Republicans gearing up for the upcoming midterms were handed a powerful weapon on Friday as they start to head home to begin the campaign for re-elections -- a booming economy.
The Commerce Department announced Friday that the economy grew by 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2018, making it the fastest economic expansion in almost four years.
The White House hailed the numbers as an indication that tax cuts, deregulation and tough trade practices have paid off.
“We’ve accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions,” President Trump declared. “Once again, we are the economic envy of the entire world.”
The numbers come at a crucial time for Republicans. Lawmakers in the House, which is seen as most likely to flip in November, broke for recess this week, and are heading home to an electoral outlook that suggests a “blue wave” could be in the offing for Democrats.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball, part of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, is now predicting that the race for the House tilts toward the Democrats and that they are now “a little better than 50-50 to win the House” -- the first time it has made such a prediction. It also made 17 House ratings changes -- all in favor of the Democrats.
Additionally, a Quinnipiac University Poll found that Democrats have opened a 12-point lead on the generic House ballot -- a gap that Republicans had almost closed just a few months ago.
In Washington, President Trump has been dogged by revelations about former attorney Michael Cohen’s payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, as well as a troubled European trip in which he was widely criticized for appearing to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election. Trump later walked back some of his comments
The economic numbers give Republicans a chance to refocus attention away from the Russia investigation and back onto claims that they are delivering on bread-and-butter issues. They will be hoping that the old addage from former Clinton strategist James Carville -- “it’s the economy, stupid” -- will still be true in 2018.
Republicans quickly took advantage of the numbers on Friday, hailing them as proof that Republican policies on tax and regulations are working.
“This is yet another indication that our economy is surging, and Americans are better off now,” House Speaker Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., office said in a press release, a nod to the House GOP slogan: “Better Off Now.”
“The voters will have a choice this November, do you want more jobs and higher wages or would you rather have more government and higher taxes, which is what the Democrats are selling?” Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pa., said on “Fox News @ Night.”
It also complicates matters for Democrats, who under the banner of “For the People”, are looking to pivot to a message focused more on economics rather than a strictly anti-Trump platform.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, took a stab at a more populist economic pushback on the economy numbers Friday, arguing in a thread on Twitter that it only benefited the rich and big corporations.
“The GOP promised their tax bill would be “rocket fuel” for the economy. Instead, it blew up the deficit by a trillion dollars & sparked a surge in stock buybacks, benefiting the biggest corps, their execs & wealthy shareholders while leaving middle-class families largely behind,” he tweeted, before asking: “So. Where’s your raise?”
But such a platform is fraught with dangers. With a booming economy resulting just months after the Trump tax cuts, a platform of rolling back those tax cuts could be dangerous for Democrats.
Republicans were delighted in May when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested Democrats would roll back the Trump tax cuts if they took control of the House.
"I do think we should revisit the tax legislation in a way that we always have, in a bipartisan, transparent way that the result is unifying for the country,” she said.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Matt Gorman jumped on Pelosi's comment, tweeting: "I promise you that will be in almost every GOP ad this fall."
Fox News' Gregg Re contributed to this report.