The Republicans’ losses in the House of Representatives now total at least 40, but, as a New York Times analysis makes clear, the party is showing a remarkable unwillingness to take measure of their electoral thrashing. “President Trump has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely, ridiculing losing incumbents by name, while continuing to demand Congress fund a border wall despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts,” the newspaper notes. “And neither Speaker Paul D. Ryan nor Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming minority leader, have stepped forward to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it—and what can be done to win them back.”
While party leaders like Trump and McCarthy remain in denial about the severity of the trouncing, some party members, especially recently defeated ones, are sounding the warning bell. “It’s clear to me why we lost 40 seats,” said retiring Pennsylvania Congressman Ryan Costello. “It was a referendum on the president, but that’s an extremely difficult proclamation for people to make because if they were to say that they’d get the wrath of the president.”
Trump’s fragile ego is preventing the party from coming to grips with the unpopularity of some of his preferred policies, like immigration restriction. Further, unlike after previous losses, there’s no talk of trying to win back groups that are turning against the GOP (notably suburban women and college educated whites).
Because GOP leaders are acting as if nothing went wrong in the midterms, they are unlikely to fix the party’s problems. As the Times observes, congressional Republicans are “already expressing concern that more of their colleagues may retire rather than run again in 2020—and that recruiting top-flight candidates could prove even more challenging going into the next campaign.”