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Rahm: Democrats will have ‘good year in 2018’ but tough road ahead

Rahm Emanuel on CNN's "State of the Union," May 28, 2017. Photo by Lynn Sweet.

WASHINGTON — Democrats lost a significant number of seats in federal and state elections during former President Barack Obama’s two terms and on Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it would take longer than 2018 to win them all back.

“Do I think we’re going to have a good year in 2018? Yes,” Emanuel said, tempering his prediction. “Do I think everything’s going to be solved in a single cycle? That’s not how we got here, and it’s not going to be how we get out.”

Emanuel looked ahead at the 2018 and 2020 contests — when President Donald Trump will be up for re-election — during an interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

While in the House of Representatives, Emanuel led the Democratic takeover in 2006, when he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Now the GOP controls the House, Senate and the White House.

Democrats are optimistic the Trump presidency will help them win back seats, but so far Democrats have not claimed any victories in a handful of special elections since Trump took office. In Montana on Thursday, Trump did not prove the liability Democrats have been counting on.

Republican Greg Gianforte, who embraced Trump, kept the Montana at-large seat Republican, winning over Democrat Rob Quist despite facing late-breaking assault charges for shoving a reporter.

Last February, Emanuel offered a gloomy prognosis for Democrats during a talk at Stanford University’s School of Business.

“Democrats are at the lowest level since 1928 in the House of Representatives and the lowest level since 1925 in the state houses. . . . It is hard to imagine it getting lower,” the mayor said.

“It took us a long time to get this low. It ain’t gonna happen in 2018. Take a chill pill, man. You’ve got to be in this for the long haul. And if you think it’s gonna be a quick turnaround like that, it’s not. You have to be part of this for the long haul. . . . You’re gonna have a success here and a success here, and then you’ll build a critical mass. But it’s worth fighting for. And I think this country is worth fighting for,” Emanuel said.

On Sunday, Emanuel was asked if Democrats could take back the House in 2018.

“What I disagree with is an approach that assumes it’s only about one election. We’re down, over the last eight years, about 1,100 Democrats. You’re not going to solve it in 2018.

“The Republicans didn’t do what they did with just one election cycle. You have to have a long horizon, obviously, and work towards that, electing people at the local level, state houses, into Congress,” Emanuel said.

The next showdown is June 20 in Georgia, for the vacancy created when Trump picked now former Rep. Tom Price to be the Health and Human Services secretary. Democrat Jon Ossoff is battling Republican Karen Handel.

As for Hillary Clinton running for president again in 2020, Emanuel said, “I happen to love Hillary, and I think she’s full of energy, and I happen to think there’s a lot of time between now and the presidential election. She has to decide whether that’s in her heart. We have a lot of time between now and the presidential election of 2020.

“Hillary has a lot of offer. The core question is not whether I think she would be a good candidate. It’s whether she wants to run.”