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Our offbeat debrief of the off-year elections: Trump ‘always makes it about him’

Political Theater, Episode 102

President Donald Trump concludes a rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It is tempting to read into the 2019 campaign results, so-called off-year elections, for signs of what’s to come in next year’s big political brouhaha. Political prognosticators beware!

But while we don’t want to look too much into what happened in high-profile gubernatorial and special elections that President Donald Trump campaigned in, there are a few key data points to consider, particularly a growing rural-suburban partisan divide that showed up in places as disparate as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and Virginia. 

Oh, and also: The president tends to make things about himself. “The biggest concern Republicans should have with what’s happened over the last couple of months is that the president always makes everything about him. He wants to be on the stage. He wants to be the center of attention,” CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales says on the latest Political Theater podcast. 

That strategy is a solid one, according to the president’s team. And they are not about to change now, says CQ Roll Call White House correspondent John T. Bennett. In addition to reporting from the executive mansion, Bennett also covered a rally the president held for Fred Keller, the Republican who won a May special election in a mostly rural Pennsylvania district to replace GOP Rep. Tom Marino. The enthusiasm and support there for the president was obvious. It’s one of those data points we can point to as evidence of Trump’s popularity in such parts of the country. 

The question is whether that will be enough for him to win reelection in 2020, and what it means for his Republican colleagues in the House, Senate and in state races for legislature and governor. While both sides can take some solace from this year’s election results, Democrats can point to higher-profile statewide wins, at least this month, as a show of momentum.  

Show Notes: 

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