Republicans embraced Trump’s immigration scare tactics and paid a high political price
In the final weeks of the 2018 campaign, Donald Trump once again went all in on an electoral strategy of stoking fear about immigrants, this time via the so-called caravan.
But this strategy wasn’t just Trump, it wasn’t just about the caravan, and it wasn’t just a last-minute pitch. It was the culmination of a months-long, coordinated embrace of scare tactics by the entire Republican Party. According to our TV ad monitoring service, GOP candidates, party organizations and outside groups ran more than 280,000 immigration spots that threw the kitchen sink at Democratic candidates — ads on MS-13 gangs, open borders, “sanctuary” cities and, of course, the caravan. That is nearly five times as many ads on immigration as they ran in 2014.
The result? Independent experts all agree this was a Democratic wave and a rejection of the president’s politics. Democrats will end up winning the House popular vote by more than 9 million votes — more than any party in a midterm since 1974, including the Republican wave years of 2010 and 1994. In the end, Democratic candidates got a record-breaking 96 percent of Trump’s total popular vote in 2016.
Trump immigration policies were losers
The wreckage of the Republican embrace of Trumpism is everywhere. Anti-immigrant Trump acolytes like Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania and Corey Stewart in Virginia got walloped in Senate races, while Kris Kobach lost his Kansas gubernatorial bid in a state that Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. In the Barletta race, every singlePennsylvania county moved toward Democrats, including Obama-Trump counties.
In the House, Democrats flipped 40 Republican seats, including 21 districts Trump carried in 2016, many of which featured numerous immigration ads by mainstream Republican groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee (the Republican House campaign arm) and the Congressional Leadership Fund (the Republican House Leadership super PAC).
By Tyler Moran and Nick Gourevitch for USA TODAY
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