Donald Trump may not be popular with Democrats or independents, but Republican voters adore him. In a midterm election that comes down to a contest between which party can get more of their core voters to the polls, his presence on the hustings could make the difference between victory and defeat for the GOP in November.
This week, Trump’s effort to save Republican majorities in the House and Senate will begin in earnest as he makes a campaign swing through five states targeting five races where his appearances could make a difference.
Trump travels first to Wheeling, West Virginia, on Saturday, where Republicans are trying to unseat Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, one of a handful of senators seen as key swing votes that will determine Kavanaugh’s appointment.
Trump will then hold evening rallies in Johnson City, Tennessee, on Monday; Southaven, Mississippi, on Tuesday; Rochester, Minnesota, on Thursday; and Topeka, Kansas, next Saturday.
The Trump campaign said the rallies are aimed at energizing volunteers and supporters as Republicans try to protect and expand the majorities they hold in the Senate and House of Representatives.
“Control of Congress is so critical for his agenda that the president will travel to as many states as possible as we head into the busy campaign season,” a Trump campaign spokesman said, declining to be named.
Two of those rallies stand out as critical to Republicans’ chances to maintain control of the Senate. In West Virginia — a state won by Trump by 40 p0ints — incumbent Senator Joe Manchin can’t shake his GOP challenger. state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Manchin, a two-term governor and one of the most popular politicians in West Virginia history, is in a virtual tie with Morrisey. A victory for the GOP here and in Minnesota, where unelected Democrat Tina Smith, appointed by Governor Mark Dayton when Al Franken was forced to resign, is running against state Sen. Karin Housley, would seal the GOP majority and make it impossible for Democrats to take control.
There is no doubt that Trump’s appearances matter to local Republicans, but can his popularity within his own party drive GOP voters to the polls? Trump is certainly not going to change the minds of any Democrats (93% oppose him). But if he can, indeed, energize the base to match the enthusiasm of Democratic voters who smell blood and are eager to regain power, he will once again confound his critics and play a pivotal role in Republicans keeping their majorities on Capitol Hill.