President Donald Trump started his first year in office on a triumphant note. And rightly so.
Against all odds, he had trumped presumptive (and presumptuous) president Hillary Clinton by 303 to 225 electoral votes.
Moreover, his relatively new party of choice, the GOP, controlled both houses of Congress. That’s the first time since 2006 a president and his party have enjoyed so much power and influence over politics and policy. The challenge to come would be how to convert electoral victory into effective governing.
President Trump’s most far-reaching achievement early on was getting his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch confirmed by the Senate to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
His biggest setback was the failure to repeal and replace the so-called Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare.
President Trump ended the year on another triumphant note with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, it was a very near thing. The final bill passed the House without a single Democratic vote -- and with more than a dozen Republicans voting against it. It barely passed the Senate, 51-48.
Clearly, the 2018 election cycle is shaping to be a bitter battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of Congress. In the House, all seats are up for grabs. If the Democrats can hold what they’ve got and win 24 more seats, they will be back in control of that chamber.
There’s no doubt they will target the 23 GOP House incumbents who will be running in “swing” districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus any others who may become vulnerable along the way.
The Senate situation is a different story. Only 34 seats are in contention, and 24 of them are currently held by Democrats. Adding to their uphill battle is the fact 10 of them are up for re-election in states carried by Donald Trump in 2016.
The X factor in all this political drama may well be the aging of key Senate leaders from both parties. Democrat Dianne Feinstein is 84, followed closely by Republicans Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Richard Shelby, Jim Inhofe, Pat Roberts, and John McCain. As of this writing, a total of nine senators (seven Republicans and two Democrats) are in their 80s. Some are hale and hardy, others not so much.
Age aside, one thing is certain. How Americans view their economic lot in life under GOP control of the Senate, House of Representatives, and the White House will largely determine how they vote for Congress in 2018.
Therefore, expect GOP leaders to praise their progress on behalf of middle class Americans, even as Democratic leaders pillory them as “Greedy Old Patricians,” who rob from the poor to reward the rich.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.