The Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has warned members of his party to not become complacent before the 2018 midterms. In McConnell's view, the historically low approval rating of President Donald Trump could damage the GOP's prospects of maintaining its control of Congress.
On April 7, McConnell cautioned that Republicans could face stiff losses in 2018 despite a favorable election map.
"Don't fall in love with the map," McConnell told the Washington Examiner. "The map doesn't win elections."
The GOP currently holds a 52-seat majority in the Senate and 24 more seats than the Democrats in the House. In 2018, 10 Senate Democrats will be defending states in which Trump won took the electoral vote during the 2016 presidential election, whereas only one GOP lawmaker, Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, will be seeking re-election in a state that sided with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, 23 House Republicans will be running for re-election in states where Clinton had won. Though the House races are bound to be competitive, those in the Senate appear to be easy victories for the GOP, at least on paper.
McConnell noted that the party that controls the White House has historically suffered losses during the midterms, citing that the Democrats lost their majorities after the first two years of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
"If you look at what happened to Bill Clinton two years in, what happened to Barack Obama two years in, I'd like to see the president in better shape politically," McConnell said of Trump.
Less than three months into his first term, Trump has had historically low approval ratings for a Commander-in-Chief this early into their presidency. Aggregating the last seven polls released from March 28 through April 9, RealClearPolitics found that Trump currently has an average 41.6 percent approval rating, while an average 52.6 percent disapprove of his job performance.
On March 27, Gallup found that only 36 percent of national adults approved of Trump, an amount that was below the lowest approval ratings recorded by the polling group for either Clinton and Obama during their respective two terms in office.
On April 6, a Quinnipiac University poll found that Trump's support was dipping even among his core supporters, with only 47 percent of white males approving of the president, compared to the 58 percent who had viewed him favorably in early March, TIME reports.
It should be noted that Trump had historically low approval ratings leading into the 2016 presidential election, when he ultimately took the White House and the GOP bolstered its majority in Congress. The president's immunity to low favorability could finally catch up to his party in 2018, when he will not be running against the similarly unpopular Clinton.
On April 1, political analyst Amy Walter noted that the GOP could face heavy losses in 2018 if Trump's approval dips among Republican voters.
"If [Trump] drops a few points among GOPers, Trump's ratings today would look exactly like those of President Bush right before his party was routed in 2006... there's also empirical evidence that Democrats are more energized in their dislike of Trump than Republicans are in their support of him," Walter wrote in The Cook Political Report.
McConnell believes that the Republicans can capitalize on the electoral advantage and hold onto their majority if Trump can substantially improve his approval rating by 2018.
"It would help us take full advantage of what is a good map," McConnell concluded. "The map alone will not secure the majority."