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Thanks to Trump the Democrats can take back Congress, if they get their act together

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

GOP presidential contender Donald Trump has given Democrats something that seemed only the stuff of shop talk, wishful thinking and even fawn dreams a year ago. That’s a real shot at taking back Congress.

This requires grabbing five contested Senate seats from the GOP and keeping the ones that are fairly safely in Democratic hands. In the House it meant taking 30 of the seats that are in play to get full control, or at the very least winning as many of them as possible to dent the GOP House majority. The Senate takeover is eminently doable since the Democratic contenders are seasoned elected officials, with solid name identification, a solid voter base, financial backing and a fairly good ground game. The Democratic National Committee and other Democratic funding and organizing committees are providing solid back up and support to the candidate’s campaigns.

The House is the much tougher nut to crack, since many of the seats appear to be in either locked down or heavily GOP-leaning districts. There are reasons this could change. One is Trump. His race baiting, woman bashing, immigrant scapegoating campaign of vilification and deliberate polarization could radically ramp up the number of independent, and even moderate, centrist Republicans who defect to the Democratic candidate. Trump almost certainly will energize Democrats to flood the polls to defeat him and, in the process, boost the vote total for the Democratic congressional challenger.

The most winnable House seats are not in the hard core GOP bastions in the South and the Heartland, but in Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Nevada and Minnesota that are either Democratic controlled or swing states. The voter demographics in the competitive districts are not top heavy with Trump’s core voter base, namely lower income, blue collar, rural, less educated whites, but are suburban districts with a sizeable number of college degree, or educated, professional, business career voters. They are conservative, and have voted GOP, but the GOP presidential candidate they backed was a traditional GOP candidate such as John McCain or Mitt Romney, not a race baiting, polarizing Trump. The GOP’s nightmare scenario that the Democrats will dent the GOP House majority or upend it has GOP House speaker, Paul Ryan climbing the walls, and doing everything humanly possible to put a Grand Canyon-length distance from Trump.

But a stupendously bad GOP candidate, Trump, or voter demographics in flux, alone, won’t guarantee a Democratic walk-over in a bid to grab Congressional control. That will take a big, well-oiled, laser precise, voter registration, door knocking, social media mobilizing campaign in the targeted districts to sell Democrats and independents and some Republicans on the merits of the Democratic challenger. It requires that the DNC and local Democratic county organizations pivot from their Clinton focus to a focus on the targeted local House races. It also requires that Clinton push and prod hard the DNC and local Democratic party organizations to mount the fully resourced, all-out press in the final run-up to Election Day for the magic 30-plus seats needed to seize the House.

A Democratic-controlled Senate will give Clinton priceless support for her initiatives and legislative agenda, and blunt at least some of the hard edge of the GOP obstructionism and warfare that marred nearly every year of Obama’s tenure in the White House. However, it won’t ensure that Clinton’s initiative and legislative agenda pass. A GOP controlled House is still a wounded beast and even more dangerous. It can clamp near endless gridlock on Clinton. It would not be exactly what Obama faced but the end result of having to battle every inch of the way for vital legislation and spending would be wasteful and draining.

So, the Democrats can thank Trump for keeping a Democrat in the saddle in the White House. Now they have to do their part to put Democrats back in the saddle in the Senate, and especially the House.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.