Donors, leaders and potential candidates begin to worry about an election that will be a referendum on the president’s performance.
Republicans say President Donald Trump needs to turn things around fast — or the GOP could pay dearly in 2018.
With the party preparing to defend its congressional majorities in next year’s midterms, senior Republicans are expressing early concern about Trump’s lack of legislative accomplishments, his record-low approval ratings, and the overall dysfunction that’s gripped his administration.
The stumbles have drawn the attention of everyone from GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s election and is relied on to help bankroll the party’s House and Senate campaigns, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adelson hasn’t contributed to pro-Trump outside groups since the inauguration, a move that’s drawn notice within the party, and McConnell is warning associates that Trump’s unpopularity could weigh down the GOP in the election.
Potential GOP candidates whom party leaders want to recruit are afraid of walking into a buzz saw, uncertain about what kind of political environment they’ll be facing by the time the midterms come around — and what Trump’s record will look like.
As tumultuous as Trump’s first 100 days have been, there’s still plenty of time for him to correct course. The president is projecting confidence that the GOP can resuscitate its stalled repeal of Obamacare, pass tax reform and work with Democrats on a major public works package. Success on those fronts would no doubt calm the GOP’s current jitters.
But interviews with more than a dozen top Republican operatives, donors and officials reveal a growing trepidation about how the initial days of the new political season are unfolding. And they underscore a deep anxiety about how the party will position itself in 2018 as it grapples with the leadership of an unpredictable president still acclimating to Washington.