President Donald Trump will hit at least seven states in September to campaign for Republican candidates with control of the House and Senate up for grabs in November’s midterm elections. But aides are busily managing expectations — especially for House races.
Trump and White House officials plan to “deploy the president” to Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee — and potentially others — next month, according to an official familiar with the president’s plans.
Trump is not opposed to backing Republican candidates who have criticized him in the past, and is interested in weighing in on states and districts he and his political advisers see as “pick-up opportunities.”
“He’s going to be busy,” the official said, predicting Trump over the next few months “will be the most aggressive campaigner in modern presidential history.”
Trump intends to campaign “aggressively” and has directed his staff to get him on the campaign trail “as many days as possible” between now and Election Day, said the official, who briefed reporters only on plans for September.
With political experts of all stripes predicting Democratic gains in the House and Senate, the official tried to downplay expectations by saying every sitting first-term president has lost seats in midterms except in 1934 (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and 2002 (George W. Bush).
“We are fighting history. A successful year would be defying that history,” the official said, more precisely defining Team Trump’s definition of success as “retaining the majority in House and picking up seats in the Senate, and fighting a challenging gubernatorial map.”
The official remained lukewarm about Republicans’ chances compared to Trump, who has been predicting a “red wave” during political rallies and official events.
Corey Lewandowski, a Trump campaign aide in 2016 who is advising Vice President Mike Pence’s outside political operation, last week said Trump is likely to focus on Senate races with the VP doing the heavy lifting for the West Wing in close House races.
The official attempted to push back on that, contending Trump will collectively visit 11 House districts over August and September with tight races. He called out Nevada’s 3rd District where GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian is in a close race and Montana’s at-large race, where one poll has incumbent GOP Rep. Greg Gianfortetrailing his Democratic foe by 6 percentage points.
“I know he is going to places that are House-driven,” the official said.
Trump will be on the stump Tuesday evening at a rally in West Virginia to again weigh in on a close Senate contest. He is eager to hit the road and make his case not just to his base in hopes of a big conservative turnout, but also swing voters, the official said.
“As many as one-third” of those who have attended his political events since he took over as president “are not registered Republicans,” the official said, noting Trump officials closely monitor the affiliations of attendees.
But Trump will not limit his midterm efforts solely on his signature, free-wheeling political rallies. He also intends to continue headlining big-money GOP fundraisers.
Trump already has raised $75 million as the featured speaker at 16 fundraisers for 2018 Republican candidates, the official said.
“The rallies are just one tool in his toolkit,” the official said. “He is a very formidable campaigner.”
David Brady, a Stanford University political science professor, said recently he expects the president to avoid suburban areas because more educated voters in those areas are siding with Democratic candidates while the president remains popular with rural voters.
“The big question is: How motivated are Democrats?” Brady said.
He and other political experts and strategist say White House political officials and the president must be mindful of keeping him out of House districts in which he might fire up Democratic voters. Those kinds of trips could backfire and hurt the GOP’s chances of keeping the House, the experts and strategists say.