With a single speech, Trump rattles 2018 landscape

The idea that Democrats have to start taking the president more seriously as a political operator suddenly has more currency.

The call to Steve Stivers, the chairman of House Republicans’ campaign wing, came on Tuesday evening, roughly an hour after President Donald Trump ended his speech to a joint session of Congress.

On the other end of the line was a former candidate wanting back in on the action.

“He said, ‘The president did a great job. I’m thinking about this and I might want to run again; I want to be a part of something,’” said Stivers (R-Ohio). “He had taken it off the table and now he called me to say, ‘I’m thinking about it again. I want to sit down and talk.’ That was a very important and positive step.”

It’s far too early in his term to speculate about what the 2018 political climate might look like. And one speech can’t paper over a polarizing policy agenda. But if a large part of Democrats’ plan for the 2018 midterm elections was to let Trump stumble his way into a pile of Republican losses, his speech to Congress on Tuesday reminded them it would not be that easy. At the same time, it reassured Republicans spooked by recent town hall intensity that the president might not be the flat-out liability he once seemed in the chaotic early days of his presidency.

“There’s been a lot of quality Republican candidates who have been waiting to decide whether they’re going to run in 2018,” said John Brabender, a veteran Pennsylvania-based Republican strategist. “I think that speech last night will actually give some quality Republican candidates that will be up against Democrats more courage than they had.”

Many Democrats sounded frustration Wednesday that Trump was receiving plaudits for a speech that was light on specifics and merely represented a change in tone.

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