President Donald Trump’s intense focus on immigration in the run-up to the midterms appears to have stemmed GOP losses in Tuesday’s election, according to a POLITICO analysis of 34 close House, Senate and gubernatorial races.
By Ted Hesson
Democrats took control of the House, as predicted, but Republicans were on track to expand their majority in the Senate.
Pre-election fears by some Republicans that Trump’s inflammatory immigration message would sink GOP candidates in tight races proved overblown. And while more authoritative analysis awaits further election returns and more detailed polling analysis, the message appears in some races to have worked.
“If he was not as effective as he was, I’m not certain that Republicans would have turned out in the way they did,” said Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton. “You’ve got to give credit to the president. He closed the gap by making this about him.”
Even so, several Republican candidates closely aligned with Trump’s immigration agenda were defeated, including Kansas gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia.
POLITICO tracked 21 close races in the House, nine in the Senate and four gubernatorial races across the country, based on information provided by advocates on both sides of the immigration issue. Of these, Democrats won 15 contests and Republicans won 12 contests. But Republicans led in six out of seven races that hadn’t been called by Wednesday afternoon.
In making immigration a major theme in the lead-up to the election, Trump succeeded at the very least in persuading voters it was a top issue, to judge from exit polls. For weeks, the president warned darkly that a caravan of Central American migrants traveling north through Mexico en route to the United States represented an “invasion” and “national emergency.”
In response, he deployed 5,200 troops to the southwest border — and threatened to increase the number to 15,000. The White House also floated a mix of measures to deter families arriving at the border, including a reprise of the president’s widely criticized family separation policy. In a surprise move, Trump further suggested last week that he could issue an executive order to roll back birthright citizenship, an action most legal experts argue would run afoul of the Constitution.