Trump rides high after Republican election win

By AFP/Michael Mathes   June 22, 2017 | 10:41 am GMT+7
Trump rides high after Republican election win
U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage for a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Scott Morgan

'The truth is, the people love us,' Trump crowed to the Iowa gathering.

President Donald Trump basked Wednesday in a Republican victory in a closely-watched election in Georgia, telling cheering supporters at a campaign-style rally in Iowa that "the people love us."

Tuesday's congressional election had been widely cast as a referendum on the young administration as it battles a swirling Russian scandal and a string of legislative setbacks -- and the president seized on the result as a vote of confidence.

"We won last night," he told the crowd in Cedar Rapids. "All we do is win, win, win!"

Establishment Republican Karen Handel defeated Democratic novice Jon Ossoff after what turned into the most expensive congressional race in history, retaining a seat her camp has held since 1979 -- and calming party jitters about the impact of the president's troubles on local and national politics.

"The truth is, the people love us," Trump crowed to the Iowa gathering.

After wins in South Carolina, Kansas and Montana, Trump's Republicans have now won all four special elections held since his inauguration in January, leaving Democrats demoralized as they seek to snatch control of Congress in next year's mid-term elections.

"They thought they were going to win last night in Atlanta," Trump jeered at the Democrats. "They spent close to $30 million on this kid!"

The Republican Party interpreted the results as a sign Trump's core supporters remain faithful despite turbulence in Washington: no major legislative achievements to date, a White House mired in scandal over the probe looking into possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian election meddling, and potential obstruction of justice by the president himself.

Hammering home his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," Trump reprised his key campaign themes: defending American borders, repealing the Obamacare "disaster," promising record tax cuts -- and touting "the amazing progress that we have already made."

Promising once more to erect a wall on the Mexican border, he raised the possibility of building it with solar panels -- an idea he reportedly floated earlier this month -- using the energy thus generated to help cover construction costs.

"Pretty good imagination, right? My idea," he quipped.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Scott Morgan

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Scott Morgan

New health battle

On Capitol Hill, the Republican win in Georgia may indeed embolden the party to press ahead with Trump's political agenda, notably reform of Barack Obama's health care law and an overhaul of the tax code.

The Senate's Republican leadership said it will unveil on Thursday a new health bill. The legislation faces unanimous opposition from Democrats and skepticism from some Republicans, who have voiced concern about the secrecy of the drafting process.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted he wants a vote on the bill by June 30.

But while the Democratic losses of recent months have been demoralizing for the party, some see reason for optimism.

In each of the four congressional races, Democrats did far better than in previous elections.

"Last night's results were far from a disaster for Democrats, and Republicans shouldn't be tempted to believe their House majority is safe," wrote David Wasserman, an editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

"In fact, their majority is still very much at risk."

Democrats would need to flip 24 seats to retake the 435-member House of Representatives in next year's mid-term elections, and analysts believe Republicans are vulnerable in at least that many districts.

Some Democrats however believe their party has wasted too much time licking its wounds from the presidential defeat, instead of regrouping and refocusing on top domestic issues such as the economy.

And others warn the mounting scandals in Trumpland had further diverted the party from addressing the needs of ordinary citizens.