Senate candidates like Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania and Mike Braun in Indiana, who have embraced the rhetoric and the policies that connect citizenship and civic virtue, have seen it propel them to victory in their recent primaries. This is a salutary change from the last generation of Republican politicians who seemed to think that they could persuade voters with spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. While appeals to narrow self-interest can work for a while, they eventually fall short because they ignore human nature. From Martha McSally in Arizona to Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee, candidates are sharing this all-embracing message.
That’s why Mr. Trump’s rhetoric works. When he speaks off the cuff, he talks about “we,” “us” and “our.” He has said repeatedly that we love our farmers, our police, our flag and our national anthem — even our coal miners. It is an odd construction, or at least one we’re not used to hearing. It speaks to the essential fraternity of the nation, but when Mr. Trump says it — maybe when any Republican says it — too many people don’t believe that they are included in the “our.” They hear something much narrower than what is meant. People reject the essentially wholesome message because of the messenger. That needs to change because they are, in fact, our farmers, our police and our coal miners, and we should love them. The bonds of civil union that ought to hold us together demand that we love our fellow citizens in their imperfection even as they love us in ours.
This year’s class of Republican candidates seems to get that in ways that they didn’t in 2016. As a result, the Democrats’ advantage in the generic congressional vote dropped from 13 points in January, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average, to 3.5 points at the end of May. A Reuters poll, which recorded a 14-point Democratic edge in April, gave Republicans a 6-point advantage last month. Apparently “resistance” and impeachment aren’t as popular as Democratic megadonors like Tom Steyer and their vassals would have Democratic candidates believe, although RealClearPolitics and Reuters now show Democrats with roughly an eight-point advantage.
Ned Ryun, a veteran Republican activist, noted that the polls now closely mirror the polls in May 2014, when Democrats went on to lose 13 House seats. He also notes that while there are nearly 40 Republicans who are not seeking re-election, only six of them represent districts won by Hillary Clinton. Financially, Republicans are in much better shape, with the Republican National Committee holding $44 million in cash while the Democratic National Committee is $5 million in debt.
There are even more cracks in the Democrats’ front line. Longtime Democrats like Mark Penn, a former Clinton pollster and confidant, are sick of the scandal mongering. Mr. Penn wrote recently that “Rather than a fair, limited and impartial investigation, the Mueller investigation became a partisan, open-ended inquisition that, by its precedent, is a threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again.”
At some point, the combination of scandal fatigue — there is almost no crime of which Mr. Trump is not regularly accused — and the continuing revelations of improprieties by government officials (in the F.B.I., at the Department of Justice and elsewhere) will lead voters to believe that Mr. Trump got a raw deal.