McCoshen: Can Republicans Hold Their Red Wall?

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Premiere Date: 
December 29, 2017

McCoshen: Can Republicans Hold Their Red Wall?

With each panelist posing an open question to keep in mind for 2018, Republican lobbyist Bill McCoshen discusses whether Republicans will hold their strength in Wisconsin. He says those at risk may be Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, who are tied to national politics. Ross says anything can happen in a wave election, and things may change as politicians are asked to respond more to Trump.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

We asked our panelists to come with their choice of a topic to watch for 2018. Bill McCoshen asked, "Can the GOP maintain a ‘Red Wall’ in order to keep the governorship, attorney general, and majorities in both houses of the legislature?” So that's what you want to ask.

Bill McCoshen:

So the question is, can we maintain majorities in both houses, large majorities, and the governorship, the attorney general while there could potentially be a wave against Republicans nationally? And I don't think New Jersey and Virginia are very good signals of what could happen here, but there does, there are some seeds planted out there that it looks like it'll be a decent year for Democrats in 2018. And some of that is historic. It's baked into the cake. Over the course of time, 93 percent of elections in off years, the party in charge of the White House has lost seats in the Congress, and 73 percent of the times they've lost seats in the Senate. So it's inevitable that Republicans are likely to lose some seats. Does one house flip or the other? Hard to say at this point, but Democrats have a lot to be encouraged about. For Wisconsin Republicans, I think they have to continue to send their message, sell their message of results, getting things done. Time after time after time that's been proven to be a successful formula for Scott Walker. It's proven to be a successful formula for Republicans on the ground either for the state Senate or the state Assembly. They get stuff done and voters respond to that.

Frederica Freyberg:

Scot, do you think that Republicans can maintain what Bill calls a “Red Wall”?

Scot Ross:

I think the Republicans have done a lot to try and maintain that “Red Wall.” I think there's been a lot of rigging when it comes to voting rights, when it comes to redistricting, when it comes to some of the policies they have enacted in terms of ethics and such. What I think, though, is Wisconsin, we haven't had a wave election in an off year since 2006 and in 2006, Jim Doyle won huge. The state Assembly picked up seven or eight seats, the state Senate was flipping all from Republican to Democratic, so in a wave election year, you know, anything can happen.

Frederica Freyberg:

Is this as much about kind of what might have happened in other states and Democrats feeling positive, or does it come down to the individual candidates?

Bill McCoshen:

It has a lot to do with it. I mean, at the end of the day, if there are any Republicans at risk in Wisconsin in 2018, the most at risk would be the congressional delegation. They did get the tax thing done. It does have a piece of the Obamacare repeal. They got rid of the individual mandate, but they have to continue to put their foot on the gas and get things done in 2018 if they want to solidify their position for re-election.

Scot Ross:

I was going to say, how do the-- here's the question, how do Republicans decouple themselves from Donald Trump, who's incredibly unpopular? They can't do that. I mean Scott Walker has embraced him. Leah Vukmir's embraced him. Kevin Nicholson's embraced him. The stage legis aren't going to suddenly come out and say he's terrible. And as on Friday we saw a CNN poll that said really to Congress that a generic Democrat is up 18 points to the Republicans. Those are historic numbers. Now, that's where we're at right now. Can things change? I don't know. Donald Trump's not going to suddenly become more tolerable. He's not going to become less animated on Twitter, and so how do they overcome that?

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you feel like any of the really low favorability numbers for Donald Trump translate all the way down to legislative races?

Bill McCoshen:

It does, yeah, history has shown that if the president's approval numbers, whether it's Obama or Bush or the previous Bush, are low heading into a midterm election, they lose a lot of seats.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about Scott Walker? I mean, what an interesting place he's in. First he very much opposed Donald Trump, as we saw when he made his speech dropping out, then he's supportive; where is he now?

Bill McCoshen:

I think he and Paul Ryan have been able to find the sweet spot. They don't respond to everything the president does. They don't defend every Tweet he puts out. They don't defend every statement he makes. Everything he does that's provocative, they sort of walk the other way, and I think that's a smart strategy on their part.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you think?

Scot Ross:

I think that once there's more scrutiny on the day-to-day operations related to campaigns that they're going to have a problem with it because they're just not really getting asked about it all the time. But every time Donald Trump does something bad once we're firmly in 2018 campaign season, Scott Walker whether he wants to or not is going to have to respond to it. And if he doesn't respond to it, the Republican Party, because there are reporters all across the state that are going to demand answers.

Bill McCoshen:

Where he can be most helpful, actually, is on the fundraising side, whether it's for Leah Vukmir if I'm right about that Senate primary or Scott Walker, he can come and raise $5 million in one lunch.

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