WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has radically transformed American domestic and foreign policy, and — with the confirmation now of two of his picks for the Supreme Court — that legacy now promises to long outlive his presidency.
In addition to entrenching a conservative majority on the high court, he's slashed taxes; wiped away decades of regulations; withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership; clamped down on legal and illegal immigration; and induced Mexico and Canada to update the North America Free Trade Agreement.
In short, he's winning — "bigly" — on policy.
The question, with midterm elections looming, is whether those victories translate into campaign wins or losses. Will Trump's muscular use of the levers of his executive, political and international power earn him an endorsement or a rebuke from voters in states with competitive Senate elections and swing House races?
With his approval ratings still well below the 50 percent threshold — despite a bustling economy and historically low unemployment — it is not at all clear that he will get the shot in the arm he and his allies think he deserves.
"If you allow the wrong people to get into office, things could change," Trump warned Republicans at a rally in Topeka, Kansas, on Saturday night as he urged them to get to the polls. "You don't hand matches to an arsonist, and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob."
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Democrats need to net 23 seats to win control of the House, and the Cook Political Report, a race-rating outlet that has been steadily moving more races into the Democratic column, puts 44 Republican-held seats in the categories of "likely Democratic," "lean Democratic" and "toss up." Only three Democratic-held seats are considered "toss up" or better for Republicans.
In the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 edge, Cook rates five Democratic seats and four Republican seats as "toss up" — with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., ranked "likely Republican" — and the vast majority of them are in states Trump won handily.
The consensus among Republicans and Democrats in Washington is that nothing Trump has done has been as unifying for the GOP as his successful appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At a time when Republicans have been worried about energizing their political base to keep control of both the Senate and the House, the just-finished Kavanaugh fight — deeply colored by charges of sexual assault and the nominee's denials — appears to have done that.
Kavanaugh provided Trump a way to merge his lane of GOP voters with that of establishment Republicans, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
"The politics of this, I don’t know — I don’t know how this plays out," Graham said after Kavanaugh's confirmation. "I’ve never seen an event on our side so unifying. Bush and Trump don’t have a lot in common. Kavanaugh they have in common."
Whether Republicans can sustain that unity for the next four weeks — as public attention will naturally turn away from the Kavanaugh nomination or at least be diluted by other political issues — remains to be seen. Trump has been ramping up his attacks on Democrats, including labeling them the "party of crime," in an apparent effort to connect that coalition of his voters and establishment Republicans.
The decision facing many swing voters is whether they want to apply their foot to the gas pedal or the brake — whether they want more of Trump's agenda and style, or less of it.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said "it's undeniable" that Trump has delivered on "a number of his key objectives in his campaign" — despite having failed on others, such as getting Mexico to pay for a border wall, or delivering big infrastructure legislation — and that those victories, including Kavanaugh's confirmation, will even further harden support among his core backers.
"He has enjoyed strikingly strong support from his core base throughout the last year-and-a-half, and I think it will simply solidify those who are not concerned by his unconventional style," Coons said just ahead of the Kavanaugh vote.
That "unconventional style" included ridiculing Christine Blasey Ford — who testified before the Senate that Kavanaugh held her down on a bed, covered her mouth and tried to take her clothes off — at a Mississippi campaign rally held when three key Republican senators still hadn't announced how they planned to vote on the nomination.
After the confirmation vote Saturday, Trump said he didn't believe Ford's story, echoing the sentiments of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who made a dramatic floor speech in favor of Kavanaugh the day before the final roll call.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is widely perceived as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, predicted after the vote that this brutal battle, and bitterly fought win, will come back to haunt Trump and Republicans in Congress.
"Women are tired of being told to sit down and shut up," she said. "I believe that what comes out of this is that a lot of people across this country turn pain into power."