In last week’s election, the bill came due on the defining bet placed by congressional Republicans during the Donald Trump era.
Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House and Senate Republicans made a strategic decision to lock arms around Trump over the past two years. They resolutely rejected any meaningful oversight of his administration; excused, or even actively defended, his most incendiary remarks; buried legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and worked in harness with the president to pass an agenda aimed almost entirely at the preferences and priorities of voters within the GOP coalition, including tax cuts and the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Even as Trump’s presidency careened through daily storms, many of his own making, they lashed themselves to its mast.
In the election, the consequences of that decision became clear. The general trend in midterm elections is that voters’ decisions, for both the House and the Senate, increasingly correspond with their attitudes about the president. But the 2018 results raised that long-term trajectory to a new peak.
In the midterms of 2006, 2010, and 2014, between 84 and 87 percent of voters who approved of the president’s job performance voted for his party’s candidate in their local House race, according to exit polls. Last week, 88 percent of Trump approvers said they backed Republicans for the House, according to results from the Edison Research exit poll, which was conducted for the National Election Pool and published on the CNN website.