Republican congressional candidates over the years have made a living bashing California Rep. Nancy Pelosi and the liberal agenda she would bring to the House of Representatives if Democrats get control.
This year, the Democrats are on the offensive, and President Donald Trump is providing all the ammunition they need. Throughout the nation, Democrats are talking about the urgency of taking control of the House and neutralizing Trump. Well – almost everywhere, but Idaho.
Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson can declare Trump unfit for the presidency (as he did a few weeks before the 2016 election), but Democratic candidates for Congress can’t seem to utter the same words after two years of chaos. And neither of the two Democratic candidates talks about how things would be better with Democrats in control of the House.
What do they have to lose? Or, maybe they don’t think Democrats need to be in charge.
Aaron Swisher, who is challenging Simpson in the 2nd Congressional District, prefers to talk about things he likes about Trump – while throwing Pelosi under the bus. The latest poll from Idaho Politics Weekly (Dan Jones & Associates) shows Swisher trailing, 59-23. Voters in the 2nd District already have their guy who thinks Trump is unfit for the office.
The same pollster reflects a different story in the 1st Congressional District where Democrat Cristina McNeil is going against former state Sen. Russ Fulcher. She’s within single digits of Fulcher, with 20 percent undecided.
Granted, polls in early September don’t mean much. But if there’s anybody who should be taking swings at Trump and touting Democratic control of Congress, it’s McNeil. She might be able to sway some independents and Republicans to her side.
Running on an anti-Trump platform also would show a clear contrast with Fulcher, who mostly sides with Trump.
Again, she has nothing to lose – and politically much to gain. But McNeil’s biggest problem, aside from lack of name recognition and money, is that she’s too nice to play hardball politics. Former state Rep. Shirley Ringo of Moscow describes McNeil as a “sweet” person, and I had the same impression after my recent visit with her.
McNeil, who grew up in Mexico City and has lived in Boise since 2003, has strong feelings about Trump. She’s offended by how he has insulted Hispanics, women and practically everyone who dares to disagree with him.
“He’s a dangerous man, and a threat to our American values,” she says.
Yet, nothing about Trump – or how the Republican majority needs to be fired – appears anywhere on her website. She wants “prosperity for all Idahoans” – health care and a strong education system for all, and she’d like to see immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants.
Being a single mom, McNeil knows all about the struggles of making ends meet. She says she lost her home and car during the recession a decade ago, and has dealt with severe health issues during her life.
“The passion that I feel did not happen because Trump was elected president,” she says. “I’m fighting because we have had needs for 15 years in the state of Idaho and the country. I have put 15 years of my life fighting for these issues as a community organizer (Idaho Community Action Network).”
But her agenda doesn’t have a snowball’s chance with Trump as president and Republicans in control of the House. That’s what the midterm elections are all about. When people cast their ballots, they won’t be thinking about her life story and the struggles she has faced.
McNeil should be listening to Ringo, who says, “This country is in a lot of trouble if we don’t find a way to neutralize Trump. If we don’t get a Democratic majority to neutralize Trump, I hate to think what will be done in the years to come. It’s scary.”
Ringo says that Democrats running for Congress need to be aggressive with their campaigns. “We don’t gain anything when we try to pretend we are soft Republicans.”
Ringo didn’t have the luxury of running against the Trump presidency four years ago. Instead, she was hearing the usual GOP barbs about how the world would end if Pelosi became House speaker. But this year’s midterm elections are a referendum on Trump’s presidency and Democrats everywhere are not shy about saying so.
That is, everywhere except Idaho.