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Guest Editorial: How the GOP might salvage the 2018 elections

The Daily Times
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There's an iconic photo from the 2004 tsunami, showing a man standing alone on a beach in Thailand, facing down a monster wall of water remorselessly bearing down on him. 
We imagine that the Republican Party, facing this fall's elections, knows just how that poor guy felt.
In normal times, an incumbent president's party typically loses some Congressional seats in midterm elections. But these are not normal times. 
GOP forecasters fear that the party's losses this November may exceed the Democratic Party's historic 2010 wipeout, which came two years into Barack Obama's presidency.
Two bellwethers last fall presage disaster for Republicans. In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, a subpar candidate, handily beat veteran Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for governor, and Democrats came within a hair's breadth of taking over the state's legislature. 
And deep-red Alabama sent Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S.  Senate, defeating Judge Roy Moore, a fire-breather from the populist fringes who turned off establishment Republicans and energized Democratic turnout.
For his part, President Donald Trump, whose poll numbers are in the basement, faces a potentially calamitous 2018. Aside from the Mueller investigation hanging over his head, no one knows what to expect from Trump. 
Michael Wolff's forthcoming book, based in part on insider access granted by the president, paints a grotesque portrait of an incompetent chief executive.
The danger to Republicans, who hold both Congress and the White House, might be mitigated if they had a record of substantial legislative achievement to offer voters. Yet they can only boast of approving one Supreme Court nomination and passing an unpopular tax cut widely perceived as a giveaway to the rich.
What can Republicans do? Texas Sen. John Cornyn says the remedy is to find quality candidates. Well, yes, but good luck doing that with a populist base eager to hand primary wins to radicals incapable of winning the general election. 
Republicans eager to demonstrate governing competence would do well to look for some practical legislative goals on which they can work with Democrats. Alas, given the political fundamentals shaping the 2018 vote, Congressional Democrats have little incentive to do their rivals any favors.
The good news for Republicans is also the bad news: the 2018 election will be a referendum on the Trump presidency. 
This gives GOP incumbents reason to spend 2018 standing up to the president's recklessness. If they stiffen their spines and show themselves to be reliable stewards of the public trust, not lackeys of a clownish emperor, some Republicans might ride out the Democratic wave.
Republicans can't change Trump, but they can change their reaction to him. There's no returning to the pre-Trump status quo, but Republicans do have a chance to forge a more creative conservatism, minus Trump's craziness and cruelty. Attitude is no substitute for ability, and a big mouth cannot cover for meretriciousness.
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 5

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