President Trump is slowly but surely giving Democrats an increasing shot at winning the House and Senate in 2018. If this happened, the House would surely move to impeach him.
The big picture: The numbers — not just in Alabama, but for the totality of elections in 2017 — have top Republicans rattled:
- Dems outperforming in every off-year race: "There have been more than 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017," according to FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten. "The Democratic margin has been 12 percentage points better, on average, than the partisan lean in each race."
- Republicans have "lost five Senate races since 2010 because of nominees who were far outside the political mainstream, including two before Mr. Moore who were defeated after making damaging comments about rape." (NYT)
- "This is the first real evidence that a political backlash might be brewing to Trump-ian Republican politics," said Julian Zelizer, a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University. (USA Today)
Democrats, flat as could be after 2016, suddenly see the makings of a 2018 comeback:
- "An energized African-American voter base could help Democrats in some Senate battlegrounds with large, urban black populations, such as Missouri, Indiana and Ohio." (WSJ)
- "College-educated, suburban women" turning against Trump, Republican pollster Whit Ayres said results in Alabama and Virginia could show. (WSJ)
- More GOP lawmakers will retire as the landscape looks bleaker.
- "Democrats have a chance to occupy the center of the electorate in no small part because Republicans have vacated the center in such a dramatic way," said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster who helped Democrat Ralph Northam win the Virginia governorship. (WashPost)
But Dems still face a tough path to either majority, as this AP math shows:
- "Democrats need to flip 24 seats for a House majority. National Democrats have a target list of about 90 seats, including the 23 Republican-held districts that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton."
- "In the Senate, Democrats must defend 10 seats in states where Trump won. With Jones' upset of Moore, they need to net a two-seat gain, and see opportunities in Nevada, where Trump lost, and Arizona, which could be a toss-up."
- And a reminder of how idiosyncratic the Alabama race was: "More than 22,000 write-in votes were cast Tuesday, more than the margin of difference between the winner and loser."
Be smart: Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman who lost the Virginia governor's race last month in a surprising blowout, told David Axelrod in an "Axe Files" podcast for CNN that he wouldn't recommend any R run in this environment.
"Seared by a campaign in which he was buffeted by Trump and harsh media coverage of ads Gillespie ran that seemed calculated to seize on some of the divisive issues that had propelled the President to office, he took a long pause when asked if he would counsel others to run for office. 'I don't think I would.'"