I believe in the power of panic. And I believe a little productive panic within the GOP is in order.
On April 3, Democrats won big in a race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It may seem a little off the beaten path and not particularly consequential, but as The Washington Post's Amber Phillips reported, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is "outright hitting the panic button for his party." Well, good. The GOP's loss in Wisconsin is a harbinger of what we might face in November.
As I always say, what's supposed to happen tends to happen. And in midterms, the president's party almost always takes a beating — especially when voters have a largely negative opinion of their president. Remember, when a president's job approval is below 50 percent, his party loses, on average, 40 House seats and five Senate seats.
Compounding the issue of a historical midterm bias favoring Democrats this year, Republicans may be victims of their own success. Purple states that overperformed during the Obama era by electing Republican governors, state legislators, U.S. senators and some House members are likely to experience a correction. And in Wisconsin, that correction appears to be underway. Democrats didn't just scrape by to beat Republicans last week. They won by more than 11 points after already winning a special election for the state senate in January in a district that President Donald Trump won by 17 points. It isn't just a red light flashing on the GOP's dashboard — a fire alarm is now audible.
Trump isn't to blame for every GOP loss thus far or every loss that will occur in November. But there is such a thing as the "Trump effect," which is having a negative impact on Republican campaigns — and it isn't fueled by policy disagreements. At the human level, many traditional, center-right voters find Trump ill-suited for the office he holds. They see him as exhausting and insufferable. He is neither a role model nor an inspirational figure. Even among those who think he is the bull in the china shop that we need, few find pride in his performance. Ultimately, it is these sentiments that will suppress turnout among Republican voters and energize the Democrats.
Plenty of Republican and independent voters are more interested in Trump providing real results on the economy, trade and national security issues than seeing his latest tweet or hearing about whom he is going to fire next. But those tweets, firings, rants, rages and tangents motivate Democrats and anti-Trump independents. Turnout in Wisconsin last week was the second-highest for a comparable statewide election since 2000. It is difficult to say whether the "blue wave" will be as bad as some predict, but based on what has happened in Wisconsin, Alabama, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Republicans are in a position where a little panic couldn't hurt.
Ed Rogers is a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour in 1991.