WASHINGTON ― With a hint of a blue wave on the horizon, Republicans are facing added pressure to get their house in order and field the best candidates possible ahead of next year’s congressional midterm elections.
If last month’s raucous Senate election in Alabama is any indication, it won’t be easy.
Even though Democrats are defending a historically high number of Senate seats, including many seats in traditionally red states, Republicans have had substantial difficulty persuading quality candidates to run against Democratic incumbents next year. And given large Democratic statewide gains in local elections in Virginia and New Jersey last month, the chances of Democrats retaking the House have shot up ― a scenario many thought unthinkable just a year ago.
Further compounding the challenge in maintaining GOP control of Congress is overwhelmingly negative public sentiment about a first-term president, as well as an insurgent effort to purify the Republican Party that is being led by Steve Bannon. While the former White House aide and current executive chairman of Breitbart News suffered a stinging defeat by backing Roy Moore, the loser in Alabama’s Senate race, he’s still looking to boost other anti-establishment GOP primary challengers across the country.
“The environment today is not great, the generic ballot’s not good, and I’d love to see the president’s approval rating higher,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged in an interview on Thursday. “So I think we should anticipate a real knock down, drag out — even on the Senate side.”
It isn’t all bad news for Republicans, however. The successful passage of their tax cut legislation and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in the process finally gave them something to tout as they head into 2018 ― a victory they badly needed after a long and grueling year…