Republicans seem to be coalescing around a delusional midterm strategy: The idea that they can get through the 2022 election while more or less ignoring Trump. Hey, they have all these great issues: Crime! Immigration! Inflation! Wokeism! Welfare (OK, I just snuck that last one in there). All they have to do is have their candidate in each district adjust those issues to suit his or her constituency — and let the GOP's cyclical out-party advantage and redistricting edge do the rest. Once they win back the House, Biden’s current legislative opportunity will vanish.
Here's the key paragraph in Rich Lowry's explanation of “Why Republicans Still Have the Upper Hand for 2022”:
Despite Trump's grip, he's not front and center for the average voter. He isn’t president and he isn’t on the ballot anywhere. Republicans aren’t going to be running next November on relitigating the 2020 election or January 6. The focus inevitably will be on Biden and his agenda, which will loom much larger than anything the former president can do from Mar-a-Lago.
Trump won't be front and center? Why? Because Trump won't be running (until 2024)? Don’t think so! Even if GOP candidates don't make Trump an issue in the midterms, and the Democratic candidates don’t make Trump an issue in the midterms, Trump will make Trump an issue in the midterms. Everything we know about the man says he'll gravitate to wherever the media spotlight is and make it all about himself -- it's like a law of physics at this point, without the Uncertainty Principle.
Suppose Trump talks about the issues, and not the ”rigged and stolen” election. The Trump pitch won't be ‘Biden's debacle on the border’ — a slam dunk — but, inevitably, ‘Trump's accomplishments on the border’ (a closer question). Also: ‘This would never have happened if the election hadn't been stolen!’ The press headline, of course, will be ‘Trump Pounces on Border Problems’ — that is, if it’s not simply ‘Trump Relitigates 2020 Election.”
If Trump is indicted in New York, or anywhere, that will only make his 2022 lunge for the limelight all the more inevitable, as he seeks to counter the bad publicity, make his case, and blast prosecutors for targeting an active political player for partisan reasons.
Aren’t midterms a collection of local races? Not really. Trump will have a good shot at nationalizing the race around himself. Here’s columnist Byron York speculating that he won’t — that he’ll run up against all those individual candidates, each running their own race:
435 House candidates. Each will make decision. But seems unlikely voters will make 2022 midterms about 2020 presidential election
It seems as if in every midterm for the past two or three decades we've been told that one party wants to keep the election local and the other wants to nationalize it. And every time it is nationalized, around one issue or another, with the national media drumbeat around those issues overwhelming whatever the local candidates want their races to be about. Here's the list:
1994: GOP Contract with America, Clinton's health care debacle, welfare**
1998: Lewinsky scandal; drive to impeach Clinton; GOP overreach
2002: 9/11, Bush’s “War on Terror,” security
2006: Iraq, Katrina, Bush’s Social Security plans, Mark Foley!
2010: Obamacare, economy, Tea Party reaction to bailouts
2014: Obamacare, Ebola! (This midterm seems the least nationalized of the bunch)
2018: Trump! (Tax cuts, attempted Obamacare repeal.) Migrant caravans!
You get the idea. If Trump wants 2022 to be a referendum on Trump -- well, the race is going to be nationalized about something and the Trump-obsessed MSM will be all too happy to oblige him, knowing it will hurt the GOP. Even if Trump initially seems to be fading -- if, say, he fails to turn out the crowds at the summer rallies he's planning -- the established press won't be able to ignore him. They'll write and broadcast their 'Ha, ha, Trump's lost it" pieces, which will predictably rile up his voters and keep him in the news. This will happen no matter what Kevin McCarthy and his brain trust want.
We've seen this scenario before -- in the Georgia runoffs, where Trump's solipsim managed to elect a pajama boy to the Senate and open the door to Democratic control of Congress.
If Trump does blow the midterms for his party, will enough Republican voters finally grow weary of him in time for the 2024 presidential race? Maybe. But two more years of Biden empowerment -- judges and big new entitlements and maybe immigration amnesties — is a pretty steep price for Republicans to pay.
What’s Plan B?
**— And, in retrospect, voter distaste for Hillary.