Republicans are girding for a midterm election cycle without President Obama to use as a convenient foil in the fight for seats in Congress.

Voter dissatisfaction with Obama in 2010 and 2014 propelled the GOP to historic majorities in the House, and a combined 15 Senate seats.

But President-elect Trump presents a challenge the Republicans haven’t faced since 2006: defending majorities with their man in the White House.

Steven Law, the chief strategist for the GOP super PAC that invested $165 million in Senate races in 2016, said the new environment requires his party to adjust accordingly.

“It’s certainly a more complicated environment. Just as Donald Trump was a critical factor in helping us preserve our majority, he’ll be a key part of what voters have in mind two years from now,” said Law, who oversees Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Republicans who have gotten a lot of mileage out of running against Barack Obama are going to have to develop some new skills as we head into the 2018 cycle,” Law added, during a wide-ranging interview on Monday with the Washington Examiner.

Many Republicans considering their 2018 prospects had assumed that Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump, leading to political atmospherics would set up nicely for the GOP two years later. Now, they’re in a wait-and-see mode.

A prominent Republican leaning toward a 2018 Senate bid before Trump was elected now plans to hold off until at least after the first quarter of next year, this individual’s chief adviser told the Examiner.

This potential candidate wants to see how the Trump presidency unfolds to better gauge how voters react to the Republican Party’s full control of Washington, and whether they’re inclined to rebuke or reward the president and his party in the midterm elections.

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“The bottom could drop out very quickly and suddenly we are in a typical midterm posture where it is hard for the party that controls the White House to win seats,” this adviser said, on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.

Senate Leadership Fund, formed at the behest of McConnell, just completed its first election cycle, and is run by Law and a tight-knit group of strategists, including veteran GOP consultant Carl Forti.

Law previously worked for McConnell and the two are longtime political allies; he has what he describes as a “mind-meld” relationship with the Senate majority leader when it comes to political strategy. Law credited the closeness of their relationship with the success Senate Leadership Fund experienced in its first two years.

Now, however, Law is preparing for a new political landscape in which Trump drives the Republican policy agenda and political messaging.

It will be an adjustment for the Republicans, who since 2008 have had the luxury of defining themselves, often against the backdrop of deep disapproval with Obama and his policies. Law isn’t necessarily assuming that the change in circumstances will negatively impact the GOP in 2018.

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“Trump’s late surge was a critical factor in preserving our majority,” he said, of the 2016 elections, in which the GOP, widely projected to lose its majority to the Democrats, hung on by winning in a handful of critical swing states.

Law said the super PAC will spend the next several weeks reviewing what went right in 2016, and ways in which the group can improve its performance over the next two years.

Elements that added to Senate Leadership Fund’s success included the network of donors cultivated and developed; their reliance on a political strategy that relied on data analytics and their own, homegrown voter files; and a willingness to pick sides in competitive GOP primaries on the side of the candidate deemed most electable.

Law said the super PAC’s strategy was validated by the results in Indiana, where they supported Republican Rep. Todd Young, who went on to defeat Democrat Evan Bayh.

Law said that Senate Leadership Fund would continue to reserve the right to play in GOP primaries, even if that means the group is at odds with Trump’s White House political operation.

“That’s the advantage of being an independent group, we can call our own plays in that regard,” Law said. “Certainly, there’s an inevitable tension that always exists and something that we would want to be sensitive to. But in end it’s in everybody’s best interest, from president on down, to elect an enduring majority.”

It’s too early to predict the political environment that will govern the outcome of an election two years away.

In 1998 and 2002, under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, the party in power in the White House bucked the pattern and actually picked up seats Congress. But 2010 turned out to be equally unpredictable.

The assumption after Obama’s convincing victory in 2008 — a second consecutive wave election for the Democrats — was that Republicans were hopelessly relegated to minority status in the House. Their numbers in the chamber were at a historic low.

In the House, Republicans controlled just 178 seats, 40 short of a majority. In the Senate, they held just 41, and months later Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania would leave the party and deliver to the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority.

Indeed, the 2010 map initially looked so bleak for the Republicans, as several seats were up for election in Democratic strongholds, that it was assumed the Democrats would push well past 60 seats and secure supermajority status for the foreseeable future.

Republicans ended up picking up 63 House seats and six Senate seats, an enormous swing in power fueled by anxiety over high unemployment and the Affordable Care Act healthcare overhaul.

That’s the cautionary tale for Republicans who assume the favorable 2018 Senate map guarantees protection against public dissatisfaction with Trump’s leadership that could emerge with full GOP control of Washington.

Republicans are eying Democrat-held seats in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states won by Trump last week.

“Having the White House almost always aids recruitment,” Law said. “I think a lot of Republicans are going to feel that the wind is at our back, with opportunities to shape our destiny a little bit more.”

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