President Donald Trump knows the November election is all about him. He worries his supporters do not.
“Pretend I’m on the ballot,” he says at most every rally, trying to awaken his supporters to the urgency of the fight for control of Congress.
Two weeks before Election Day, a new air of uncertainty hangs over the 2018 campaign that revolves almost entirely around the Trump factor.
A month ago, the President seemed all but resigned that Republicans would lose the House, two people who speak to him frequently tell CNN. But his outlook has brightened in recent days, increasingly insisting he can awaken his coalition to stop — or slow — a Democratic wave, they say.
“If anyone can save the House, he thinks he can,” a Republican congressman close to the President said. “He’s the only one who believes it’s really possible.”
While most presidents distance themselves from midterm elections to avoid nationalizing the races, Trump is doing the opposite. He’s all in, firing up loyal supporters and fierce critics alike.
“This will be the election of the caravan, Kavanaugh, law and order, tax cuts and common sense,” the President said to booming applause inside Houston’s Toyota Center on Monday, boiling down his closing argument for Republicans in one crisp sentence.
Here in Houston, the rally on Monday night is his 29th of the year. It follows a familiar pattern of much of his 2018 campaign travel: visiting red states filled with Trump admirers, hoping to minimize political harm by energizing his detractors.
But even in Texas, several Republican strategists expressed a palpable level of anxiety at what the President might say during his unscripted rally. Trump’s sharp rhetoric on immigration, two officials said, could awaken Hispanic voters or independents in key congressional races in the state.
“We were hoping he would go to West Texas for this rally,” a Republican strategist said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid being seen criticizing the President or the White House.