Advertisements and issues
The 2018 mid-term elections featured a wider range and larger number of campaign advertisements than past mid-term elections. Nearly half of all advertisements by Democrats focused on health care, in particular on defending the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and keeping in place protections for individuals with preexisting conditions. Almost a third of Republicans ads focused on taxes, in particular the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. According to a report by CNN, "So far in House, Senate and governor races this year, more than $124 million has been spent on more than 280,000 immigration-related TV ad spots... that's more than five times the amount spent during the 2014 midterms, when about $23 million was spent on less than 44,000 spots."
In October 2018, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that the chief focus of Republican messaging was on fear-mongering over immigration and race. According to The Washington Post, Trump "has settled on a strategy of fear – laced with falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric – to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms, part of a broader effort to energize Republican voters." The New York Times wrote, "Mr. Trump and other Republicans are insistently seeking to tie Democrats to unfettered immigration and violent crime, and in some instances this summer and fall they have attacked minority candidates in nakedly racial terms." The Toronto Star reported that as the mid-term elections approached, Trump resorted to "a blizzard of fear-mongering and lies, many of them about darker-skinned foreigners."
Vulnerable Republican candidates who voted in favor of the American Health Care Act of 2017 – which repealed portions of the Affordable Care Act – sought to defend their votes with what CNN described as "falsehoods and obfuscations." A number of those Republican candidates claimed to support provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as protections for preexisting conditions, even though they voted for efforts that either weakened or eliminated those provisions.
President Trump and officials campaigning
In May 2018, President Trump began to emphasize his effort to overcome the traditional strength of the non-presidential party in midterm elections, with "top priority for the White House [being to hold] the Republican majority in the Senate". He was already at that time well into his own 2020 reelection campaign, having launched it on inauguration day, 2017. In May, on a trip to Texas for a Houston fundraiser targeting the midterms, he also held a fundraising dinner in Dallas for the 2020 campaign. By early August, the president's midterm efforts had included rallies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Montana and elsewhere "reprising the style and rhetoric of his 2016 campaign". Democrats "need to flip 23 seats to capture the speaker's gavel", USA Today put it. The President was addressing the economy, the border wall, the "trade war", "don't believe anything" and the space force in the rallies, per the report.
In late August 2018, controversy surfaced about the degree of campaigning being done on what were termed "official" visits around the country. One report said, traditionally, partisan attacks and endorsements were kept out of official events but that President Trump was not observing that norm. Beyond the norm, one commentator was quoted referring to "laws designed to prevent taxpayer resources from being used for self-serving purposes – in this case, for campaign purposes." White House-recognized individuals "familiar with the president's thinking" spoke without attribution on a conference call and in another call about the campaigning. The individuals identified 35 events by Cabinet and senior staff members "with or affecting House districts in August already ... [all] targeted districts" and described a July 26 Presidential trip, presented as "official", as having been "for" Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa and Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois. The White House (via deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters) responded to the report: "It is unfortunate but ultimately unsurprising that a liberal publication like Huffington Post would make these misleading accusations and misconstrue the intent of the response".