How Donald Trump Repeated Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake… With Similar Results

As news of the Republican midterm defeat continues to trickle in, it is becoming more apparent that 2018 was a blue anti-Trump wave after all. The Republicans made small gains in the Senate, thanks to an abnormally friendly map, but the GOP lost the House as well as seven gubernatorial seats and numerous seats in state legislatures across the country. How we got to this point is remarkably similar to how Barack Obama led the Democrats to lose more than a thousand seats in his eight years.

 

As I have written in the past, Donald Trump has echoed many of President Obama’s mistakes and has now yielded similar results. The bottom line is that both Barack Obama, who campaigned as a moderate Democrat, and Donald Trump, who was elected with the support of a minority of voters, both governed as though they had a broad mandate to enact a laundry list of wishes from their most partisan supporters when what voters really wanted was for both parties to work together.

 

Barack Obama began his administration with staggering popularity and goodwill. Two years later, he had squandered much of his approval by forcing through an unpopular health care reform law against the will of the people. Opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the way that Democrats enacted the law were prime factors in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

 

Ironically, Obamacare was unpopular when passed by the Democrats and promises to repeal and replace the law played a major role in the rise of the Republican Congress since 2010. Unfortunately, President Trump and Republicans made a hash of healthcare reform. In fact, Republicans handled health care reform so badly that they managed to do what Obama and the Democrats could not do: They convinced voters that the Affordable Care Act was a good thing.

 

Obamacare’s protections for pre-existing conditions are so popular that the law directly contributed to the loss of a Republican Senate seat in Arizona. Just before the election, Republican candidate Martha McSally told Sean Hannity that she was getting her “ass kicked” over her vote to reform Obamacare because Democrats were invoking fear that Republicans wanted to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. It now appears that McSally has lost her Senate race to Democrat Kirsten Sinema.

 

In addition to healthcare, the Trump Administration has adopted a number of other unpopular policies as well. The tax reform law that caused the economy to surge is still not popular with voters. Trump’s policy of separating illegal immigrants from their children was widely unpopular. Likewise, Trump’s personal behavior consistently drives down his approval ratings.

 

In 2010, Democrats took a “shellacking,” in President Obama’s words. Republicans gained six Senate seats, 63 House seats, and six governorships as well as doing well in down-ballot races for state and local offices. The GOP won control of the House but, like Democrats this year, were unable to win the Senate. For Republicans, it took two more elections until the party finally won the Senate in 2014. Now, rather than building on those hard-won gains, Republicans are giving them back.

 

To say that the 2018 wave was not as large as the 2010 wave misses the point. Democrats had more seats to give up than Republicans did. Even after losing six Senate seats in 2010, Democrats controlled 53 seats including two Democrat-leaning independents. The House results in 2018 will leave Democrats within a few seats of the 242 that Republicans controlled after 2010.

 

The bigger picture is that 2018 was a wholesale rejection of President Trump by moderate and suburban voters. USA Today reported that more than 80 suburban counties voted more Democrat this year than in 2016. In 20 of these counties, Democrats saw a double-digit surge. CNN’s exit polls show that Republicans lost female voters as well as minorities, the middle class, and college-educated voters. Republicans lost moderate voters by 26 points this year compared with eight points in 2014.

 

President Trump, like Barack Obama, has an abrasive style that is much-loved by his ardent supporters but few others. Like Obama, Trump tends to divide up the electorate and focus on turning out his base rather than on winning converts. Also, like Obama, President Trump is apparently incapable of reaching across the aisle to form a bipartisan legislative coalition, preferring instead to use (or overuse) his executive authority to make small, temporary changes rather than sweeping, permanent ones.

 

Republicans may look at all that and say, “So what? Obama got re-elected.”

 

That’s true, but Obama also had a large victory than President Trump, who lost the popular vote and only eked out an Electoral College win with skin-of-the-teeth victories in several states. Obama had much more support that he could lose. And lose it he did, just not quite in large enough numbers to lose the 2012 election.

 

Up until now, Republicans have maintained a narrative that President Trump’s economic success will overcome problems with his personal style. After the midterms, it is painfully obvious that this view is not true. President Trump is overwhelmingly popular with Republicans and unpopular with everyone else. That leaves the Republican Party in a difficult spot.

 

The GOP has three different options for moving forward. First, its members can convince President Trump to change course. Trump could possibly reach out to the new Congress and become the dealmaker that he claimed to be in 2016. The two parties could work together to resolve the issues that confront the country. Obviously, this won’t happen.

 

The second alternative is for Republicans to distance themselves from Trump and try to repair the damage with moderate voters. One problem here is that Donald Trump does not take rejection well. Distancing oneself from the president will bring forth the full wrath and fury of the First Tweeter. A second problem is that many polls suggest that today’s Republican voters are more loyal to Donald Trump than to traditional Republican ideals. Unless Republican voters sour on Trump, most Republicans officials who oppose him are likely to be on the losing end of the fight.

 

Finally, the third option is for Republicans to say, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead,” and go right on doing exactly what they are doing. This is the option that Democrats chose after 2010 and, given President Trump’s claim that the midterms were a “big victory” for Republicans, it seems likely that the GOP will follow this course now.

 

If the parallels between the Obama and Trump Administrations persist, Trump might be re-elected by following Obama’s model of doing very little aside of issuing Executive Orders and blaming the opposition for their obstructionism. However, given Mr. Trump’s slim victory margin in 2016 and the GOP’s lack of success in the “blue wall” states this year, it seems more likely that the parallels will diverge as the president fails to win a second term.

 

If President Trump and the Republicans realize the error that they are making, they may be able to break the pattern before the party suffers a series of Obama-like defeats. Although they would have to stand up to factions of the base on issues such as immigration, if Republicans can come together with Democrats to create bipartisan solutions, they might be able to win back their majority. More importantly, they would be helping the country and doing the job that the voters hired them to do.

The Fight For State Legislatures Begins

The drubbing Republicans took on Tuesday revealed more than just a window into the looming battle for control of the U.S. Senate and House chambers next year. The shocking losses endured by Republican members in the Virginia House of Delegates highlight an imminent battle for something many political talking heads have never paid much attention to, but a sector of American government that wields a remarkable amount of power: the control of state capitols.

Much has already been analyzed about Virginia’s gubernatorial and down-ballot races. Yes, it was a referendum on President Trump, and yes, it was a result of extreme Democratic voter enthusiasm. But there is much more going on here. Democrats did not just win the three statewide races at play in Virginia.

Heading into Election Day, Virginia Democrats only controlled 34 out of 100 House of Delegate seats — a size so small even the most conservative of forecasters predicted their numbers would grow at least by some numbers. However, the gains made by their party shocked Democrats themselves. As of this writing, Democrats have expanded their caucus to a total of 49 seats, with several races under a recount and could possibly lead to Republicans losing majority control altogether.

The major gains made by Virginia Democrats could be explained by the fact that Old Dominion has trended blue in recent years — voting for the Democratic candidate in three past presidential elections. However, Virginia wasn’t the only state on Tuesday where local Republicans took a shellacking.

Georgia — a ruby red state by any definition — witnessed three state legislative seats flip party control, two state House seats and a state Senate seat fell into Democratic hands. The two districts that flipped, previously occupied by GOP state Reps. Chuck Williams and Regina Quick, are so conservative, they weren’t even contested by Democrats last year.

Also on Tuesday night, Washington state Republicans lost their state Senate majority, and local Democrats won special elections in areas across the country.

This isn’t simply the result of Democratic voter enthusiasm generated by President Trump. Taking a close look at the money invested in these races, we see Democratic operatives and donors who have adopted a newfound interest in state legislatures.

An interesting observation made following the 14+ Democratic gains in the Virginia House of Delegates.

One more screen shot to drive home what we’re talking about here.

These tweets are completely accurate. A look into the Virginia Public Access Project reveals that Democratic candidates enjoyed monumental amounts of campaign donations over the Republicans they unseated.

For example, Republican Bob Marshall had occupied his Delegate seat for 26 years. It should certainly raise eyebrows that a 33-year-old transgender, who has never before run for elected office and holds no political experience whatsoever, can not only outspend Marshall, but outspend him by almost half a million dollars.

A look through campaign finance records and we see the same type of spending disparities across the board among down-ballot Virginia candidates. Democratic candidates — many of them novices who typically would never have the connections to amass such fundraising numbers — were able to far outspend Republicans in their quest to capture their districts. Campaign expenditures to this degree are not usually seen for such local races.

So what the heck happened?

Local Republicans flourished under the Obama years. GOP state legislators saw their numbers grow in the hundreds since the 2010 sweep and onward. Peaking after the 2016 elections, Republicans controlled both legislative chambers in 32 state capitols across the country. Democrats only enjoyed total control of state legislatures in 13 states.

Unlike the gridlock we see in Congress, partisan domination in a state capitol results in serious authority in policy agendas. Control of a state’s upper and lower chamber and gubernatorial seat (referred to as trifecta control) gives a sate party almost unchecked power in legislative priorities and has showcased states as microcosms of what partisan domination looks like. The laws passed in California make it look almost unrecognizable in comparison to states like Texas or Oklahoma.

Given Republican domination of down-ballot races, it’s the GOP that has enjoyed the spoils that come with state control. Not only are states across the country able to pass legislation that Republicans in Congress appear incapable of doing (despite their majorities in the U.S. Senate and House), but local Republicans are given one thing in particular that has proven to be a game changer in American politics: control of the redistricting process.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census releases their updated numbers of the American population. With these new numbers bring changes in the number of congressional seats allotted to each state. The new numbers mean state governments are tasked with adjusting their congressional districts accordingly. And of course, control of this process means control of how the districts are created. State government control has awarded the Republican Party with an upper hand in the U.S. House of Representatives.

For a long time, national Democrats, marveling at their own advantages in the Electoral College, had turned a blind eye to local politics. However, in the face of Republican domination in state capitols and the U.S. House not seen in almost a century, progressives are redirecting their attention.

In September, a group of former Obama operatives formed a political action committee, named Forward Majority, with only one focus: winning state legislative races for Democratic candidates. Not much attention was paid to Forward Majority when it was founded only a few weeks ago and announced an ambitious goal of capturing 12 legislative bodies. Unfortunately, this local-focused PAC garnered enormous amounts of attention following the Virginia House of Delegates sweep.

The numerous seats won by Democrats were helped in part by a $1 million dollar investment in campaign advertisements by Forward Majority. The innovated strategies conducted by the group, co-founded by Obama campaign senior staffer David Cohen, resulted in the shocking election outcomes.

According to Forward Majority’s website, they are only just getting started. The group is very blunt in their stated purpose of gaining control of the redistricting process. They also tout on their homepage a desire to see restrictions placed on our Second Amendment rights and greater access to abortion.

The game has changed and Democrats are ready to go to war for the state legislatures we currently control.

How do we fight back?

We simply invest the same amount of interest — if not more. The Democrats have a built-in advantage when it comes to the Electoral College, but we hold the advantage at the local level. By simply matching progressives in resources into state legislative campaigns, we will undercut their attempts.

The major losses in Virginia seem terrible, right? But did you know that only one of the seats that flipped had been won by Trump the year prior, and only by one percentage point. The vast majority of the House of Delegate seats taken by Democrats were previously won by Hillary Clinton, and those seats were only captured after unmatched investments were made by progressive donors — many of them resulting in the thinnest margins of victory.

This alone showcases the GOP’s advantage at the local level.

The GOP is the party of the everyday man. Controlling power at the local and state levels is a testament to our image and the preservation of common sense legislation despite the nonsense coming out of Washington, D.C.

Let’s keep it that way.

Hensarling Is Latest Republican To Announce Retirement

Yesterday Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) became the latest Republican congressman to announce that he will not seek re-election. Hensarling represents the Fifth District in the Dallas area and chairs the Financial Services Committee.

“Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the US Congress in 2018. Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned,” Hensarling told the Dallas Morning News. 

Hensarling is considered a conservative with a strong voting record. He has an annual rating of 96 perecent from the American Conservative Union. His lifetime score is 97 percent.

Prominent Republicans said that Hensarling, who has been in Congress since 2003, will be missed. “Jeb is smart, principled, effective, he’s done a terrific job in the House and he will be sorely missed,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), saying that the decision was “very disappointing news.”

Speaker Paul Ryan agreed, saying in a statement, “He is a true Constitutional Conservative who understands that free enterprise is critical to a thriving America.”

So far, at least 18 other House Republicans have announced their intention to retire. Democrats need to flip 23 seats to gain control of the lower legislative body. A majority of the retirements are in districts that that still lean Republican.

Rep. Juan Castro (D-Texas) noted, “The number of legislators, but especially Republicans, who have decided to leave the Congress this year is especially high compared to other years, and there have been a few surprises, just like Jeb’s announcement today.”

Hensarling denied that his departure was related to the Trump Administration. “Quite the opposite,” he said. “I’m rather enjoying it.”

Candidates to fill Hensarling’s seat must file to run by Nov. 11, leaving little time to mount a campaign. The most notable potential candidate is Allen West, a retired army colonel and Fox News contributor who served one term as a Florida congressman from 2011 to 2013. In 2014, West moved to Dallas to take over the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan think tank.

 

Signs Point To Democrat Wave Building For 2018

2018 is shaping up to be a year of great uncertainty. What will happen to Obamacare? Will tax reform become law? What of the myriad investigations of Russian interference in the election? Along with these questions, there is growing doubt about the Republican Party’s ability to hold its congressional majorities in the 2018 elections.

Josh Kraushaar of National Journal writes that many House Republicans are “increasingly alarmed” that Republican congressmen in vulnerable seats are not doing the fundraising work that is needed to defend themselves from Democrat challengers.

“Of the 53 House Republicans facing competitive races, according to Cook Political Report ratings, a whopping 21 have been outraised by at least one Democratic opponent in the just-completed fundraising quarter,” Kraushaar writes. “That’s a stunningly high number this early in the cycle, one that illustrates just how favorable the political environment is for House Democrats.”

Among the Republicans Kraushaar mentions by name are Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who only raised about a third as much as his leading Democrat rival, John Culberson (R-Texas), Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.). These seats are all rated as “lean Republican” by the Cook Political Report, but the incumbent Republicans are falling far behind Democrat challengers in fundraising.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who has been criticized for his support of Vladimir Putin and Russia, has only $600,000 in the bank according to the report. His Orange County, California district is in an expensive media market where much more advertising money will be needed. Rohrabacher’s seat is currently rated as a tossup.

Adding to the Republican finance problems are primary challenges from the right. Rohrabacher will be facing a Republican primary challenger in addition to a Democrat in the general election. Former White House strategist and sometimes Trump supporter Steve Bannon is supporting primary challenges to many sitting Republicans.

Republicans currently hold a 46-seat majority in the House of Representatives. If Democrats can win 23 seats, it would tip the balance of power in the lower chamber. Per the Cook Political Report, Republicans currently have 12 tossup seats in the House. This includes two open seats in Washington and Michigan. An additional 23 seats lean Republican, but this includes the four seats mentioned earlier where the Republican incumbent is likely to be outspent by large margins.

In contrast, Cook only rates three Democrat seats as tossup. These are all open due to retirements. Six seats lean Democrat and one of these is Florida’s 27th congressional district where a Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is retiring.

In fact, Ros-Lehtinen is only one of 18 House Republicans who have announced their plans to retire in 2018. Cook’s David Wasserman notes that so far only four of these retirements are in vulnerable districts, but, with a months to go before the primary season starts, that could change.

In the Senate, things are a bit more solid for Republicans. The only two tossup seats are Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Democrats have three seats rated as tossups (Donnelly in Indiana, McCaskill in Missouri, and Manchin in West Virginia) so they would have to run the table to bring the Senate to a tie. In that case, Vice President Pence would cast the deciding vote on legislation, but Republican bills would be even more vulnerable to defections by mavericks like Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The reason for the Republican fundraising slump is likely two-fold. Donald Trump’s popularity is not good. This is especially true in swing districts held by vulnerable Republicans. Some Republican incumbents may be tainted by their association with the unpopular president.

Even among Republican voters, the current Congress is not popular. The failure to pass any sort of Obamacare reform bill cemented the perception of a do-nothing Congress. A CNN poll last month showed that twice as many Republican voters support the president as Republican congressional leaders.

As the congressional stalemate has become more apparent, Republican donors have closed their wallets. The party is pinning its hopes for 2018 on the success of tax reform since it has few other accomplishments to show for its majority. A senior House Republican strategist said that he expects many more Republicans to retire if tax reform fails.

It is far from certain that Democrats will take control of the House in 2018, but current trends are not looking good for vulnerable Republicans. If the Democrats win control of the House, it would fundamentally change Donald Trump’s presidency as the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 did for Barack Obama. More ominously for President Trump, a Democratic majority would open the door for a possible impeachment.

Surprise, Surprise: Bernie Sanders To Remain An Independent In 2018

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders headlined a Democratic fundraiser on Sunday and delivered his same old spiel to a liberal audience.

During a speech at the Strafford County Democratic Committee fundraising dinner, Sanders was able to wow attendees with a wish list of amazing policy items such as: a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college for everyone, his “Medicare for All” bill and other impractical goodies that sound great to people who don’t wonder how it gets paid for. The 45-minute speech was sprinkled with several standing ovations.

Sanders also made one other thing clear as he addressed the room full of Democrats: he won’t be running as a member of their party next year.

The Vermont senator, who identifies as a democratic socialist, serves the upper chamber as an Independent, although he has caucused with Democrats since his arrival to Congress. The admirer of Eugene Debs will run for a third term next year and many Democratic leaders were hoping he would finally make the official move to the Democrat Party.

Those people were left disappointed Sunday.

“I am an independent and I have always run in Vermont as an independent, while I caucus with the Democrats in the United States Senate. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” Sanders stated in an interview.

Sanders, of course, made a monumental splash into Democratic politics during the 2016 election. Giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money, the lover of the nanny state amassed a huge following of supporters while running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Although he ultimately lost to Clinton, he walked away a superstar in a party he still refuses to call home.

The location of the event on Sunday was also telling. The Strafford County Democratic fundraiser is located in New Hampshire — his home state’s next door neighbor and the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state. It was his second visit to New Hampshire in under two months.

Despite being 76 years old, many are keeping an eye on Bernie’s next moves as Democrats are already maneuvering into 2020 campaign mode. Before he can even move to this phase, however, the Independent senator must first win re-election next year — which shouldn’t be hard given his popularity in the state.

Nearly dethroning Clinton during the presidential coronation nomination gave Bernie many friends, but he’s also amassed quite a few critics, as well. Many Party insiders blame him for Clinton’s eventual loss in the general election to Donald Trump. He’s subsequently faced mounting pressure to officially become a Democrat. Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member, went so far as to introduce a resolution at the Party’s fall meeting that would have called for Sanders and Sen. Angus King — an Independent from Maine that also caucuses with the Dems — to run as Democrats. Angus also faces re-election next year.

That particular resolution failed a simple majority vote, so Sanders and King don’t have to sweat over actually having to call themselves Democrats just yet.

As Sanders keeps the door open for another go at the White House, it’s amazing he still refuses to identify as a member of the party he’s caucused for years with.

He’s OK with getting the Democrat’s nomination for the presidency, but don’t you dare call him a Democrat.

Steve Bannon Declares War On Republicans

With a call for one sitting Republican senator to resign and announcement that he plans to back primary challengers for nearly every sitting Republican in the Senate, Steve Bannon, former White House strategist and past and present chairman of Breitbart News, has effectively declared war on the Republican Party. While ostensibly still backing President Trump, Bannon’s effort also includes challengers to some Trump allies.

Bannon’s primary target at the moment is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). After Corker and Trump engaged in a flame war on Twitter over the weekend, Bannon called for the Tennessean to resign for his disloyalty to President Trump. In a tweet, Corker, who is not running for re-election,  likened the White House to a “day care center” and said in a New York Times interview that President Trump acted “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” and that his lack of diplomatic skills could put the world “on the path to World War III.”

“If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately,” Bannon told Sean Hannity on Fox News.

“This is what they think about President Trump behind closed doors,” Bannon added. “He happened to tell The New York Times exactly what he thought, it’s totally unacceptable. In a time of war, we have troops in Afghanistan, in the Northwest pacific and Korea. We have a major problem that could be like World War I in the South China Sea. In the Persian Gulf, we have American lives at risk every day.”

That Bannon equates Corker’s comments with all Republican incumbents provides insight into why he plans to try to unseat practically every Republican senator. The Washington Post notes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is reportedly the only senator who will not be fending off a Bannon-backed challenger, but a CNN source said, “Nobody’s safe.” Cruz was a favorite of Bannon’s Breitbart until Donald Trump usurped that role. Cruz angered many Trump supporters with his long-delayed endorsement of Donald Trump and his heated exchanges with Trump in the primary.

Breitbart quotes Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to the Great America Alliance and ex-White House aide, who said, “We’re planning on building a broad anti-establishment coalition to replace the Republican Party of old with fresh new blood and fresh new ideas.” The site notes that the Great America Alliance is a “pro-Trump Super PAC.”

The Breitbart article also quotes Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who said, “The conservative tidal wave that carried Donald Trump into the White House may soon be eclipsed by what appears to be a conservative tsunami that threatens the [Republican] establishment death grip on the U.S. Senate.”

Much of the antipathy to the “establishment” Republicans seems to stem from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) refusal to end the filibuster and change Senate rules to allow passage of bills with a simple majority, commonly referred to as the “nuclear option.” President Trump urged McConnell to change Senate rules in a tweet in August. Mr. McConnell told Politico in April, “There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one.”

Surabian hinted at the “nuclear option” when he noted, “The group of candidates we are looking to support in 2018 are all bound together in their agreement that the new Republican Party must be bold in their thinking and aggressive in their tactics.”

Bannon’s tactics have potential downsides. If his candidates defeat Republican incumbents in the primary, they still must win the general election. This could present a problem for some Bannon-backed candidates, particularly in moderate states. President Trump alluded to this risk in deep red Alabama when he campaigned for incumbent Luther Strange (R-Ala.) against primary challenger Roy Moore, who was supported by Bannon. With a slim majority of only two seats, Bannon’s war against Republican incumbents could tip the Senate to the Democrats.

A second problem is that, if Bannon’s plan succeeds and the filibuster is killed permanently, Democrats would have the same advantages the next time they are in power. President Trump’s agenda could be passed more easily without the cloture rule, but it would also be easier for the next Democrat majority to repeal Trump’s reforms and enact their own leftist agenda.

Bannon’s frontal assault on sitting Republicans brings the GOP civil war into the open. Trump supporters like Bannon are attempting to purge the party of traditional Republicans who represent the “establishment,” regardless of voting records or conservative credentials. CNN notes that even John Barasso (R-Wy.), typically considered a Trump ally, is a target of Bannon’s effort.

It is normally very difficult to unseat incumbents, but 2018 may be different. There may be additional retirements that leave open seats vulnerable to Bannon’s candidates. Further, polling shows that President Trump is far more popular among Republicans than congressional leaders. If Republican voters back primary challengers supported by Bannon and President Trump over party incumbents, it will signal a permanent shift in the direction of the Republican Party.

Trump And Corker Exchange Fire

It’s safe to say any goodwill left between Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and President Donald Trump has gone out the window. On Sunday morning, Americans woke up to a series of Trump tweets directed at the outgoing senator.

 

 

Corker, set to retire at the end of next year, had no problem returning fire, calling the White House an “adult day care center.”

It’s not exactly clear what prompted the tweets from Trump this morning, but the declining relationship between the junior Republican senator and the president has been public for months now.

Way back when, things didn’t use to be this way between the two men. In the midst of the presidential election last year — when many GOP politicians were keeping their distance from Trump and his unconventional campaign — Corker was under consideration to be the real estate mogul’s running mate. Prior to meeting with the then-presidential candidate at Trump Tower in March of 2016, Corker had just publicly praised a foreign policy speech given by Trump.

While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was ultimately chosen for the running mate slot, the relationship between Corker and Trump seemingly remained strong. Immediately, following the election there was talk of Trump choosing Corker, currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to be Secretary of State.

The relationship has since deteriorated — apparently beginning with the fallout of the Charlottesville riots.

In August, following the president’s controversial response to the racially motivated riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, Corker ripped Trump in public comments. The Tennessee Republican said Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.” He also called for radical changes to be made in the White House. While the comments mimicked those of other GOP lawmakers, the denouncement appeared more harsh considering the warm relations between the two men.

Things only devolved from there.

Trump later knocked him on Twitter for the criticism, suggesting that Corker was having trouble in his home state and was asking for advice as to whether or not he should run for re-election.

Following a report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” Corker told reporters that Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were helping to “separate our country from chaos” — a sharp jab at the president.

Corker ultimately chose to announce his retirement, with his term ending in 2018. Sources to CNN said Trump’s claims that Corker had asked for his endorsement is false.

Despite running and winning the presidency as a Republican, Trump has not shied away from attacking GOP lawmakers. The president has used his twitter account to attack various GOP senators, such as Jeff Flake, John McCain, Dean Heller, Corker and others. Flake, the junior senator from Arizona, appears to be weathering the attacks horribly, per his sinking polling numbers. Heller, considered the most at-risk Republican up for election next year, faced unprecedented attack ads from a Trump-friendly super PAC.

Politico released audio of Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, calling on GOP donors to withhold campaign cash from Republican lawmakers who were not on board with the president’s agenda.

Jeff Flake Is In Trouble

I would not want to be Sen. Jeff Flake right now. The junior Republican senator from Arizona is facing challenges from both the left and right — and they are serious challenges.

Not too much consideration was given to Kelli Ward when she announced a 2018 primary challenge against Flake almost an entire year ago. The former Republican state senator had just been defeated in the GOP primary after running a long-shot bid to unseat Sen. John McCain. Flake and friends still had their eye solely on the general election.

However, the logistics of the primary race changed drastically after primary polling began to roll in.

A Morning Consult poll released in June revealed Flake to have a dismal 37 percent approval rating from registered voters. Then a survey conducted by HighGround in August showed Flake trailing Ward 42 percent to 25 percent – numbers so shocking the guys at FiveThirtyEight had a hard time believing them. But then in mid-September a new poll by GBA Strategies group came out. The latest survey showed Flake trailing Ward 58-31 percent in a head to head match up… the margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

Obviously these are numbers Flake’s team cannot ignore. He isn’t just underwater in a primary match up, he’s down by double digits.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand what’s happening to him. Flake has been an avid critic of the president. And for every time Flake has knocked Trump, the president has hit right back. Anyone with a Twitter account would know.

I attended Trump’s Phoenix rally in August and watched him (without actually naming Flake) make several jabs at the beleaguered senator. Interviewing various people in the crowd, I asked if they planned to vote for Flake next year… Everyone I spoke to said no.

Attacking Trump works for some people and it doesn’t work for others. Clearly, this isn’t working for Flake.

The GOP lawmaker recently authored a book titled, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. A rejection of the many populist and economic protectionist policies supported by Trump, the book was a harsh critique of the president.

In return, Trump, like a seasoned politician attacking his opponent, has consistently called Flake “weak” on everything under the sun. The attacks are clearly having an effect.

Flake had already entered the Senate on shaky grounds. A first term senator, he won election in 2012 by only three points against his Democrat contender. It was the worst showing for a Republican senate candidate since the eighties. 2012 was a bad year for the GOP — sure — but keep in mind that Mitt Romney won Arizona by nine points that year. Flake under-performed badly.

Election analysts are also suggesting Arizona is slowly shifting leftward. Trump won the state by only four points last year and several other Republicans under-performed, as well. This may all make another headache for Flake: the general election.

In a YouTube video published Thursday, Democrat Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema announced her campaign for Flake’s seat. In a clear sign of approval by the establishment Left, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List quickly endorsed her.

Sinema is an interesting candidate. She touts a moderate record, chairing the political arm of the Blue Dogs — a group of centrist House Democrats. Sinema, however, also identifies as bisexual and describes herself as more-or-less an atheist. I have a hard time figuring out if this odd combination of centrism and progressive identity will work for her in a general election among light-red voters.

Either way, Flake has his work cut out for him. He has to claw his way out of red primary numbers and then face off against a formiddable general election challenger. In an election year with many GOP pickup opportunities, this seat is not among them.

At least Flake has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund. They have already run ads against Ward. Those guys have a great record protecting establishment Republicans, right?