lead, but the race with Democrat Danny O'Connor remains too close to call. (Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is taking a victory lap after Tuesday’s congressional and gubernatorial elections, but the president’s football-spiking might be premature.

Trump first tweeted Wednesday morning that Republicans went “5 for 5!” In another tweet about 45 minutes later, the president declared GOP candidates “have now won 8 out of 9 House Seats” that have been up for grabs since he took office. He also slammed the “Fake News Media,” contending its coverage would make “you would think we are being clobbered.”

His preferred statistics are a combination of mixed bag and incorrect. The “5 for 5!” boast refers to GOP primary wins on Tuesday by candidates he endorsed. 

The “8 out of 9 House Seats” is incorrect. There have been 10 special elections since the start of this congress. Eight out of nine Republican-held seats in those special elections have been won by Republicans in the specials. Another one, in California, was a Democratic hold. So that makes eight out of 10. And it does not note that the Democratic House win, by Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, was a pick-up in a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016. And it does not mention the win by Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama Senate special election. 

The president was also declaring victory in an Ohio special election that still has yet to be formally called.

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Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson leads Democrat Danny O’Connor by over 1,000 votes in their Ohio 12th District special election. The Associated Press has not yet declared Balderson the winner. But that is not stopping Trump from declaring Balderson’s apparent win as a personal accomplishment.

Trump tweeted Tuesday evening that Balderson trailed O’Conner in early voting 64 to 36 “When I decided to go to Ohio” for a Saturday evening rally on the GOP state lawmaker’s behalf.

“After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better,” the president claimed. “Now Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting.”

There, Trump is blaming the summer vacation and back-to-school season for O’Connor running very competitively in a once-reliable Republican district. He also is deflecting from political observers noting the 12th District special election shows he might not be able to translate his political success to his party’s congressional candidates. What’s more, Trump also appeared to be responding to news coverage of Tuesday’s races, including commentary that he and Republicans have a problem as they see their share of the vote among educated, suburban voters shrink. 

David Brady, a Stanford University political science professor, said Trump remains popular with rural voters but more educated suburban voters are siding with Democratic candidates.

The results from Ohio reflect the same trend, with Balderson underperforming Trump’s own weak performance in the suburbs around Columbus in his 2016 presidential win. High rural turnout might not be enough in other areas, Brady and political strategists say, where districts are more demographically like the towns outside Columbus.

Trump on Tuesday night also celebrated a Michigan Senate primary win by Republican businessman and combat veteran John James, describing him as a “future STAR” likely to have “many” more political victories.

Most prognosticators, including Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, are forecasting incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow with a solid chance to easily defeat James. RealClearPolitics rates the race as “Likely Dem.”

Trump also might be celebrating too early about Bill Schuette’s win in Michigan’s GOP gubernatorial primary. The president on Tuesday night went so far as to proclaim the Republican nominee will be a “tremendous Governor for the Great State of Michigan.”

But RealClear’s average of a handful of head-to-head polls shows Democratic nominee Gretchen Whitmer with a 6.5 percentage-point lead

Notably, however, Trump has not tweeted about one GOP candidate around whom he has thrown his political arms time and again: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led the president’s election fraud commission. .

He leads his gubernatorial primary over Gov. Jeff Colyer by under 200 votes in another too-close-to-call race. Trump is mum about that race.

As he often does, the president made a bold prediction Wednesday morning about November’s midterm elections that will decide which party controls the House and Senate — and the fate of his agenda items — for the remainder of his current term.

“As long as I campaign and/or support Senate and House candidates (within reason), they will win!” he wrote in a tweet.

That might prove mostly true in future primaries, but political strategists are questioning Trump’s coattails in general elections later this year.

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“No matter how they spin this, it never should have been this close,” said James Manley, a Democratic strategist, of the Ohio special election. “In some places [Trump is] pretty toxic. … And it shows just how narrow his base is.”

Trump recently said he intends to spend the weeks just before Election Day campaigning hard, “six or seven days a week.” But he appeared to warn some Republicans that, should they want his help, he might be too busy to visit their state or district.

“If I find the time, in between China, Iran, the Economy and much more, which I must,” he tweeted Wednesday, “we will have a giant Red Wave!”

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