INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Even at a gathering of conservatives in the California desert, there was no denying among attendees the successes of Democratic candidates in recent elections and their likelihood of even more victories in the November races. Still, the roughly 500 donors to the influential Koch network of non-profit groups at the gathering appeared committed to spending as much as $400 million in support of the candidates and free-market policies backed by the influential group.
“We’re all in. We know the challenges,” Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, said Saturday. “We’ve seen the results that these policies are having on Americans.”
The argument Philips and others at the event made against the projected Democratic tide is that the policies coming from Washington this past year, especially the recently passed tax reform law, are good for America, even if Americans don’t yet know it.
“I’m delighted the network is going to be able to help tell us that story,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Saturday night, “because we’re going to have to continue to combat misinformation from the naysayers and the people who want us to fail.”
That commitment to selling the tax law -- $20 million alone -- will be similar to the efforts last year by Americans for Prosperity to tout the hallmark tax legislation in town halls and through advertising and phone banks.
“These are serious and important improvements in our lives,” Phillips said. “And part of our job is to make sure that those benefits are going through a lot of the clutter and a lot of the normal give and take of American politics.”
Beyond the tax bill, the policies and political-agenda priorities highlighted at the event included reforms at veterans’ hospitals, touting President Trump’s judicial appointments and undoing Obama-era regulations.
Still, such measures may not be enough for Republicans to maintain their majorities on Capitol Hill and statehouses across the country if Democratic voters remain energized. In recent months, Democrats retook control of the New Jersey governorship, kept the Virginia governor’s seat and won a Senate seat in conservative-leaning Alabama.
“That same desire for change still exists,” Jared Leopold, communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, told Fox News.
He also said Democratic candidates across the country will be on the offense this year and that voters who tend to want to balance out power will be looking to put a check on Trump.
The White House says the president is expected to take an active role in campaigning later this year.
Leopold questions how much help the president can offer Republican candidates, while the latest Fox News poll shows Trump’s approval rating increasing to 45 percent, near his record high since taking office last year.
A so-called “generic poll” of congressional races, which is essentially a Democrat vs. a Republican for all 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats up for reelection, now gives Democrats a 7.9 percentage point lead, according to nonpartisan RealClearPolitics.com.
Historically, the first midterm election goes poorly for the sitting president. Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama each lost considerable support in Congress after two years in office -- a fact Cornyn noted.
Yet he still predicts Republicans will gain seats this fall, which the GOP did in 2002 during President George W. Bush’s first term.
Beyond politics, the Koch network event also served as a semi-annual status report on the group’s public-policy efforts including reforms in education, criminal justice and poverty.
Founder Charles Koch sounded pleased with the group’s accomplishments, telling attendees: “There are many more Americans now looking for a different way -- a way that would enable everybody to enjoy the promise in the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”