- By George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The chance to see President Donald Trump motivated Sylvia Hart to spend her 66th birthday waiting for hours in occasional rain outside the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall for Trump’s rally here Tuesday.
And Hart, a registered Democrat in Sarasota County, said Trump has motivated her to do something she’s been indifferent to in the past — vote in a midterm election, even without Trump’s name on the ballot.
“I believe in what he talks about. I believe he’s trying to do the best that he can,” Hart said of Trump. She said she has “sometimes” voted in past midterms, but this year “I guess the difference is the behavior of the Democrats and the way they’re handling the loss of the presidency has got me very concerned.”
Trump supporters delighted in upending conventional wisdom in 2016 when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. Now Trump loyalists hope to defy eight decades of history by staving off Republican losses in this year’s midterms.
Since 1938, the party that controls the White House has lost an average of 29 House seats and 4 Senate seats during non-presidential election years, according to data compiled by the American Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
This year, polls asking voters whether they favor a generic Democrat or Republican for Congress favor Democrats by an average of 7.3 percent, according to a compilation by RealClearPolitics.com.
In 2018, losses approaching the historical average would cost Republicans control of the House and Senate, hampering Trump’s agenda — or worse, Trump supporters fear.
“If we lose the House, it’s game over. The Democrats at least are going to try for impeachment without any rhyme or reason,” said John Kish, 23, a college student who lives in Fort Myers and came to the rally with his mother, both in Make America Great Again hats.
Kish said he didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms as a 19-year-old but has signed up this year to get a vote-by-mail ballot when he’s away at West Virginia University in the fall.
Trump is a former Democrat and ideological sojourner who ran against the GOP establishment in 2016. Many of his supporters are loyal to Trump rather than the Republican Party — a problem Democrats faced in 2010 and 2014 when many voters who had been excited to vote for Barack Obama for president didn’t show up for midterms.
Tim Kaiser of Okeechobee, 49, said he’s motivated to vote in this year’s elections to help Trump, who he called “the best president in my lifetime,” rather than to advance any party’s agenda.
“I normally don’t (vote in midterms) because until Trump came along it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on, I don’t think any politicians are worth a damn,” Kaiser said.
Bert Stucke of Sun City Center wore a “Trump 2020” shirt to the rally, but said he won’t overlook 2018. Describing himself as a “50-50” midterm voter, Stucke said, “This year I’m more motivated because of Donald Trump.”
Dana Mills of Bradenton, also wearing a Trump 2020 shirt, said he’s a political junkie who is well aware that past presidents’ parties usually suffer losses in midterms.
“I don’t know what to think. You know, I actually believed the news that he didn’t have a chance before the (2016) election,” Mills said.
Mills said Trump supporters “mostly” seem as motivated for 2018 as they were two years ago. And he said talk of a “blue wave” and other media predictions of Democratic gains tend to prod Trump loyalists.
“I think a lot of the news really pushes them, motivates them even more,” Mills said. “I think the continual opposition does motivate people.”