Midterm elections: Could Trump cost Republicans House majority?
As 2018 draws to an end, leaving behind a stronger stock market and the lowest rate of unemployment since 1969, US President Donald Trump and the Republican party should not be looking at major losses in next week's midterm elections.
Instead, polls and election projections suggest Republicans could lose the House majority, which they've held for eight years.
In Washington, neither the US president nor his aides are in denial about the dim prospects.
According to Bloomberg, White House officials “have given up” on the Republican party keeping control of the House and have shifted the focus on cutting their losses and retaining the Senate, where they hold a 51-49 majority.
Election tracker FiveThirtyEight forecasts that Democrats could gain on average 39 House seats - out of 435 - putting them 23 seats above what they need in order to retake the majority.
In the Senate, where thirty-five seats are up for grabs, FiveThirtyEight is expecting less than one seat gain for Republicans, keeping the balance at 51-49.
Meanwhile, political journalism company Politico marks 208 House seats as safe for Democrats, and 199 for Republicans while identifying 28 as toss ups. In Senate they've identified 50 seats for the GOP, 45 for the democrats and five - Arizona, Missouri, Florida, Indiana and Nevada - as a toss up.
Prediction markets such as PredictIt, where bidders buy shares on what they see as outcomes, reflect similar trends.
The Trump effect
While Mr Trump’s name is not on the ballot, he remains the single largest driving force in the voters’ calculations. Neither the economy nor job creation are leading issues for the the US public this year, and foreign policy is not of concern.
According to a USA Today and Suffolk University poll from last week, 58 per cent have said that Mr Trump will be a big factor in how they vote on Tuesday.
In a separate poll by Kaiser Family foundation, 40 per cent of Democrats pinpoint healthcare as their top issue. Republicans, on the other hand, prioritise immigration - a worry that has been swiftly politicised by the Trump administration through the deployment of 5,000 troops to the Mexico border and the possible abolition of birthright citizenship.
Still, experts believe that Mr Trump’s low approval ratings - 43.9 per cent according to Real Clear Politics average - means the blowback is inevitable on his party.
It was Ronald Reagan in 1982 who faced a similar wave of voter disapproval over high unemployment - his party went on to lose 26 House seats.
But Mr Reagan was not as polarising as Mr Trump - and the Republicans' losses are likely to be higher in 2018 than they were in 1982.
Charlie Cook, a veteran American election analyst who also runs the Cook Political report, has described Mr Trump as a liability for the Republican party in the battle for the House while being an asset in the Senate.
“The battle for control of the House is being fought in suburban districts where Mr Trump is a liability, not in more-rural and small-town-oriented districts where the president is an asset for his party,” Mr Cook wrote this week.
“That is why Mr Trump is still able to boost GOP fortunes in many of the Senate contests, most of which are in red states, while being something of a millstone around the necks of Republicans in the suburban House districts that matter most” he added.